Canned tuna is a staple in many Watauga pantries. There is a large variety to choose from at the grocery. Which is best? Which is safe?
Canned tuna is either white meat (made from albacore tuna) or light meat (made from a variety of different types of tuna).
There are also grades of canned tuna. The grade depends on the size of the chunk. "Solid" or "fancy" is the largest chunk and considered the best. "
Chunk" tuna is slightly smaller pieces, and "flaked" or "grated" is the smallest size chunks. Which grade you buy depends on how you plan to use the tuna. There would be little need to spend the extra money on "solid" or "fancy" tuna just to make tuna salad.
All canned tuna is already cooked and is packed in water or oil. Some people prefer the oil packed due to a richer flavor. If you are trying to stay or become a healthy weight, choose the water packed tuna for fewer calories. Even if you drain oil-packed tuna, it has more calories and fat than water-packed tuna.
There are big differences in the mercury content of the fish. Canned albacore tuna (white) is listed in the FDA-EPA advisory. This means you should eat no more than 6-ounces per week.
Light tuna is lower in mercury and is not on the list of fish to limit in the diet. Light tuna usually comes from smaller fish that have lower mercury content.
For more information about the mercury content of seafood, go to http://www.montereybayaquarium.org to get their Seafood Watch Pocket Guide. These guides provide a list of best seafood and seafood to avoid in different areas of the United States.
Something else you may see on the label is "dolphin-safe." To have this label, the tuna must be caught in a way that did not kill or seriously injure any dolphins.
There are some organizations that more closely monitor dolphin safety, such as the Earth Island Institute. Canned tuna that carries their dolphin-safe logo have even stricter guidelines to follow for dolphin safety.
Canned tuna is a low-cost, high-protein food. It is great to keep on hand for sandwiches, salads and casseroles. When it comes to tuna, just remember, choose light, not white.
Here is a recipe that our county extension director, Jim Hamilton, shares. "This is a real quick recipe for 2 lunch-sized portions."
1 can of tuna (light tuna in water)
1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (to taste)
1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 of a small onion finely diced
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1-2 small roma tomatoes finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Couple of sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1 ripe avocado
Mix tuna, mayo, garlic, onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and tomato together in a small bowl. Slice avocado into two pieces and spoon mixture on top of avocado with cilantro sprigs as garnish.
Information for article provided by Carolyn Dunn, Ph.D., Professor and Nutrition Specialist with N.C. Cooperative Extension.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (828) 264-3061.