Everything you need to know about picking out the best canned tuna and salmon.

Hilary Meyer
Updated May 27, 2020
Advertisement

We've all gotten the memo–we should be eating more seafood. Seafood is a good source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and the USDA and the American Heart Association both recommend eating at least 8 ounces a week (2-3 servings).

But eating more seafood doesn't always require a trip to the fish counter–I can whip up a delicious dinner using canned tuna or salmon from my pantry, and even work it into my lunches. And at about 90 calories for a 1/2-cup serving, that sounds pretty good.

Take one of my favorite recipes, Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad, as an example. It only takes 25 minutes to pull together, is low in saturated fat (only 2 grams) thanks to olive oil that replaces the mayo usually found in tuna salad, and is bulked up with plenty of vegetables to keep calories in check.

Working as a recipe developer and tester in the EatingWell Test Kitchen has taught me that even the best recipes can be not so great if you start out with the wrong can of fish. I've learned through experience that not all canned seafood is created equal and that there are a few things to keep in mind when you're buying it at the grocery store to make the most out of your meal.

Pictured Recipe: Smoked Tuna Spread Canapés

Tip 1: Make Green Choices

Both tuna and salmon have the potential to be good for the body, but not so great for the environment–some fishing practices aren't that great. Check the label to find light tuna caught by pole and line fishing. It's the most environmentally sustainable option, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program. Or look for the blue Certified Sustainable Seafood label from the Marine Stewardship Council. Safe Catch offers mercury-tested wild albacore tuna but more common tuna companies have sustainable options as well. Bumble Bee Tuna has pole and line caught solid white albacore tuna packed in water.

For salmon, wild-caught from Alaska is the best choice for the environment, according to Seafood Watch. Farmed salmon, including Atlantic, should be avoided, as it endangers the wild salmon population.

Pictured Recipe: Crunchy Confetti Tuna Salad

Tip 2: Pay Attention to Packaging

Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in the linings of some food and drink cans, has been linked to the development of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals. Some brands have switched to BPA-free cans (check labels). Wild Alaskan salmon can be purchased in pouches that are BPA-free. Light tuna also comes in BPA-free pouches, but we have yet to find light tuna in a pouch that is labeled as certified sustainable or caught by sustainable methods.

Pictured Recipe: Salmon-Stuffed Avocados

Tip 3: Keep An Eye Out For Mercury

There are two types of tuna that you should pay attention to. It comes in "light" and "white" and, like all fish and shellfish, contains some mercury. Mercury comes from industrial pollution, which runs off into the water and builds up in fish. Light tuna tends to have less mercury than white, but you should check the label. Make sure your "light" tuna comes from skipjack, which is lower in mercury. Yellowfin is less commonly found in cans but is also considered "light" and has a higher mercury level, similar to that of albacore (which is labeled "white"). According to the EPA and FDA, women who may become pregnant, pregnant women and young children should limit their consumption to 12 ounces a week of fish with lower mercury, including canned "light" tuna, and no more than 6 ounces of albacore or "white" tuna.