Health Benefits of Eating Canned Tuna
In a casserole or in a sandwich, Canadians love their tuna and it is no wonder why. Inexpensive, packed with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (EFAs) and a great source of protein; it is difficult to find a more cost-effective and nutritious seafood product than tuna. A healthy serving of tuna not only satisfies your taste buds but has also been proven to improve blood vessel function, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to omega-3 fatty acids (Gafonski, 2013). Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential oils due to the fact that the body does not produce them naturally even though it needs them.
Canned tuna is also a great addition to the meal plans of those trying to lose weight. Low in fat and high in protein, tuna helps your body build muscle, increase metabolism and maintain a healthy immune system (Hauptman).
Like most fish, tuna is a great source of vitamin D and valuable mineral nutrients such as selenium and iron, to name a few (Health Canada, 2014). Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating recommends the general population consume at least two 75-gram servings of fish every week (Health Canada, 2011).
Mercury in Canned Tuna
There’s been much media attention paid to concerns over mercury content in canned tuna. This has left consumers confused about the benefits versus the risks of eating canned tuna.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that fish absorb through the water or by eating smaller prey. Mercury is also used in many commercial and consumer products such as fluorescent lamps, thermometers and batteries. When these household items are disposed of improperly, the mercury can be released back into the environment and into our food. Unsurprisingly, the bigger and older the fish, the more they have been exposed to mercury in the environment and therefore higher in mercury content. In the context of canned tuna, Health Canada says Canadians need not worry, as most canned tuna products sold in Canada use smaller and younger tuna, and regulates the allowable amount of mercury through the enforcement of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) (Health Canada, 2014).
Canned light tuna contains several species of tuna such as skipjack, yellowfin and tongol which are all relatively low in mercury. Canned light tuna is not to be mistaken for canned white tuna, which is made of albacore tuna and potentially contains a higher amount of mercury than light tuna. Because of the potential exposure to mercury, Health Canada advises certain specific groups of Canadians to limit their consumption of Albacore or white tuna per the following servings:
Canned Albacore (White) Tuna Advice
- Specified Women (pregnant or breastfeeding women) - 300 grams a week (4 Food Guide servings)
- Children 5-11 years old - 150 grams a week (2 Food Guide servings)
- Children 1-4 years old - 75 grams a week (1 Food Guide serving)
This advice does not apply to Canadians outside of the mentioned specific groups or to canned light tuna products (Health Canada, 2014).
Other Concerns of Consuming Canned Tuna
Another concern of consuming canned tuna is the depletion of tuna stocks in our oceans. However, the sustainability of fisheries is heavily scrutinized by industry watchdogs, such as the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), of which Clover Leaf is a founding member. Created in 2009, the ISSF partnership comprising of top tuna processors, renowned fisheries, scientists, industry leaders and the World Wildlife Fund, was formed to promote a healthy ecosystem and improve the sustainability of global tuna stock through direct action and reforms.
Using science to attain a maximum sustainable yield and reduce bycatch (the unintended catch of marine life), the ISSF is ensuring the long-term conservation of tuna stocks (ISSF, 2014). Maximum sustainable yield is an effective and important measure used by tuna fisheries to determine the maximum level at which they can routinely catch tuna without any long-term depletion, allowing our future generations to also enjoy eating canned tuna.