Ahi tuna is the Hawaiian name for yellow-fin tuna or Thunnus albacares, although the term sometimes also refers to a closely related species, the bigeye tuna. Ahi tuna is commonly used for sashimi in Japanese restaurants because of its meaty taste and high nutritional value. Like other varieties of tuna, ahi is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals, such as magnesium. Ahi tuna is good for you in moderation, but it can contain trace amounts of toxins, such as mercury. As such, limiting how much you eat each week is a good idea.
Ahi or yellow-fin tuna is a species mainly found in tropical and subtropical oceans worldwide. Its dense flesh turns white when cooked. There are several species of tuna, although yellow-fin and albacore species are the most commonly consumed, especially from cans. Canned yellow-fin tuna is labeled as “light meat,” while albacore is the only tuna labeled as premium “white meat.” Ahi tuna is not an endangered species, although Greenpeace International added yellow-fin tuna to its seafood red list in 2010. The red list is fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets worldwide but which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.
Like others species of tuna, ahi is considered a fatty or oily fish due to high omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3s are considered healthy because they deter inflammation in the body. Fresh cuts of ahi tuna contain more healthy fats than canned varieties because processing and canning techniques significantly reduce fat content, although some brands of canned yellow-fin are packed in oil. Ahi tuna is also an excellent source of complete protein. For example, a 3.5-ounce serving contains more than 20 grams of protein, notes “The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts.” Ahi tuna is also a very good source of a variety of minerals and vitamins, including magnesium, selenium, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins.
Canned yellow-fin tuna is cheap and commonly found in supermarkets, but there are many other tasty ways to enjoy this deep-water fish. For example, ahi tuna is usually served as sashimi or raw in Japanese restaurants, which is the most nutritious way of consuming it. Ahi tuna is also commonly grilled, baked, smoked and pickled. Ahi tuna is a fairly large fish, often weighing over 300 pounds, so don’t expect to bring home the entire fish when you shop. Instead, ahi tuna is usually sold as thick “steaks” that contain bones.
Ahi tuna and other large, deep-sea fish can accumulate toxins because they are long-lived and near the top of the food chain within their environments. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting your consumption of tuna to less than 12 ounces a week and even less if you are pregnant or nursing. Despite ahi tuna’s high nutritional value, the potentially destructive health effects of mercury warrant caution and moderation.
- Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach; Gordon M. Wardlaw, Anne M. Smith
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.