According to all those posters in my elementary school’s nurse’s office, fish is an important staple in most diets. One of the most popular, and in my opinion, tasty, is tuna – especially canned. Easy to stock up on and with a long shelf life, it is cheap, convenient, and flavorful – what’s not to love?
Well, although canned tuna is still recommended by experts, there are some important things to consider before you purchase, such as the frequency of your consumption.
We hear it all the time: be careful how often you order sushi because of the possibility of mercury. According to an article in Time magazine, the biggest concern with big fish is their mercury content. Fish absorb mercury which is released from air pollution into the water. That mercury can then accumulate in your body when you consume the contaminated food. Tuna tends to have more mercury than other fish, such as mackerel and salmon, and canned tuna tends to have the most. At this point, you might be giving up completely on the canned stuff.
But, here’s where it gets tricky. Of the experts interviewed in the article, only two out of the five suggested sticking away from it all together. The experts in favor of canned tuna all contend that the levels of mercury were at a safe enough level when eaten in moderation. Even the FDA is in the process of revising its guidelines, in order to encourage pregnant women and children to eat more tuna.
Another concerning chemical, found in the actual can, is bisphenol A (BPA). A movement has emerged over the last couple of years, amongst health conscious parents and food experts alike, calling for the reduction in plastic and canned goods, due in large part to BPA. BPA disrupts the endocrine system, and is especially present in the diets of young children.
As explained by this Medical News Today article, BPA disrupts the production, action, secretion, transport, function and elimination of natural hormones in the body. Possible negative consequences of BPA consumption include heart disease in women, male impotence, reproductive disorders, and Type II Diabetes, to list a few. Not at all appealing.
We should definitely all be weary of our BPA consumption, however this is not solely limited to canned tuna. Most cans contain BPA, meaning that any and all canned foods should be checked before purchase. Keep in mind, you should also be checking the quality of all your food. Even if you’re opting for fresh fish, “fresh” is not always fresh.
The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from my research is that canned tuna, in moderation, can be extremely beneficial, and in fact, these benefits outweigh the possible risks. Mercury levels, while a concern, are a concern with most types of big fish, not just tuna. Not eating canned tuna merely because of mercury would be pointless if you were just cutting out the canned stuff. That being said, if you are still worried about chemicals found in canned tuna, there are other ways to get omega fatty acids and other important vitamins. The most important take away is to always check your food, especially if you’re skeptical of it.
#SpoonTip: If a can seems to be expanded, as if there is too much air in it, bring it to the store’s attention. It might be a sign of bacteria growing in the can, which can cause a fatal illness known as botulism.
All in all, canned tuna seems to be on the safe side, and no more harmful than other types of fish. Watch how and when you eat it, and always space it out with other types of meats. I’ll definitely be keeping it on my grocery list.