Nutrition and Health Education Specialist Susan Mills-Gray spoke with KMZU’s Sandi Wilson about the benefits of adding tuna into your diet.

Susan Mills-Gray1

Tuna has nutrients that are great for your heart and general health.

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There are different types of tuna. Nutrition Specialist Susan Mills-Gray says no matter what kind you choose, it is a good choice.

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Everyone wants to be healthy and have a great general sense of well-being. Not too many of us know where to start with making changes in our lives. One simple thing you can do is start adding tuna to your diet.

Nutrition Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Susan Mills-Gray says white or light colored tuna is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids which are excellent for heart health. “White” tuna is albacore and “Light” tuna can be skipjack, yellow fin, big eye, or a combination. Having a healthy heart can lead to a healthy brain and healthy cognitive function.

Since tuna contains mercury you should know that there is a risk especially for pregnant women and young children. MU Extension recommends no more than one 2-3 oz. serving of tuna per week for that group. The rest of the population can have two good sized portions per week.

While fresh fillets are the best that one can get, it’s not always affordable. Susan Mills-Gray says frozen is the next best style of tuna you can get and then canned varieties. She also says canned tuna still has decent amounts of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids even though they go through heating during the canning process.

White tuna is the best source for Omega-3’s but if you choose darker tunas you are still making a quality choice for your family.

Press Release From University of Missouri Extension

(BLUE SPRINGS, MO – May 19, 2014) Tuna, a pantry staple, is an affordable and nutritional technique to boost health.  Tuna is an excellent source of protein and heart healthy fats – omega-3 fatty acids – and several minerals.  Combined, these nutrients fight heart disease, improve brain function and can help lower weight.  “I find that most people know that tuna is a healthy choice, but are confused about the type of tuna to purchase,” shares Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition & Health Specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Here’s what you need to know:

Choose WHITE tuna for highest level of omega-3 fat and milder flavor.  While “white” tuna is albacore, “light” tuna can be skipjack, yellow fin, big eye, or a combination.  The “light” tunas can have a “fishier” flavor but are less expensive.

Know there is a mercury risk.  Nearly all fish contain mercury, but tuna has less than most.  The current recommendation is 2 servings weekly of cold water fatty fish (i.e. tuna, salmon, mackerel, halibut, cod, or trout).  There are two segments of our population that should be careful with potential mercury intake:  young children and women trying to get pregnant, or who are  pregnant or nursing;  these persons should limit intake of low-mercury fish to no more than 12 oz. per week –of that amount, no more than 6 oz. of albacore.  Most commercially fished albacore are older than other tunas so have more accumulated mercury, but this doesn’t apply to troll-or pole-caught albacore, which are younger surface feeders.

Choose tuna packed in water versus oil.  Water-packed tuna has a milder flavor and fewer calories than oil-packed – about 100 versus 160 for 3 ounces.

Chunk vs. Solid depends on end use.  Chunk-style tuna comes in very small, flat pieces, best when you want a smoother texture.  Solid tuna comes in large pieces that flake easily.  Which you choose depends on how you want to serve it.

Canned tuna saves money.  Cans are the cheapest.   Mills-Gray shares “Soft-sided pouches cost a lot more because you are paying for the convenience of being able to tear open and use without draining.”   Both canned and pouch tunas have a shelf life of 3-4 years unopened.

(Sources:  Savvy Shopper, NIH, and ConsumerLab.com)

For more information, contact specialist’s name, number, e-mail or visit your local Extension Center or extension.missouri.edu.