10 Amazing Benefits of Tuna Fish

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Emily Borth(MS, RDN)

The health benefits of tuna fish may include its ability to reduce cardiovascular disorders, stimulate growth and development, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help in weight loss. Tuna also has the ability to boost the immune system, increase energy, aid in skincare, and increase red blood cell count. It may also protect against various kidney diseases, prevent age-related macular degeneration, reduce general inflammation, and inhibit cell membrane damage.

What is Tuna Fish?

Tuna fish is a very diverse saltwater fish that belongs to the Scombridae family, commonly called the mackerel group. Within this family, tuna belongs to a tribe, called Thunnini. This tribe contains 15 species of tuna, several of which are enjoyed around the world in culinary traditions. [1]

This variety of fish are typically anywhere from 1 foot in length to 15 feet for a fully grown, long-lived example. While most of these fish live for 3-5 years, some have been known to live for more than two decades. They regularly make long migration across the oceans, sometimes thousands of miles in length, due to mating and changing seasons.

Tuna fish of varying species are found in all of the world’s oceans, and while different cultures enjoy different varieties, the health benefits are largely the same. Their delicious taste, global availability, and healthy components make them an ideal replacement for red meat or for those who like to add some healthy fish variety to their diets. There are some species of tuna, however, that are endangered and should be avoided. If sustainability is important to you, look for tuna bearing the blue MSC label from the Marine Stewardship Council. According to the MSC, “Tuna carrying the blue MSC label is certified sustainable. MSC labeled tuna comes from a fishery that has been independently assessed to the MSC Fisheries Standard…. Canned, fresh, and frozen MSC labeled tuna products can be found throughout the world.” [2]

Whole tuna fish with a lemon and dill leaf aside

Whole tuna fish Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Fish, tuna, fresh, bluefin, cooked, dry heat
Serving Size :
Water [g]59.09
Energy 184
Energy [kJ]770
Protein [g]29.91
Total lipid (fat) [g]6.28
Ash [g]1.51
Calcium, Ca [mg]10
Iron, Fe [mg]1.31
Magnesium, Mg [mg]64
Phosphorus, P [mg]326
Potassium, K [mg]323
Sodium, Na [mg]50
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.77
Copper, Cu [mg]0.11
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.02
Selenium, Se [µg]46.8
Thiamin [mg]0.28
Riboflavin [mg]0.31
Niacin [mg]10.54
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.37
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.53
Folate, total [µg]2
Folate, food [µg]2
Folate, DFE [µg]2
Vitamin B-12 [µg]10.88
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]757
Retinol [µg]757
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2520
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.61
14:0 [g]0.18
16:0 [g]1.04
18:0 [g]0.39
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]2.05
16:1 [g]0.21
18:1 [g]1.19
20:1 [g]0.36
22:1 [g]0.3
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.84
18:2 [g]0.07
18:4 [g]0.05
20:4 [g]0.06
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.36
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.16
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]1.14
Cholesterol [mg]49
Tryptophan [g]0.34
Threonine [g]1.31
Isoleucine [g]1.38
Leucine [g]2.43
Lysine [g]2.75
Methionine [g]0.89
Cystine [g]0.32
Phenylalanine [g]1.17
Tyrosine [g]1.01
Valine [g]1.54
Arginine [g]1.79
Histidine [g]0.88
Alanine [g]1.81
Aspartic acid [g]3.06
Glutamic acid [g]4.46
Glycine [g]1.44
Proline [g]1.06
Serine [g]1.22
Sources include : USDA [3]

Nutritional Value of Tuna Fish

The health benefits of tuna fish can be attributed to the impressive content of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds found in this delicious fish. These include antioxidants and protein, without much saturated fat or sodium. It also has impressive levels of selenium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and potassium, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database. In terms of vitamins, there is a wealth of vitamin B12 and niacin, as well as a good amount of vitamin B6 and riboflavin. [4] [5] [6]

Health Benefits of Tuna Fish

Now, let’s explore more of the health benefits of tuna fish that these components confer.

May Improve Blood Pressure

The possible anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce blood pressure. Potassium, which may be found in tuna, is a possible vasodilator and may be very good for lowering blood pressure. Reducing hypertension can significantly boost your health by lowering the strain on your cardiovascular system. This may help prevent heart attacks and strokes, as well as conditions like atherosclerosis. [7]

May Aid in Eye Care

Tuna fish, possibly being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, may be a great option for preventing eye disorders like age-related macular degeneration. Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), and John Paul SanGiovanni, Sc.D., were involved in a comprehensive research study on dietary omega-3 fatty acids in protecting against the development and progression of retinal disease. [8] This disease is the major reason behind the occurrence of blindness in elderly people. The blindness is also caused due to diabetic complications and this fish can help in reducing the chances of diabetic retinopathy.

May Improve Growth and Development

Tuna fish is packed with high levels of protein. A single serving of only 165 grams (approximately 1 can of tuna fish) contains more than 80% of your daily protein requirement. Proteins are the building blocks of our body that can guarantee growth, faster recovery from wounds and illnesses, improved muscle tone, and overall metabolic efficiency. [9]

May Aid in Weight Loss

Tuna fish is possibly low in calories and fat, yet loaded with beneficial nutrients like protein. The omega-3 fatty acids found in this fish may stimulate a hormone called leptin, which balances the body’s food intake with the internal desire to eat more. This can reduce overeating and make sure that your body is only consuming what it actually needs. According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 is associated with increases in leptin in people with obesity. Increased leptin may help prevent these individuals from regaining weight following weight loss from calorie restriction. [10]

May Aid in Boosting The Immune System

Tuna contains a possibly good amount of vitamin C, zinc, and manganese, all of which are considered potentially antioxidant in nature. Antioxidants are one of the body’s defense mechanisms against free radicals, the harmful by-products of cellular metabolism that cause chronic diseases. However, the real champion of tuna’s immune system-boosting potential is selenium. This fish is rich in this mineral, giving nearly 200% of the daily requirement in a single serving. This makes the fish a very powerful antioxidant and immune-boosting food. [11] [12]

May Boost Energy Levels

The B complex vitamins in tuna have been connected with a wide range of health aspects. They are directly involved in energy metabolism, increasing the efficiency of organs, protecting the skin, and increasing energy levels. B group vitamins act as cofactors to enzymes and speed up these metabolic reactions, allowing them to produce energy at the rate we need. By consuming this fish regularly, you can ensure that you are active, energetic, and healthy. [13] [14]

May Improve Blood Circulation

Tuna is a rich source of iron, along with the B-complex vitamins that play an important role in red blood cell formation. Without iron, people become anemic and their blood is unable to adequately oxygenate the vital organs that need fresh oxygen to function efficiently. [15]

May Provide Relief in Kidney Diseases

The potassium and sodium content in tuna is well-balanced, meaning it is possibly high in potassium and low in sodium. This helps manage the fluid balance in the body. When your body maintains a fluid balance, the kidneys function properly, thereby lowering the chances of developing serious kidney conditions.  However, for individuals with chronic kidney disease, be sure and speak with your doctor or dietitian before adding tuna or making any major alterations to your diet. Tuna contains both potassium and phosphorus which can build up and become toxic in people who have damaged kidneys. [16]

May Help with Reduced Inflammation

Tuna fish can keep the body’s overall stress levels down by reducing inflammation, thanks to the potentially anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals. A reduction in inflammation across the body ensures an enhanced functioning of all organs. It also helps prevent inflammatory diseases like arthritis and gout, both of which afflict millions of people around the world. [17]

May Reduce Cell Membrane Damage

When tuna fish is cooked, the proteins in it begin to break down into fragments, called peptides. These fragments can actually be powerful antioxidants that specifically target cell membranes, keeping them healthy, strong, and functioning properly. Free radicals often attack membranes throughout the body, including those in the brain, so eating cooked tuna and improving membrane protection is a very good idea! [18]

May Bring About Mercury and Selenium Balance

Consuming fish, or for that matter, any fish, above a certain limit can bring the mercury level in our body to an unhealthy point. Studies have shown that there is a unique form of selenium, called selenoneine. This actually binds to mercury and acts as an antioxidant, slightly changing the composition of mercury to make it less dangerous. However, studies are still ongoing to completely validate this. Due to its health benefits, regular consumption of fish is recommended despite mercury content. To minimize exposure to mercury, avoid long-lived fish that tend to have more mercury build-up including king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. Canned tuna (usually the species are known as skipjack), is safe to consume as well as most other species of tuna, however frequent consumption of bigeye tuna should be avoided as they tend to be higher in mercury. [19] [20] [21]

Tips for Enjoying Tuna Fish

The taste of tuna fish makes it perfect for eating as a steak, as a spread with mayonnaise on crackers or bread, in a salad, on a sandwich, and more. It is versatile, delicious, inexpensive, and healthy.

Word of Caution: The most common danger of eating too much of this fish is the risk of mercury poisoning, but as the above-mentioned studies are hinting at, this may not be as much of a health problem as we thought, as long as you are avoiding bigeye tuna which tends to be higher in mercury.

Other than that, tuna is a wonderfully delicious and beneficial part of any diet. Time to go fishing!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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