With so many different varieties of canned tuna and salmon on the shelves, how do you make the healthiest choice? HFG dietitian Zoe Wilson has created an easy guide so you know what to look for.
Canned salmon and tuna are both packed with nutrients. They contain protein, healthy omega-3 fats and vitamins and minerals such as selenium, calcium (in salmon) and vitamins A, D, B6, B12 and niacin. There’s also an ever-expanding variety, ranging from flavoured and chunks, to ‘sandwich-style’, spring water or brine. While canned salmon and tuna are nutritionally similar, the flavours are quite different. Salmon goes well with herbs such as dill and flavours like lemon, and is perfect for quiches, pastas and salads. Tuna has a slightly different flavour, and is great with tomatoes and avocado. It is ideal for throwing into sandwiches, in salads, or on toast as a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. Both canned tuna and salmon are generally healthy options, however there are a few things to look out for. We’ve made it easier for you in this handy guide.
Canned salmon and tuna are generally not high-energy products, despite containing good fats. It’s easy to find an option that has less than 800kJ per serve (even if it’s canned in olive oil, which will be higher in energy due to its higher fat content).
Long-chain omega-3 fats
Both canned tuna and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fats. However, salmon contains more – a small can (95g) of salmon contains about 1.5–2.0g of omega-3, while a small can (95g) of tuna contains around 0.1–0.4g of omega-3. The Heart Foundation recommends that everyone eat 500mg (0.5g) total of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA daily. This equates to eating two to three 150g serves of oily fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, sardines or mussels a week. Check the label on the tin and try to choose products with a higher omega-3 content – look for those with more than 0.2g (or 200mg) per 100g.
As mentioned above, the majority of fats found in canned salmon and tuna are ‘heart-healthy’ unsaturated fats. For varieties that are flavoured with a sauce, check there is less than 4.0g of saturated fat per 100g.
Both tuna and salmon are good, convenient sources of protein. You’ll get about 15–30g protein per 100g, depending on the variety of tuna or salmon. It’s much easier to keep a can of tuna or salmon in your desk drawer, than foods like meat or cheese that need refrigerating.
Salmon (with bones) is a great source of calcium. A small can of salmon (around 90g of fish) contains around 220mg of calcium, although it’s not mentioned on the label. That’s similar to the amount in a 200ml glass of skim milk! Tuna, however, does not contain significant amounts of calcium.
Canned salmon or tuna can be high in sodium, depending on what they are canned in. Those canned in brine and certain flavoured sauces (like tomato and onion) will be higher in sodium than those canned in spring water. A good choice is one with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g.
Many consumers are becoming more concerned about choosing sustainably fished seafood. Keep an eye out for the MSC logo, or those with ‘pole and line’, ‘responsibly fished’ or ‘dolphin friendly’ on the labels.