Long gone are the days when getting your recommended intake of tuna included a glop of mayo and a can opener. These days, celebrity chefs, health aficionados around the world, and parents who are trying to get healthy foods on the dinner table are finding new, exciting and delicious ways to incorporate tuna into their diet.
Tuna is considered a superfood because it contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been scientifically linked to all sorts of health benefits, including managing depression and reducing the risk of heart disease. Tuna has also been known to reduce high blood pressure, reduce the risk of strokes, boost both energy levels and the immune system, and can prevent certain types of cancer and kidney disease. For meat-eaters and pescetarians – tuna is a simple, inexpensive way to get more lean protein and Omega-3’s into your diet. The American Heart Association is so pro-tuna, in fact, that it recommends adding tuna to your diet twice a week.
It’s true that there is some concern about the high levels of mercury that can be found in tuna, however research by the FDA shows that the general population is not negatively affected by the low mercury levels in tuna when consumed in moderation. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing and it is recommended to be mindful of the risks. Additionally, children and pregnant women should stick to lower amounts of tuna, limiting their intake to one serving (4 oz.) per week.
One excellent way to get more tuna into your diet is to throw some in with your greens. Adding tuna (canned or fresh) to a regular salad transforms it to a “super salad,” and is easy to do. Simply add garbanzo beans for extra protein, celery for an added crunch, a fresh dressing made of lemon juice, olive oil and pepper and you’ve created a healthy tuna salad packed with nutrients.
Tuna steaks are a great, fresh and healthy way to eat tuna, and delicious, too! Late spring and early fall are the best times to buy fresh tuna, and it’s recommended to eat it the same day that you buy it. It’s best to buy fresh tuna from a trusted grocery store, and to stay away from pieces that have brown spots or a colorful, rainbow sheen. Fresh tuna does have a distinct “fishy” smell, but it should be subtle like the ocean, not like a fish market. Tuna lightly seared and served medium-rare is an easy and healthy way to prepare a tuna steak - pair it with some avocado, a squeeze lime, and a bit of fresh ginger, and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.
Summertime means breaking out the BBQ for many families, and grilling tuna is another popular method to enjoy this protein packed superfood. A quick Internet search for “mango salsa,” “vegan pesto,” or “Tuscan style tuna steaks” will give you quick, easy ideas on the perfect spices and sides to add to a fresh tuna steak. You can also wow the family with simple baked tuna recipes. The key to a delicious, easy and healthy tuna meal is remembering that with tuna, “less is more.” Most of the time, a light brush of olive oil and lemon on a fresh tuna steak is all you need to seal in the moisture and keep the meat tender. The great thing about tuna is that it is so tasty and healthy on its own, that it only takes a few spices and steps to kick it up a notch. Healthy side dishes, like asparagus, grilled yellow squash and zucchini, some quinoa or brown rice are easy and make great accompaniments to a tuna dish.
And when making tuna, don’t discount the good old-fashioned canned tuna. There are a lot of great things you can do with a can of tuna that will still give you many of the same health benefits of fresh tuna, and they don’t have to be boring. Just make sure you’re picking up the best quality tuna available to you. For a healthy spin on the traditional tuna sandwich try making it with whole wheat bread instead of white and Greek yogurt instead of mayo! Tuna melts, tuna wraps and tuna noodle casseroles can all be upgraded with simple healthy swaps (think: whole grain noodles and lettuce wraps!).
From a nutritional standpoint, tuna certainly packs a one-two punch and is a great way to incorporate lean protein and Omega-3’s. At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in variety, because eating healthily definitely shouldn’t be boring or seen as a punishment. It’s important to find wholesome foods you enjoy eating in many different ways, which will encourage you to experiment in the kitchen and find pleasure in nourishing your body.
The different styles, tastes and methods of cooking tuna mean that you don’t have to make the same old, hum-drum tuna meals over and over again – the possibilities are endless. Whether you want to pick up a nice red tuna steak or a few cans of your favorite brand, it’s easy to start making tuna part of your healthy lifestyle. And remember, the energy that goes into making the food is the energy you’ll consume when eating it, so it’s important to make your meals with love and care!
What’s your favorite way to prepare tuna? Share with us in the comments below!