That can of tuna in the pantry is more than just a quick, no-cook meal option. Rich in protein, iron and healthy fats, canned tuna offers the same nutritional benefits as other meats. Just one can of tuna provides most of your recommended meat servings for the day.
About Canned Tuna
Along with meat, beans and other fish, the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies canned tuna as a protein food. Women between the ages of 31 and 50 should consume 5 ounces of these foods each day. One drained can of tuna contains between 3 to 4 ounces of meat. Some manufacturers add less fish and more water or oil to the cans, causing this variation. Three ounces of drained canned tuna provides 22 grams of protein, 0.7 grams of fat and 1.3 milligrams of iron.
Canned tuna is a low-fat protein food. Ground beef and tuna contain similar amounts of protein, however 3 ounces of cooked ground beef contain 12 grams of fat. Canned tuna also stacks up nutritionally against healthier meat options. A 3-ounce serving of tuna and a half-cup serving of chopped chicken breast both provide approximately 22 grams of protein. Chopped chicken breast is slightly higher in fat, equaling 2.5 grams of fat per half-cup serving.
Weekly Fish Servings
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The USDA recommends that 8 ounces of your meat servings each week come from fish. Fish are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation and protect the heart and blood vessels. Fatty fish, such as tuna, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Albacore tuna provides higher levels of omega-3 fats than other tuna varieties.
Canned tuna is a versatile, protein-rich food that can be enjoyed in many meals. Ditch the mayonnaise and make a lighter tuna salad by mixing canned tuna with chopped apples and a little vinaigrette dressing. Add a can of tuna to beans, vegetables and taco seasoning for a burrito filling. For a quick dinner, top a plate of whole-wheat pasta with tuna, chopped vegetables and a dash of olive oil. Most women can enjoy canned tuna as part of a healthy diet, but women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have special concerns regarding the mercury content in certain fish. Canned light tuna is a low-mercury fish, however albacore tuna contains slightly higher levels. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, limit your consumption of albacore tuna to a maximum of 6 ounces per week.
- USDA: Eat seafood twice a week
- Mayo Clinic: Pregnancy and fish
- USDA: Fish facts
- USDA: How much food is needed from the protein foods group each day?
- USDA: What counts as an ounce equivalent in the protein group?
- USDA Nutrient Database: Canned tuna in water
- USDA Nutrient Database: Ground beef
- USDA Nutrient Database: Chopped chicken breast
- Mayo Clinic: Cholesterol: five foods to lower your numbers
Jennifer Dlugos is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience in the health-care and wellness industries. She is also an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who teaches screenwriting and film production classes throughout New England. Dlugos holds a master's degree in dietetics.