Eating Canned Tuna Has One Unexpected Health Benefit

Canned tuna is a go-to choice for many when it comes to whipping up a quick and easy meal. It's a versatile pantry staple that can be used in countless recipes, from salads and sandwiches to hot dishes and straight-from-the-can snacks. Not only is it convenient, but it's also an affordable source of protein, making it an economical option for families and individuals alike. It's easy on the calorie count, which can be particularly appealing for those mindful of their daily intake. Plus, the fact that it doesn't require refrigeration until opened and can last for years in your cupboard means you can stock up and keep it in your pantry for those last-minute meal ideas.

But canned tuna is not just a practical ingredient. It is also a treasure trove of health benefits. One of the most notable benefits of canned tuna is its high vitamin D content. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones (via the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons) and plays a crucial role in many other bodily functions, including the immune system, muscle function, and brain health. Additionally, canned tuna is a rich source of other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health and can help reduce inflammation in the body. 

The importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D, often called the "sunshine vitamin," is vital to overall health and well-being. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (NIH ODS), this unique fat-soluble vitamin is both a nutrient and a hormone, and our bodies can produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. While the recommended daily value of vitamin D varies based on age and life stage, a general guideline for adults is around 600 to 800 international units (IU) daily.

Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, which helps maintain strong and healthy bones. Adequate levels of vitamin D are also linked to a well-functioning immune system, helping to defend against infections, and reducing the risk of illnesses. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders showed that sufficient vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of depression. 

Evidence suggests a link between sufficient levels of Vitamin D and a lower risk of certain cancers, including breast, lung, and colon cancer (via the National Cancer Institute). It may also play a role in preventing and managing diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, a 2021 study published in the British Medical Journal showed vitamin D supplementation reduced autoimmune disease by 22%. 

Canned tuna nutrition: vitamin D and more

According to the New York State Department of Health, a mere 3-ounce serving of light tuna canned in oil can provide a substantial 229 IU of vitamin D. This nutrient-dense food also provides other essential vitamins and minerals such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), selenium, and iodine (per Healthline). DHA can help lower triglycerides and blood pressure, boost the immune system, and support cognitive function (via the American Heart Association). Additionally, selenium and iodine play pivotal roles in maintaining thyroid health and ensuring a well-regulated metabolism (per NIH ODS).

However, it's important to note that while canned tuna is a nutritional powerhouse, concerns about mercury levels persist. Consumer Reports (CR) has noted that canned tuna generally contains relatively low average levels of mercury, although mercury levels can vary from can to can. Light tuna is the safest choice in this regard, but it's essential to be cautious, especially if you are pregnant. 

"We are still concerned that the variation we see from can to can makes tuna too risky for pregnant people and suggests everyone should take some precautions," Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at CR, advised Consumer Reports.