Tuna is a type of saltwater fish that belongs to the mackerel family, which contains 15 different species. Found all over the world, tuna is a great way for folks to transition to a low-meat or meatless diet. Not to mention, tuna is affordable, easy to source and rich in health benefits. Looking to round out your diet? Here’s why you should consider tuna.
10 Health Benefits of Adding Tuna to Your Diet
How Much Is Too Much?
While some may be concerned about mercury levels associated with fish consumption, there’s really no reason to worry — unless you eat multiple servings of fish every day. When eaten in moderation, fish can provide you with an abundance of nutrients and other health benefits.
In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends folks eat at least eight ounces of seafood per week, though children, whose caloric needs are lower, should consume less than that. The FDA also suggests that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat between 8 and 12 ounces of seafood per week. Pregnant women, however, should opt for seafood options that contain lower levels of mercury.
The Health Benefits Associated With Tuna
Still not convinced? These ten reasons should be enough to convince you of tuna’s many health benefits.
1. An Incredible Source of Protein
Though eggs and various meats are known to be good sources of protein, tuna fish actually has a very comparable protein profile. One of the nutritional highlights of tuna is its high protein content. In fact, 100g of raw yellowfin tuna contains nearly 25g of protein. As you may know, protein builds and repairs various body tissues, such as muscle, skin, hair, and nails.
2. May Lower Your Risk of Stroke
One study showed that male adults who eat fish between one and three times per month have a significantly decreased risk of experiencing ischemic stroke. Another study showed that consuming broiled or baked fish (specifically tuna) three or more times a week can reduce the risk of death by ischemic heart disease.
3. Helps Lower Your Blood Pressure
Tuna contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent high blood pressure by regulating vasodilation (relaxation) of your blood vessels. Studies have shown that foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids helped subjects maintain a healthy blood pressure.
4. Can Decrease Levels of "Bad" Cholesterol
Consuming two servings of tuna per week has been shown to decrease triglyceride levels — and triglycerides are the marker of the amount of fat being carried in your bloodstream. High triglycerides are associated with high levels of "bad" cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). By eating tuna, you can decrease your triglyceride levels, decrease your LDL levels, and improve your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" form of cholesterol.
5. Great for Heart Health
The omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna can increase your heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of heart health. A low HRV is associated with sudden cardiac death and other heart rhythm problems. By eating tuna, you can improve your heart health and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
6. Can Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease
Moderate consumption of tuna has been shown to improve heart health and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. The omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna can reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in your body and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis, the main underlying cause of many cases of heart disease.
7. Can Aid in Weight Loss
The omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna stimulate the release of a hormone called leptin. Leptin is involved in the control of feelings of satiety (or fullness). By eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, you are promoting satiety and reducing your chances of overeating.
8. Can Improve Immune System Function
Tuna is a good source of selenium, vitamin C, zinc, and manganese. These antioxidants all help improve the body's immune system function by attacking free radicals, which can cause cancer and some chronic diseases. By eating foods rich in antioxidants, you are aiding your immune system in fighting off sickness, disease, and infection.
9. An Excellent Source of B Vitamins
B vitamins are essential for metabolic function and organ efficiency. Vitamin B deficiency can cause anemia and is associated with reduced energy levels, increased susceptibility to infection, and various nervous system disorders. By consuming the B vitamins found in tuna, you’ll be helping your body build (and maintain) red blood cells; increasing your energy levels and metabolic function; strengthening your immune system; and promoting skin health.
10. May Reduce Risk of Developing Certain Cancers
Like other fatty fish, tuna has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in subjects who ate it regularly. Other research has shown that fatty fish may help reduce the risk of kidney cancer. A 22-year long study, which examined the effects of long chain n-3 fatty acids on colorectal cancer, found that fish intake can decrease the incidence of colorectal cancer in men.
While tuna can serve as a great red meat substitute, it is important to note that tuna — and, in particular, canned tuna — may have a high sodium content. In excess, sodium can actually reverse the benefits of tuna by increasing blood pressure, causing kidney problems, and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating tuna in moderation, however, can be an excellent way to improve your overall health, especially when paired with other healthy foods and exercise.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Samantha Miller, MBChB.
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