Canned tuna can help lower cholesterol, protect against cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of cancer. Canned tuna is the second most popular seafood produced in the United States, say researchers at the National Fisheries Institute. Consumers choose chunk light tuna in water the most and it accounts for 75 to 80 percent of canned tuna consumed. Although tuna packaged in water is the most popular form, consuming tuna packed in olive oil also has many benefits.
Benefits of Tuna in Olive Oil
Olive oil contains healthy fats called monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. A diet emphasizing monounsaturated fats and omega-3s improves heart health and reduces cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fish a week and eating oils that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Replacing water with olive oil in canned tuna helps you reach these recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
A serving of tuna is 3.5 ounces. Tuna in olive oil has 159 calories per serving and tuna in water has 127 calories per serving. The calorie difference between tuna in olive oil and tuna in water is the fat and protein found in olive oil.
Tuna packaged in olive oil will has more fat than tuna packed in water: 5.3 g of fat per serving, with 4.4 g of monounsaturated fats and 0.9 g of saturated fats. Tuna in water has 2.9 g of fat per serving, with 2.1 g of monounsaturated fats and 0.8 g of saturated fats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming less than 10 percent of total calories per day from saturated fat and replacing them with monounsaturated fats. Both tuna in water and tuna in olive oil are good sources of monounsaturated fats.
Tuna has more protein than any other fish, making it one of the best food sources of protein. Tuna in olive oil has 28.4 grams of protein per serving and tuna in water has 23.4 grams of protein per serving. The amount of protein recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for healthy adults is 10 to 35 percent of total calories per day. Average protein intake among men and women in the United States is about 15 percent of total calories. Consuming canned tuna can help individuals meet recommended amounts of protein.
Tuna in olive oil has 585 mg of sodium and tuna in water has 374 mg of sodium per serving. Sodium guidelines include consuming less than 2,000 mg of sodium per day. Tuna in water and in olive oil are considered to be high in sodium.
Packaging tuna in water versus olive oil does not make a difference in the amount of mercury. The mercury found in fish is called methylmercury and is naturally found in water. The Food and Drug Administration will remove products with more than one part per million of mercury in a serving of tuna. In 2011 "Consumer Reports" magazine reported that on average all types of canned tuna had 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million of mercury per can. White tuna had higher levels than light tuna. White tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 parts per million, with cans averaging 0.427 parts per million. Light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 parts per million and averaged 0.071 parts per million of mercury per serving. Measurements were based on a 2.5-ounce serving. Based on these lab results, consuming 2.5 servings of tuna a week would exceed the amount of mercury that is considered safe to eat. Monitor the amount of tuna consumed each week, and if you are a woman of childbearing age, avoid tuna altogether.
- CalorieKing: Compare Food Nutrition Facts: Canned/Packaged Fish: Tuna in Oil and Tuna in Water
- Cleveland Clinic: Low-Sodium Diet Guidelines
- Consumer Reports: Mercury in Canned Tuna Still a Concern; January 2011
- The National Fisheries Institute: Tuna Facts; 2011
- American Heart Association: Fish 101; 2011
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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