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LGLWSM Newsletter 075 - Is Canned Fish a Good Health Choice?
December 06, 2013

Most people know of the health benefits of fish but few get enough healthy portions in their diet. According to a recent poll, nearly 50 percent of the respondents said they order seafood in restaurants only. That means that many folks are forgetting about a wide variety of healthy swimmers that are available in a can.

In fact, the fish you get in a can is not only a healthy option, they are less costly, low in contaminants and toxins, better tasting, and harvested in an environmentally sustainable process. They are also shelf-ready and cooked and available when you need a high protein-omega-3 fix.

If you’re worried about BPA (Bisphenol-A) exposure, don’t be too alarmed. Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a registered dietitian, says that while she's concerned about BPA exposure, the risks don't trump the benefits of eating more healthy foods, even if they come in a can.

Dr Mercola warns that canned goods should never be given to young children. According to their estimates, just a couple of servings of canned food can exceed the safety limits for daily BPA exposure for children. If you’re still concerned, green beans and canned soups had some of the highest BPA levels of the foods tested by Dr. Mercola. He advises to avoid these foods when possible. There’s an easy fix to that however. Just buy frozen green beans and make your own soups at home.

Because canned foods can be stored safely for several years, they are a valuable option. High-acid foods like tomatoes and fruits can be stored for up to 18 months while low-acid meats and vegetables can be stored anywhere from two to five years. To be safe, though, canned foods should be stored in a cool, clean and dry place, and never in a damp garage or basement.

Taking BPA into consideration is always a good health move, but realize that few people eat more than a couple cans of food daily. Sticking to a low daily range can keep you safe.

canned sardines image

The Benefits of Fish in a Can

  • Anchovies have a rich and robust savory flavor and are a good source of heart-rich omega 3 fats. They are also rich in selenium naturally which is a big bonus since most people are deficient in this essential trace mineral. Anchovies are also an excellent source of the B vitamin niacin, which helps convert food into energy used by the body.

    Anchovies are collected from wild populations, are salt cured, and packed in olive oil, which helps restore lost electrolytes in the body. If you’re trying to cut down on salt, you can soak them in plain water for about 30 minutes and then dry them on paper towels.

    You can make a healthy pizza with anchovies using this recipe:

    Anchovy and Olive Pizza

    Brush whole-wheat pitas with oil. Broil for two minutes, until golden. Spread pizza sauce on top. Sprinkle with chopped anchovies (4 per pita), sliced kalamata olives, sliced artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, and shredded mozzarella. Broil one minute, or until cheese melts. Garnish with basil.

  • Salmon is another great alternative for anyone who loves it! It’s rich in omega 3 fats EPA and DHA, (heart healthy, bone health) ) protein, (low fat) and vitamin D. (healthy immunity) They are mostly harvested from available wild stocks in Alaska.

    You can choose from either pink or red varieties but you’ll get 65 percent more vitamin D and 35 percent more omega-3s from red sockeye salmon. And with Monsanto pushing for GMO salmon breeding in the US, you may want to stock up on them now! (You can sign a petition about this here:

    You can either clean the bones out of canned salmon but most of them are soft and edible. I also tend to take off the skins of the salmon too so there’s nothing silvery in my salmon cakes and casseroles but if you aren’t squeamish, you can eat them too. A friend of mine used to eat everything right out of the can and he swore he loved it! My mom used to make the best salmon casseroles but you can also fix salmon cakes. This recipe sounds scrumptious!

    Avocado Salmon Cakes

    Mix two 6-ounce cans salmon, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/3 cup milk, 1 shredded zucchini, and 2 teaspoons curry powder. Stuff into 8 greased muffin cups. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. In a food processor, puree 1 avocado, 1/2 cup yogurt, juice of 1 lime, 1 teaspoon wasabi, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve salmon cakes with avocado sauce.

  • Sardines are a best choice for getting plenty of vitamin D, B12 and omega’s. A 2012 study suggests getting plenty of D can decrease your risk of catching viruses and bacterial infections. Sardines are available with or without bones, and are packed in olive oil, tomato sauce, or water. They are also the most nutrient-rich canned fish on the market.

    My mom and dad used to eat sardines for lunch about three or four times a month. As a child, I didn’t want any part of them but as I grew older, I decided to try them. They served them on crackers with a small splash of complimentary mustard and mayonnaise. I was surprised at how good they actually were!

    Of course, over the years, I am guilty of not serving canned fish more often to my son but why? He loves all seafood and has never sneered at anything I served him. You can bet I’m going to be adding some canned fish to our shopping list this week!

  • Tuna may be off your menu by now because of possible mercury contamination, however in recent years, new canning companies are giving consumers options for tuna consumption. Wild Planet and Raincoast are two such companies that package smaller albacore tuna, which means there’s fewer chances for mercury exposure.

    Both companies also test for mercury frequently and harvest the tuna using environmentally friendly methods. While canned chunk light tuna has always been a low-mercury option, meatier-tasting albacore contains four times as much omega’s. Just four ounces of tuna contains around 32 grams of protein, which is about the same amount of protein as a similarly sized breast of chicken. Try this nutritional packed tuna salad!

    Tuna Salad with Parsley Dressing

    Toss together 4 cups baby spinach, two 5-ounce cans drained albacore tuna, 1 can rinsed cannellini beans, 1 diced avocado, 1 sliced red pepper, 1 diced cucumber, 1 chopped orange, and 1/2 cup sliced red onion. In a food processor, pulse 1 bunch parsley leaves, 1/3 cup olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve tuna salad with parsley dressing.

    Whatever your taste buds tell you, if you work out regularly, are trying to eat better, and want more nutritional bang for your dollars, canned fish are a great option. You can also find canned crab meat if you dig it.

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