Tuna seems to be a food that falls on two opposite ends of the spectrum. Some people eat it like it is going out of style, while some avoid it like the plague. Tuna is a great source of protein, the cancer-fighting selenium, vitamin B-12, with some omega-3 fats. These are the benefits of tuna. The downside is that it contains a fair amount of mercury, depending on the type.
The two real options are white tuna, and light tuna. Though there are variations of each, these are the two main differences. White tuna comes from albacore tuna, a large species with a fair amount of mercury.
Light tuna usually comes from skipjack tuna, a smaller species with significantly less mercury content. Though a small amount of light tuna also comes from yellowfin tuna, which has roughly equal mercury content to that of albacore.
The albacore has a higher fat content and therefore more omega-3′s and fat-soluble vitamins, but I would say this is off-set a bit by the higher mercury content. For adults 1-2 cans of albacore per week is completely acceptable and well below the risk area of mercury issues. For pregnant women and children, please refer to this stance of the FDA. While I do think the FDA is very conservative in their advice, you can obtain all the nutrients in tuna with less risk than eating more than 1-2 cans of albacore per week.
Light tuna has a significantly lower fat content, meaning only small amounts of omega-3′s, while also only having about 1/3 of the mercury content on average (unless from yellowfin). Light tuna can be eaten more often than albacore due to its lower mercury content, so 3-4 cans per week should not be a problem whatsoever.
The last conundrum with tuna is that white tuna tastes so much better than light. I usually suggest using an organic, canola oil based mayo (preferably the canola oil being cold pressed) or a mayo made from extra virgin olive oil. You can even make your own mayo, with this recipe that I really like:
- 1 omega-3 or pastured egg
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Redmond Real Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion surrounding tuna safety, intake, and the best choice to make.
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