The USDA and the American Heart Association both recommend that we eat at least eight ounces of seafood a week. It’s a great source of omega-3 fats, which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults and promote healthy vision and brain development in infants. Some fatty fish that are high in omega-3s are trout, salmon, tuna, and sardines.
It may get expensive purchasing two to three servings of fresh fish a week. However, an easy and less expensive alternative can be found in your pantry – canned fish, such as tuna and salmon. Canned seafood can provide you with as much heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as fresh options.
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When purchasing canned fish, you must be smart about your buying choices. To buy the healthiest canned seafood, make green choices, pay attention to the packaging, and keep an eye out for mercury and sodium levels.
Seafood is a great source of nutrition for your body. However, sometimes it can be harmful to the environment. Always check the label so that you are choosing the most environmentally sustainable option.
For example, when choosing canned tuna, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program suggests purchasing light tuna caught by troll or pole-and-line, which is advertised on many products’ cans. You can also look for the blue Certified Sustainable Seafood label from the Marine Stewardship Council.
Purchase seafood that is packaged in BPA-free cans or pouches. BPA is a chemical that is used in the linings of some food and drink cans. Check the labels of your cans to find this information.
Always try to purchase fish packed in water. Since water and oil don’t mix, omega-3 fats remain locked in the fish. However, if tuna is packed in oil, then the fish’s natural oils will intermingle with the packing oil. This interaction will cause omega-3s to be lost when the can is drained.
Mercury in Canned Fish
Mercury comes from industrial pollution and builds up in fish. Make smart choices and choose to eat fish that have low levels of mercury. Light tuna tends to have less mercury than white and if that light tuna comes from a skipjack (a small tuna with dark horizontal stripes) then it has low levels of mercury as well.
There have been concerns about the levels of mercury in tuna, which is linked to neurological damage in unborn children. Even though tuna is not on the government’s mercury advisory list, pregnant or lactating women and young children should limit their consumption to 12 ounces of light tuna or six ounces of albacore weekly.
Canned Fish Sodium
You must also be aware of the sodium content. As with many canned goods, canned seafood contains extra salt for preservation and flavor. Make sure you rinse the fish when you take it out of the can to help remove some of the sodium. You can also look for low-sodium options, especially for tuna.
Canned fish can be an easy alternative to fresh fish. Always make smart buying choices when purchasing canned products and – most importantly – make sure you are getting the recommended weekly intake of seafood. The FDA now suggests that women and young children eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week from choices that are lower in mercury.