Is Eating Canned Fish Good for You?
FAQs - Did You Know?
June 5, 2021

canned fish mercury

Eating canned fish has become a staple for many of us across the United States.  After all, it’s a convenient and affordable way to make sure we eat fish on a regular basis.  But is it really good for us to be eating the shelf stable stuff? Is it better or worse for us than fresh or frozen? Are both tuna and salmon healthy choices? What about mercury? There is a lot to be considered before you whip out the can opener.

The Benefits of Eating Canned Fish

Eating canned fish comes with a lot of benefits. After all, we all know that we’re supposed to eat fish a couple of times per week, so it’s great to have choices when mealtime comes around. After all, cans of tuna and salmon are, for the most part:

  • Convenient to shop for and widely available
  • More affordable than fresh or frozen
  • High in protein
  • Contain the same omega-3 fatty acids
  • Easy to store
  • Long shelf life

Whether you love a tuna salad sandwich or an affordable protein-packed casserole that will feed the whole family, it’s easy to see why eating canned fish is as popular as it is.

The Drawbacks

From a nutrition standpoint, some types and brands of seafood in cans are prone to higher levels of mercury and sodium than fresh and frozen forms of the same species.  That said, the vast majority are still considered to be perfectly safe and very healthy to eat, assuming you’re not eating canned fish for every meal of the day, every day of the week.

A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture found that omega-3 fatty acid levels in canned salmon were even higher than the levels found in fresh salmon sold in stores. This makes it clear that if you’re choosing these products to make sure you get your omega-3s, you’re not holding yourself back by looking to cans.

If you’re concerned about mercury, the key is in eating canned fish in reasonable amounts and not every day of the week. That way, you’ll stay well within safe levels and won’t even approach toxicity. In fact, the FDA’s guidelines state that we can safely consume canned tuna 4 to 5 times per week, just not every day for every meal, that’s all.  Pregnant women need to be more cautious, despite the fact that they should eat lots of fish overall.  The FDA has posted its guidelines regarding safety here:

Great Fast Recipes for Eating Canned Fish

Check out these simple, affordable and super fast recipes to keep you eating canned fish.

Tuna Cobb

320 calories

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes or a chopped tomato
  • ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup avocado, diced
  • ½ can flaked light tuna (water packed)
  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • ¼ cup light yogurt-based blue cheese dressing
  • Black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve.

Salmon on Toasted Sourdough

390 calories

  • 1 can flaked canned salmon (water packed)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 slices of tomato
  • ½ cup arugula or spinach
  • 2 tbsp prepared pesto
  • 1 slice sourdough bread, toasted

Spread pesto on toasted bread. Top with spinach, tomato, salmon and cheese. Enjoy this open-faced sandwich on its own or with a side of veggies.

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