Canned tuna is a pantry staple renowned for its convenience, affordability and stacked nutritional profile. From sandwiches to salads, tuna takes meals from bland to bold instantly. But is it safe to eat tuna straight from the can, or must it be cooked first? Can You Eat Tuna Out of The Can?
The canning process makes tuna shelf-stable and safe to eat straight from the can without cooking. For best quality, refrigerate opened tuna and use within 3-4 days. It’s also fine to heat it if desired. Limit consumption to 2-3 servings of tuna per week.
This article will dive into everything you need to know about enjoying canned tuna, from storage tips to health benefits and how to choose the best options.
Is It Safe to eat canned tuna raw?
Eating canned tuna right out of the can without cooking is entirely safe. The canning process involves cooking the tuna to an internal temperature of at least 250°F for a certain amount of time, which kills any bacteria or parasites that may have been present.
As long as the can is not damaged, bulging, or leaking, commercially canned tuna has been sterilized and is shelf-stable. It can be enjoyed straight from the can for a quick protein-packed snack or meal.
Some people prefer to rinse the tuna before eating to wash off any oils or seasonings from the canning process. But this is optional.
Nutritional Benefits of Canned Tuna
Canned tuna is an excellent source of lean protein, healthy fats, and vital nutrients. Here are some of the top health benefits of adding tuna to your diet:
It Is Low In Calories, Saturated Fat, And Cholesterol
A 3-ounce canned light tuna packed in water has around 90 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, and 20 mg of cholesterol. The lean protein and minimal saturated fat make tuna ideal for heart health and weight management.
It Is High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Tuna is one of the richest food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s benefit heart health, brain function, mood, inflammation, immune response, and more. One serving of tuna can provide over 100% of your daily omega-3 needs.
It Is Rich In Vitamin D, B Vitamins, And Zinc
Tuna contains a variety of important micronutrients. A serving provides 150 IU of vitamin D, 24% of the RDI for vitamin B12, over 50% of the selenium you need daily, and 10% of your daily zinc needs.
It Contains Fatty Acids That Lower The Level Of Cholesterol
The omega-3s, vitamin D, and other nutrients in tuna have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. Higher omega-3 intake is linked to lower triglycerides and increased HDL (good) cholesterol.
It Contains Oxalic Acid, Which May Harm Your Liver
There is a slight concern with the oxalic acid content in tuna. Oxalic acid can bind to minerals like calcium and cause kidney stones in some people. The oxalates may also put a strain on your liver’s detoxification process.
Moderating intake and staying hydrated can help reduce this potential risk. Those with a history of kidney stones should be cautious with tuna consumption.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Tuna is high in heart-healthy omega-3s, supporting cardiovascular health.
So, in moderation, canned tuna is a highly nutritious option that provides lean protein, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. Look for tuna canned in water for the fewest calories and fat content.
Canned Tuna Recipe For Dinner: Tuna Casserole
If you’re looking for a quick, budget-friendly canned tuna dinner recipe, tuna casserole is a classic choice. Here is an easy tuna casserole recipe to feed the whole family:
- 1 (12 oz) can tuna, drained
- 1⁄4 cup butter
- 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1⁄2 cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1⁄4 tsp pepper
- 8 oz egg noodles, cooked
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 1⁄2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs
Step By Step Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and stir for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook until thickened about 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper.
- Mix the cooked egg noodles, tuna, peas, 1 cup of cheese, and white sauce in a large bowl until combined. Pour into prepared baking dish.
- In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup cheese. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
This tuna casserole is comforting and packed with protein. The canned tuna provides a quick bulk of meatiness without cooking any fish. Play around with the ingredients by adding mushrooms, broccoli, or herbs for extra flavour.
Nutritional Value per Serving:
|Nutrient||Amount per 3 oz (85g) serving|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||300-600mg|
|Vitamin D||10% of the Daily Value (DV)|
|Vitamin B12||40% of the DV|
|Niacin (B3)||25% of the DV|
|Zinc||10% of the DV|
Is Eating Tuna Out Of The Can Healthy?
Overall, eating tuna straight from the can can be a healthy option. Here are some of the main benefits of making canned tuna a regular snack or meal:
- High in nutrients: Canned tuna provides protein, omega-3s, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Eating tuna improves heart health, brain function, muscle maintenance, and immunity.
- Low disease risk: Regular tuna consumption is associated with a lower risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and mental decline.
- Supports weight loss: Tuna is very high volume and low calorie, providing filling protein for minimal calories. Adding tuna to your diet can boost satiety and keep a calorie deficit.
- Kid-friendly: Most children enjoy the flavour of tuna. The canning process also softens the texture, making it more palatable. Tuna sandwiches, salads, and casseroles can help picky kids eat more fish.
- Affordable: Canned tuna is relatively cheap, especially when bought in bulk. Tuna can help stretch grocery budgets as a nutritious, lower-cost protein source.
- Convenient: Tuna in the can requires no prep or cooking. It can be eaten directly from the can to add protein, healthy fats, and nutrients to any meal.
As with most foods, tuna is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Eating tuna daily is likely safe, but limiting intake to 2-3 servings per week can help avoid potential risks from mercury exposure.
Should Canned Tuna Be In A Can?
Canned tuna is typically packaged in either cans or pouches. Here’s how the two options compare:
Benefits of Canned Tuna:
- Cans are more durable and less prone to accidental tearing.
- The rigid sides of the can make tuna easier to drain.
- Cans may have a longer shelf life than pouches. Unopened, they can last 4-5 years in the pantry.
- BPA-free cans are considered safe options. BPA is a chemical that may disrupt hormones.
- Cans have a bit of a more minor environmental impact than pouches.
Benefits of Pouch Tuna:
- Pouches weigh less, making tuna easier to transport.
- Pockets take up less storage space.
- Resealable bags keep tuna fresh after opening.
- Bags come in a wider variety of seasoning and flavour options.
- Most tuna pouches are BPA-free.
- Pockets may have fewer metal leeching concerns compared to cans.
Both canned tuna and tuna pouches can be healthy and convenient choices. Cans are more durable for storage, while pouches make tuna lighter to carry. Choose between the two formats based on priorities like minimizing waste, storage space, and ease of use.
How To Store Canned Tuna The Right Way?
To get the most extended shelf life and optimal quality out of your canned tuna, follow these storage tips:
- Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place like your pantry. Avoid direct sunlight or high heat.
- Check expiration or “best by” dates and use tuna cans within 3-5 years of purchase.
- Refrigerate opened canned tuna in an airtight container. Use within 3-4 days.
- You can also freeze tuna for more extended storage. Place in airtight bags or containers. It will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer.
- When reheating tuna, cook to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
- Never leave tuna sitting out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.
- Look for signs of spoilage like off odours, soft texture, discolouration, or sliminess. If detected, throw tuna away immediately.
With proper storage methods, canned tuna will retain its nutrition, flavour, and shelf life. Tuna is typically very durable, so stock up when sales run and enjoy your canned stash for several years.
How Long Is Tuna Good For?
How long canned tuna stays fresh and edible depends on whether it is opened or unopened:
Unopened canned tuna:
- Shelf stable for up to 5 years when stored in a cool, dry pantry
- Check the expiration date on the can
- Consume by the “best by” date for best quality
Opened canned tuna:
- Keeps for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
- Store in a covered container
- Use for tuna salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes within this timeframe
- Can be frozen for 2 to 3 months for extended use
Signs tuna has gone wrong:
- Slimy texture
- Fishy odours
- Dryness or crustiness
As long as the can is not compromised, commercially canned tuna has an impressive shelf life. Practice FIFO (first in, first out) organization of your pantry, and you can safely enjoy canned tuna for years.
How Much Tuna Should You Eat?
For most healthy adults, the recommended weekly tuna intake is 2-3 servings or about 6 ounces.
This provides plenty of the beneficial omega-3s, protein, and other nutrients from tuna without going overboard on mercury exposure.
Pregnant women and young children are advised to eat no more than 6 ounces (one average can) of canned light tuna per week. Albacore (white) tuna tends to be higher in mercury and is best limited to once per week for kids and pregnant/nursing women.
Adults can safely consume up to two 6-ounce cans of albacore per week.
If you eat a particularly high amount of tuna (more than a few times per week), you may consider reducing your intake and including various other protein sources.
Light tuna like skipjack and yellowfin are lower in mercury than white albacore tuna. Talk to your doctor about tuna consumption if you have any concerns related to mercury exposure.
About two servings per week offer a safe amount for harnessing the many nutritional benefits of tuna without potential risks.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Tuna?
Here is an overview of some of the top health benefits associated with regular tuna consumption:
HEART HEALTH: Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and reduce inflammation and heart disease risk. The vitamin D in tuna also supports heart health.
WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: High protein and minimal calories promote satiety and support weight loss. Tuna makes a great addition to any reduced-calorie diet.
MUSCLE BUILDING: The lean protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis to help maximize recovery and growth after exercise.
BRAIN FUNCTION: Omega-3 fats are linked to improved mood, memory, processing speed, and mental health. Tuna is a smart choice for students and professionals.
IMMUNITY: The selenium, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants in tuna optimize immune cell function.
FETAL HEALTH: Omega-3 intake during pregnancy is associated with better neurological development and brain function for the baby.
VISION: Lutein, zinc, omega-3s, and vitamin D in tuna promote eye health and may prevent conditions like macular degeneration.
CANCER PREVENTION: Some research shows tuna consumption is associated with reduced risk for renal, colorectal, and prostate cancers.
In summary, the unique nutrition profile of tuna makes it a powerhouse addition to supporting whole-body wellness for people of all ages and lifestyles.
What Is The Healthiest Canned Tuna To Eat?
When browsing the canned tuna aisle, here are some tips for choosing the healthiest option:
- Seek out light tuna: This typically includes skipjack and yellowfin tuna lower in mercury than white albacore tuna.
- Pick tuna canned in water: Tuna canned in oil or sauces adds unnecessary calories, fat, preservatives, and sodium.
- Look for low sodium: Many canned tunas are high in added salt. Choose low or no salt added whenever possible.
- Choose sustainable options: Wild-caught tuna marked with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue label is eco-friendly.
- Avoid added preservatives: To maintain colour, Some canned tuna contain preservatives like BHA or BHT. Go for preservative-free when you can.
- Read the ingredients: Ensure tuna is the only fish ingredient rather than a processed blend.
With so many options lining shelves, take a few minutes to read labels and choose the purest, additive-free canned tuna you can find. This makes it easier to control precisely what you’re eating.
How Much Tuna Can You Eat Weekly?
According to most health authorities, the recommended safe amounts of tuna per week are:
- 2-3 servings of light canned tuna – Light tuna, like skipjack, is lower in mercury and can be eaten more liberally. Limit to about 6 ounces per serving.
- 1 serving of white albacore tuna – Albacore or “white” tuna is higher in mercury and best limited to about one 6-ounce serving per week.
- 1 serving of fresh/frozen tuna steaks or sushi – 6 ounces is a recommended weekly amount for tuna steak meals or sushi.
PREGNANT WOMEN should limit tuna to no more than 6 ounces (one average can) per week of light tuna. Similarly, children should not have more than 3 ounces of light canned tuna or 6 ounces of fresh/frozen tuna weekly.
Adults should steer clear of consuming tuna daily or in excessive amounts. Spreading intake throughout the week with a couple of modest servings ensures you can enjoy the nutrition of tuna without risks of mercury overexposure.
The Bottom Line:
Tuna canned in water is a nutritious, affordable, and versatile ingredient to keep stocked in your pantry. Consuming tuna directly from the can is safe, thanks to the high-heat canning process. Tuna is associated with many health benefits, from heart health to immunity, when enjoyed regularly as part of a healthy diet.
Choose light tuna canned without extra oils, sodium, or preservatives when possible. Store unopened cans for up to 5 years in a cool, dry place. Once opened, tuna will be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for several months.
Aim for 2-3 servings of canned tuna per week to enjoy the flavours and nutrition without risking mercury overexposure. Incorporate tuna into sandwiches, salads, pastas, and casseroles for an easy and healthy canned fish dinner any night of the week.