If you want to eat more fish but aren’t sure about the nutritional value of it when canned, rest easy. Canned fish like tuna and salmon has about the same nutritional value as fresh fish.
“Fish is so beneficial for you that it really doesn’t matter which of the two you choose,” said Chrisanne Urban, a registered dietitian for Marshfield Clinic’s Nutritional Services.
Perks and pitfalls
Although the nutritional value is about the same, each type of fish has its advantages and disadvantages.
Canned fish tends to be cheaper and has a longer shelf life, making it easier to store than fresh fish. However, canned fish also tends to have more sodium than fresh, and many people prefer the taste of fresh.
Read the label
Urban stresses that whatever kind of fish you choose, read the label to find where it came from. She won’t personally eat fish grown in certain countries such as China, or in fish farms outside the U.S. She looks for fish raised in open water because she’s concerned about polluted water.
“I look for fish from the United States, especially the North Atlantic or Alaska, which may be a bit more expensive but is well worth it,” Urban said. “The United States has strict environmental and food safety laws governing farm and wild-caught fish.”
Canned may mean less mercury
Mercury levels are another concern, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Urban said canned fish like salmon probably contains less mercury than fresh fish. This is mainly because smaller-size fish, which carry less mercury than larger ones, are more likely to end up in cans, she said.
To know how much fish to consume, check out this handy chart.
More omega-3s, please
A point in favor of fish canned in oil is that it is more likely to contain omega-3 fatty acids, believed to offer many health benefits. Oil does add extra calories, but if packing it in oil will make a finicky eater consume it, the calories are worth it.
“It’s important to get your omega-3s,” Urban said, “and one of the easiest and most affordable ways to do that is to go canned. You won’t be skimping on nutrition.”