Dining on a Dime: Canned Fish

By Anastassia Skarlinski

Canned fish is a great pantry staple. They are inexpensive, last for years, and are packed with protein. There are many different types of canned fish available; the two most popular are tuna and salmon. The USDA recommends eating seafood twice a week, and canned tuna and salmon are a great way to meet that recommendation.

Besides being affordable, canned tuna and salmon offer many nutritional benefits. Both fish are a great source of protein, and they provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Tuna is a good source of B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium, selenium, and choline. Salmon contains vitamins A, B, and D, as well as, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Most importantly, both fish are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are essential for two reasons, firstly because your body uses them to work, and secondly, because your body can not make these on its own. Omega 3s are used in your body to make cell walls and help your brain function. They have also been linked with heart health, although scientists are still studying how and why this link exists.

Some concerns surround fish and mercury. Since bigger fish eat smaller fish, the mercury from the smaller fish can build up in the bigger fish. An adult tuna can weigh around 500 pounds, making them quite a big fish that consumes quite a bit of mercury. Different types of tuna have different levels of mercury. Albacore tuna are typically larger fish and have higher levels. Skipjack tuna tend to be fished younger and have lower levels of mercury; typically, skipjack is the less expensive product. Either way, it is considered safe to eat a serving of canned tuna (4 oz) once per week. Salmon tend to have lower levels of mercury, and as such, it is generally considered safe to eat a serving of salmon up to three times a week.

There are several ways to incorporate canned tuna or salmon into your diet. For the most part, you can use either ingredient interchangeably in a recipe, the taste may be slightly different, but the result will be largely similar. The simplest way to use these fish is to smash them up in a bowl with some mayonnaise or plain yogurt to make a sandwich filling. I especially like this with dill pickles, chopped onions, shredded carrot, and some Dijon mustard mixed in as well. Dried or fresh dill can also jazz up a tuna and yogurt mix. You can also stir a drained can of the fish as you heat a can of corn chowder or potato soup to make a quick and easy seafood chowder. A popular use of canned tuna is to mix it into a pasta salad along with chopped sugar snap peas and canned corn. My family enjoys this simple Spanish-inspired potato salad.

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