Canned tuna fish was first produced in the United States in 1903, and it wasn’t long before tuna fish sandwiches were established as a quick and healthy meal. Whether fresh or canned, a 3-ounce serving of tuna is a nutrient-dense, low-calorie choice that delivers at least 38 percent of your daily intake of protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids and most essential vitamins and minerals.
All fats were once considered unhealthy, but it’s the type of fat you eat that makes a difference. Saturated fats and cholesterol contribute to cardiovascular disease. Unsaturated fats help your heart by lowering cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat associated with a variety of health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce system-wide inflammation, lower triglycerides and blood pressure and decrease the risk of blood clots. They may also improve cognitive health and help improve depression. You’ll gain 733 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids from 3 ounces of white albacore tuna, while yellowfin tuna has 237 milligrams.
Besides the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, tuna is a rich source of multiple nutrients that keep your cardiovascular system healthy. A 3-ounce serving of yellowfin tuna has 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of niacin, 83 percent of vitamin B-12 and 61 percent of vitamin B-6. Canned white tuna has half the amount of vitamin B-12 and about one-third the amount of vitamin B-6 and niacin. Vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 both remove homocysteine from the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced as a byproduct of biochemical processes, but if it's allowed to build up in the blood it increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Niacin, or vitamin B-3, lowers levels of total cholesterol while raising the amount of good cholesterol, according to New York University.
Minerals that break down into particles capable of carrying an electrical charge are called electrolytes. Three electrolytes you’ll get from tuna -- magnesium, potassium and sodium -- transmit electrical impulses that maintain your heart beat and stimulate muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Your body constantly regulates the concentration of sodium and potassium to ensure these vital processes work properly. This effort is responsible for 20 to 40 percent of the calories you burn while at rest, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. You’ll gain about 7 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium and potassium in 3 ounces of yellowfin tuna. Canned white tuna has the same amount of magnesium but half the potassium. Canned tuna has significantly more sodium, providing 21 percent of the daily value, compared to 2 percent in fresh yellowfin.
Women planning to become pregnant, those who are pregnant and children should limit their consumption of foods that contain mercury because it impairs neurological development. Canned white tuna and yellowfin tuna are both rated as being high in mercury, so you shouldn’t eat more than three servings a month, according to AmericanPregnancy.org. Canned chunk light tuna and skipjack tuna have a moderate amount of mercury, so they’re safe to eat six times a month.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Fish, Tuna, Fresh, Yellowfin, Raw
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Fish, Tuna, White, Canned in Water, Drained Solids
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol -- Out With the Bad, In With the Good
- New York University -- Langone Medical Center: Fish Oil, Omega-3 and Heart Disease
- New York University -- Langone Medical Center: Vitamin B-3
- Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium
- FoodTimeline.org: Tuna Melts
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.