It’s hard to pass up a sesame-crusted ahi steak or a spicy tuna roll when they pop up on a menu. Luckily, there are many reasons to embrace the health benefits of tuna.
Concerns about the mercury levels in fish have many people unsure about eating tuna. Although mercury should be a consideration for certain populations, tuna also has several health-promoting nutrients that are worth including in your meal plan. Read on to learn more about the nutritional costs and benefits of tuna and how to incorporate it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
The health benefits of tuna fish may include its ability to reduce cardiovascular disorders, stimulate growth and development, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help in weight loss. Tuna also has the ability to boost the immune system, increase energy, aid in skincare, increase red blood cell count, and may even have anti-cancer properties. It may also protect against various kidney diseases, prevent age-related macular degeneration, reduce general inflammation, and inhibit cell membrane damage.
The health benefits of tuna fish can be attributed to the unique content of vitamins, minerals, and organic chemicals found in this delicious fish. These include antioxidants and protein, without sodium or much-saturated fat. Additionally, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, it has impressive degrees of selenium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Tuna has much-needed vitamin B12 and niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin.
Eating fish provides a lot of health benefits, including lower heart disease risk. However, many Americans fail to consume fish weekly, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. If you cant get fish in fresh or frozen form, you can always make tuna sandwiches using canned tuna to boost your diet. Light tuna and white tuna are commonly found in the US. Albacore is the only tuna type that could be marketed as white meat tuna.
We all know that consuming fish is healthy and that we should eat it at least twice a week. The benefits of eating tuna are many, and tuna is healthy, we should all eat more tuna. Today we’re having a closer look at them, and bring you the benefits of tuna fish in detail
What is Tuna Fish?
Tuna fish is a very diverse saltwater fish that belongs to the Scombridae family, commonly called the mackerel group. Within this family, tuna belongs to a tribe, called Thunnini. This tribe contains 15 species of tuna, several of which are enjoyed around the world in culinary traditions.
This variety of fish are typically anywhere from 1 foot in length to 15 feet for a fully grown, long-lived example. While most of these fish live for 3-5 years, some have been known to live for more than two decades. They regularly make long migration across the oceans, sometimes thousands of miles in length, due to mating and changing seasons.
Tuna fish of varying species are found in all of the world’s oceans, and while different cultures enjoy different varieties, the health benefits are largely the same. Their delicious taste, global availability, and healthy components make them an ideal replacement for red meat or for those who like to add some healthy fish variety to their diets. There are some species of tuna, however, that are endangered and should be avoided.
If sustainability is important to you, look for tuna bearing the blue MSC label from the Marine Stewardship Council. According to the MSC, “Tuna carrying the blue MSC label is certified sustainable. MSC labeled tuna comes from a fishery that has been independently assessed to the MSC Fisheries Standard…. Canned, fresh, and frozen MSC labeled tuna products can be found throughout the world.”
Tuna Nutrition Facts
This nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 can (165g) of light tuna, packed in water (without salt) and drained.
- Calories: 191
- Fat: 1.4g
- Sodium: 83mg
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Protein: 42g
Tuna doesn’t contain any carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar.
Tuna is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but low in overall fat, containing less than 2 grams per can for “light” tuna. Different varieties of tuna, however, have different amounts of fat.2 The following common varieties are listed in order from most to least fatty: fresh bluefin, canned white albacore tuna, canned light tuna, fresh skipjack tuna, and fresh yellowfin tuna.
Tuna is very high in protein. A can of tuna provides 42 grams of complete protein with all of the essential amino acids.
Though we tend to use the term “tuna” generically, there are actually 15 tuna species, with the white-fleshed albacore the type most commonly found canned in grocery stores. At the other end of the cost and prestige spectrum is ahi or yellowfin, the species typically used raw for sashimi and sushi, or seared as a “steak.”
All varieties of tuna are excellent sources of protein. A six ounce serving of albacore boasts a whopping 45 grams. And tuna, like most fish, is very lean — over 75 percent of the calories in a typical serving come from protein.
Protein is a core component of any diet, and increasing your protein intake can have a number of health benefits. A 2015 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating more protein led to weight and fat loss, as well as reductions in blood pressure, triglycerides and waist circumference (Leidy et al., 2015).
Scientists think these benefits, especially weight loss, come from changes in metabolism and appetite. People who eat more protein often report feeling fuller for longer, helping cut down on overeating.
Vitamins and Minerals
Tuna has calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, B-vitamins, selenium, and choline. Like other canned foods, tuna can be high in sodium. Compare food labels to find low-sodium products or ones with no salt added.
Getting Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids, like the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in tuna and other seafood, are key ingredients to a healthy body. EPA and DHA are building blocks that cells use to make compounds that fight inflammation in the body. They’ve been shown to lower your risk of heart attacks, contribute to essential brain function and more (Hu et al., 2019).
Tuna is a great way to add more of these omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Vital Choice’s canned wild albacore, for example, delivers 1370mg omega-3 fatty acids per 53g serving, putting it in the same omega-3-rich league as our canned wild sockeye salmon.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the immune system and are tightly linked to the body’s inflammatory response (Gutiérrez et al., 2019). And the omega-3 in fish like tuna helps our skin by protecting against the adverse effects of aging, skin cancer, allergies and dermatitis (Huang, 2018). Tuna really is an anti-aging food.
Additionally, deficiencies in these essential fatty acids have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Preliminary studies have shown that DHA supplements can reduce the brain plaques linked to Alzheimer’s (Hooijmans et al., 2020). And other work has found DHA supplements can prevent neuron loss and cognitive decline (Zhang et al., 2015).
Other research has even suggested that the omega-3 in fish oil can offer protection against the damaging effects of alcohol. Science suggests that people who abuse alcohol have low DHA levels in their bloodstreams, and laboratory studies on rats found feeding them large amounts of DHA reduced their desire to consume alcohol. There’s also preliminary evidence that DHA may protect against inflammatory bowel disease by reducing inflammation in the gut.
A Source of Selenium
You may have heard that you have to be careful with tuna because of its mercury content, but there’s actually not a cause for concern, especially with the premium varieties Vital Choice offers.
Vital Choice works with its partners to ensure the sustainability of tuna stocks, and to keep the mercury content of its products well within recommended limits. For instance, by purchasing albacore only of a certain weight — 15 pounds or less — we can assure each individual fish is smaller, and hasn’t assimilated much mercury.
One other way to reduce mercury exposure is through another element: selenium. Tuna is a great source of selenium, and the element offers protection against the detrimental effects of mercury (Melgar et al., 2019). Selenium “competes” with mercury by binding to the cellular sites to which mercury would normally attach, essentially sequestering mercury and preventing it from harming the body (Raymond & Ralston, 2020).
Selenium protects against type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s also important for metabolism and thyroid function. There are many ways to get your selenium from foods. Selenium is found in meats, cottage cheese, brown rice, eggs, sunflower seeds, beans, mushrooms and more. Aside from brazil nuts, which contain an incredible 544 mcg per ounce, yellowfin tuna is one of the most selenium-rich foods out there, at 92 mcg per three ounces.
All these tuna nutrition facts add up to a simple conclusion: Tuna is a great choice if you’re looking for a new protein source to mix things up at dinner time, or hoping to get your omega-3, selenium and other vitamins and minerals from your diet.
Variety is the spice of life, after all. Adding tuna in its many forms is a great way to mix things up — especially when science confirms that the health benefits are worth it.
Health Benefits Of Tuna Fish
Now, let’s explore more of the health benefits of tuna fish that these components confer.
It Helps Your Heart
The high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids in tuna meat brings the balance into the blood vessels, reducing the cholesterol in the arteries. Lower cholesterol in arteries equals fewer problems in blood flow and heart pump, which brings you the improvement of the heart health.
Tuna is a rich source of iron, together with the B-complex vitamins that play a significant role in red blood cell formation. Without iron, individuals become anemic, and their blood cannot adequately oxygenate the very important organs that need fresh oxygen to operate efficiently. Iron and Vitamin B are the motives of the advantage. Your cardiovascular system becomes jammed and slowed down with fat due to poor eating habits, and your cells begin to degenerate. The high intake of iron and vitamin B fortifies the blood cells. Iron boosts the blood flow, improving the oxidation of the body organs, ensuring that optimal functioning.
May Aid in Eye Care
Tuna fish, possibly being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may be a great option for preventing eye disorders like age-related macular degeneration. Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), and John Paul SanGiovanni, Sc.D., were involved in a comprehensive research study on dietary omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against the development and progression of retinal disease.  This disease is the major reason behind the occurrence of blindness in elderly people. The blindness is also caused due to diabetic complications and this fish can help in reducing the chances of diabetic retinopathy.
It Can Improve Brain Function
While the omega-3 fats in tuna can reduce the risk of depression, the niacin in tuna could help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related decline in cognitive functions.
Frequently Asked Questions about Tuna Steak Nutrition and its Health Benefits
Now that we’ve explored the health benefits of tuna steak, let’s take a quick look at how much tuna can you eat, what to eat with tuna, the best way to cook tuna steak, and more.
Helps Prevent Anemia
Tuna contains folate, iron, and B12. A deficiency in any of these micronutrients can lead to various types of anemia.3 Symptoms of anemia can include muscle weakness, disturbed vision, extreme tiredness, along with a host of more serious complications, like infertility. Tuna helps provide a good nutritional basis for the prevention of anemia resulting from nutritional deficiencies.
The selenium content of tuna helps improve the body’s immune system to fight off infections and diseases. Moreover, the presence of selenium lowers the risk of mercury in tuna to humans.
Immune System Health
Building your immune system is important to keep you as healthy as you can be. Well, tuna is one of the best things you can eat. Tuna has vitamin C, manganese, selenium, and zinc. When these work together they can fight off bacteria, illnesses, viruses, and even free radicals that can lead to cancers.
The meat of this fish is rich in manganese, zinc, vitamin C, and selenium – the antioxidants that are known as major boosters of the immune system. The antioxidants fight the free radicals, the by-products of metabolism on the cellular level, which can cause multiple serious diseases, like cancer.
It Reduces Depression
Having tuna three to four times a week is more effective than Prozac. This bold statement is a result of a scientific research on the groups of depressed people where groups were divided into three: the Placebo group (consuming placebo pills), the Prozac group, and tuna group (eating tuna several times a week). Surprisingly, the tuna group had the biggest reducing the stress levels.
It Lowers Triglycerides.
You probably already know that tuna impacts the cholesterol levels in the organism, but there is a lot behind this. A number of triglycerides in the bloodstream expose the amount of fat circulating your body. They are connected with LDL, or bad cholesterol, and HDL, the good one.
Vitamin D is the significant building part of the bones. The advantages of this vitamin demonstrate in cancer prevention, strong and healthy bones, and no fractures. Vitamin D also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diseases.
May Aid in Weight Loss
Tuna fish is possibly low in calories and fat, yet loaded with beneficial nutrients like protein. The omega-3 fatty acids found in this fish may stimulate a hormone called leptin, which balances the body’s food intake with the internal desire to eat more. This can reduce overeating and make sure that your body is only consuming what it actually needs. According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 is associated with increases in leptin in people with obesity. Increased leptin may help prevent these individuals from regaining weight following weight loss from calorie restriction.
It Can Promote The Health Of The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland in our body plays an important role in maintaining energy levels and regulating metabolism and many other important functions in the body. The high concentration of selenium in ahi tuna steaks could be beneficial for thyroid health and alleviating symptoms and slowing down conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease, and autoimmune thyroiditis.
May Reduce Risk of Dementia
Strokes and other vascular brain injuries cause changes in memory, behavior, and cognitive function. Balancing our intake of omega-6 fatty acids with more omega-3 fatty acids (from seafood like tuna) can help slow the progressive development of dementia. The omega-3 fatty acids in tuna compete with pro-inflammatory omega-6s to block inflammation at the cellular level, lowering the risk of vascular cognitive impairment and dementia.
Improves Insulin Response
People who suffer from type 2 diabetes must include tuna in their diet. Aside from reducing the risk of obesity, the omega-3 fatty acids present in tuna also improves the body’s ability to respond to insulin.
Tuna keeps inflammation all over the body down because of the varying minerals in it. Keeping inflammation down is helpful in a multitude of ways because it makes things easier for your immune system, limits of the symptoms of arthritis, and gout.
It Improves Your Skin Health
Tuna contains trace mineral, which prevents damage to blood cells due to intoxication and heath state of the body. Second, a protein called elastin provides additional tissue repairs and gives the smoothness to the skin.
It Prevents Stroke
With five servings of tuna a week, adults can lower the risk of the stroke by 30%. The prevention of blood clots and improving the artery walls, thanks to B vitamin complex and folic acids in tuna.
The parts of the tuna fish enhance the metabolism and boost energy. The vitamin B complex stands behind this, alongside high protein values and omega-3 acids. Vitamins B-complex in tuna has been connected with a broad assortment of health aspects. They are involved in energy metabolism, increasing the efficacy of organs, protecting the skin, and raising energy levels. Vitamins act as cofactors to enzymes and accelerate these metabolic reactions, permitting them to create energy at the speed we need. By consuming this fish frequently, you can make certain you’re active, energetic, and healthy.
May Provide Relief in Kidney Diseases
The potassium and sodium content in tuna is well-balanced, meaning it is possibly high in potassium and low in sodium. This helps manage the fluid balance in the body. When your body maintains a fluid balance, the kidneys function properly, thereby lowering the chances of developing serious kidney conditions. However, for individuals with chronic kidney disease, be sure and speak with your doctor or dietitian before adding tuna or making any major alterations to your diet. Tuna contains both potassium and phosphorus which can build up and become toxic in people who have damaged kidneys.
Counters Age-Related Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)
Higher polyunsaturated fat intake through foods like tuna is associated with greater lean body mass and grip strength in older adults. Furthermore, essential amino acids (also found in tuna) increase the synthesis of muscle protein and support the retention of muscle mass despite the effects of aging.6 The combination of fatty acids and protein in tuna can be helpful for staying strong with age.
May Bring About Mercury and Selenium Balance
Consuming fish, or for that matter, any fish, above a certain limit can bring the mercury level in our body to an unhealthy point. Studies have shown that there is a unique form of selenium, called selenoneine. This actually binds to mercury and acts as an antioxidant, slightly changing the composition of mercury to make it less dangerous. However, studies are still ongoing to completely validate this. Due to its health benefits, regular consumption of fish is recommended despite mercury content. To minimize exposure to mercury, avoid long-lived fish that tend to have more mercury build-up including king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish.
Canned tuna (usually the species are known as skipjack), is safe to consume as well as most other species of tuna, however frequent consumption of bigeye tuna should be avoided as they tend to be higher in mercury.