Health Benefits of Tuna

Tuna is a species of saltwater fish that ranges in habitat from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Indonesia. The most commonly known species of tuna in the United States are Skipjack, also known as “light” tuna, and Albacore, also known as “white” tuna. Albacore is the only kind of tuna that can legally be sold under the label “white meat tuna.”

Tuna fish is one of the most popular varieties of seafood in the world. In addition to its abundance and meaty flavor, tuna is also extremely nutritious. 

Health Benefits

Tuna is an excellent source of vitamin B12, an essential vitamin needed to make DNA. Vitamin B12 also helps you to form new red blood cells and prevent the development of anemia.

The health benefits of eating tuna also include: 

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in tuna fish may help to reduce the level of omega-6 fatty acids and LDL cholesterol that can accumulate inside the arteries of the heart. Studies have shown that eating more omega-3 is associated with reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks.

Prevent Vision Problems

The omega-3s in tuna also seem to have a positive effect on eye health. In a study of 40,000 female health professionals, women who ate multiple servings of tuna per week had as much as a 68% lower risk of developing dry eye. Omega-3s are also thought to contribute to the overall health of the retina. 

Reduced Risk of Cancer

Tuna’s omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to slow the growth of tumor cells and reduce inflammation in the body. This is important because many types of cancer are correlated with chronic inflammation.

Support Weight Loss

Tuna is a lean meat. It’s relatively high in protein, but low in calories, which means that it keeps you full longer and stops you from eating more. In one study, adolescents who regularly ate lean fish like tuna for several weeks lost an average of two pounds more weight than the control group that didn’t eat fish. 

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Nutrition

Tuna is one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Just 3 ounces of canned tuna yield as much as 50% of the recommended daily level. Vitamin D is necessary for bone health, strengthening the immune system against disease, and ensuring optimal growth in children.

Tuna is also a great source of other vitamins and minerals, such as: 

Nutrients per Serving

A 4-ounce serving of white tuna contains: 

Portion Sizes

Because of its potentially higher mercury content, pregnant women and young children should consult with a doctor before eating tuna. Canned tuna contains less mercury than fresh tuna because of the smaller sized fish used for canning.

The FDA recommends about two or three servings per week of light tuna and only one serving per week of white tuna. This is because of the higher mercury content in white tuna.

The serving size of tuna for a typical adult is about 4 ounces. 

How to Prepare Tuna

You can find tuna fresh or canned at grocery stores across the country. Since canned tuna contains less mercury than fresh tuna, it may be a better option for some. Canned tuna is always cooked beforehand and can be eaten directly upon opening. 

Tuna steaks purchased at the grocery store can be baked, grilled, or sautéed in a skillet. Apply the seasoning or marinade of your choice prior to cooking. You can buy frozen tuna steaks year round or wait for tuna to be in season. 

Here are a few ideas for incorporating more tuna into your diet:

  • Add tuna to a fresh Mediterranean salad.
  • Marinade tuna steaks with olive oil and minced jalapeño for a spicy kick.
  • Place slices of bread topped with tuna and cheese in the oven to make quick tuna melts. 

Use tuna in place of beef to make a tuna burger. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 19, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

About Seafood: “Tuna Species.”

AllRecipes: “Tuna Recipes.”

Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Are There Benefits?”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Vitamin D.”

International Journal of Obesity: “Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content.”

Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Innovations, Quality & Outcomes: “The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency.”

Nutrients: “Protective Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Cancer-Related Complications.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “The Relationship Between Dietary N-3 and N-6 Fatty Acids and Clinically Diagnosed Dry Eye Syndrome in Women.”

U.S. Food & Drug Administration: “Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice about Eating Fish for Women Who Are or Might Become Pregnant, Breastfeeding Mothers, and Young Children.”

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