Tuna Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs, and Health Benefits of Tuna

tuna nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Tuna is a healthy and affordable source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium, and vitamin D that is a smart addition to your diet. While canned varieties may not have the same nutritional value as fresh fish, the canning process makes tuna easy to prepare and gives it a long shelf life.

Albacore and skipjack are common canned varieties, while Yellowfin, Bigeye, and Bluefin tuna are more commonly sold as frozen steaks. It is also common for Bigeye and Bluefin tuna to be served in sashimi or sushi dishes. 

Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information, for one two-ounce serving of chunk light tuna canned in water and drained, is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 50
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 180mg
  • Carbohydrates: <1g
  • Fiber: <1g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 10g

Carbs in Tuna

Tuna is very low in carbohydrates, containing almost no sugar or fiber. This can make tuna less filling on its own than other fish, so make sure to supplement your meals with something that doesn't take away from the overall nutritional content.

Fat in Tuna

Tuna is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but low in overall fat, containing just 2 percent of the daily recommended amount per serving. Different varieties of tuna have been found to contain different amounts of fat. Some examples listed in order from most to least fatty: fresh bluefin, canned white albacore tuna, canned light tuna, fresh skipjack tuna, and fresh yellowfin tuna. 

Protein in Tuna

With 5 grams of protein per ounce, tuna is a great way to meet your daily recommended amount of protein. It's not uncommon for a can of tuna to contain at least 5 ounces, which gets you 50 percent of the way there. 

Micronutrients in Tuna 

Eating 2 ounces of tuna will get you 6 percent of your daily need for vitamin D and vitamin B6, 15 percent of your need for vitamin B12, and 4 percent of your need for iron. Vitamin D is important to the functioning of your immune system. The B-vitamins and iron are important for releasing and transporting energy for cellular respiration.  

Health Benefits 

The omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna are known to promote good heart health. These essential fats can help decrease triglycerides in the blood, lower the risk of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), and slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Tuna has been found to be high in two types omega-3 fatty acids: 

  • Omega-3 EPA (a fatty acid that inhibits cellular inflammation)
  • Omega-3 DHA (a fatty acid which promotes eye and brain health) 

Two ounces of tuna also gets you a whopping 60 percent of your daily recommended amount of selenium. Selenium helps protect your body from oxidative damage and has been shown to be important for reproductive and thyroid health. 

Common Questions 

Is it better to eat fresh or canned tuna?

The answer depends on your budget and your taste preference. Many healthy eaters prefer the taste of fresh fish. Other smart shoppers appreciate the fact that canned tuna stays fresh longer and is more economical, easy to store, and portable (say, to the office for a quick lunch).

While most people will assume that fresh tuna is better than canned tuna when it comes to nutritional value, that is not always the case, so compare labels carefully. Water-packed tuna tends to have fewer calories than oil-packed tuna, but the oil in oil-packed tuna is typically unsaturated and good for your heart. Try to stay away from varieties that contain a lot of sodium.

Is tuna salad healthy?

One of the most popular ways to prepare canned tuna is to make a tuna salad. While delicious, the ingredients contained in most recipes undermine many of the nutritional benefits of the fish. To lower the fat content in your tuna salad, either replace the mayonnaise with a reduced-fat mayo or, alternately, mix 30 percent mayonnaise with 70 percent plain yogurt for a fresh, slightly sour taste.

Recipes and Preparation Tips

There are countless ways to incorporate tuna into a heart-healthy diet. You can combine tuna with tomatoes, salad greens, cooked green beans, and boiled sliced potatoes for a classic salad Niçoise. You can stir a can into a pot of corn chowder for a delicious tuna bisque. You can even make a delicious cold pasta salad with tomatoes, celery, canned kidney beans, and black olives. Be mindful of the other ingredients you are using to avoid adding too many calories or grams of fat.

If you need some more inspiration, here are some healthy recipes you can try at home:

Allergies and Interactions 

Tuna allergies can be fairly common, however some people find that the processing involved in canning tuna lessens one's reaction. Talk to your doctor before experimenting, particularly if your allergies are severe.

Tuna is sometimes found to be contaminated by toxic heavy metals, so be mindful of your source. 

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