Some of the many health benefits of tuna fish include its ability to reduce cardiovascular conditions, stimulate growth and development, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, help in weight loss efforts, boost the immune system, increase energy, maintain the health of the skin, increase red blood cell count, prevent cancer, protect against various kidney diseases, reduce general inflammation, and inhibit cell membrane damage.
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Tuna fish are a very diverse family of fish that has become one of the most valued and desirable fish on the market. Their delicious taste, global availability, and healthy components make it an ideal replacement for red meat or for those who like to add some healthy variety to their diets. It belongs to the same family of fish as bonito and albacore, which is the Scombridae family, which is commonly called the mackerel group. However, tuna belong to a tribe, called Thunnini. This “tribe” contains 15 species of tuna, most of which are enjoyed around the world in some sort of culinary tradition.
Tuna fish of varying species are found in all of the world oceans, and while different cultures enjoy different varieties, the health benefits are largely the same. Tuna fish are typically anywhere from 1 foot in length to 15 feet for a fully grown, long-lived example. While most tuna fish live between 3-5 years, some have been known to live for more than two decades. They regularly make extremely long migrations across the oceans due to mating and the seasons, sometimes thousands of miles in length. They are relatively easy to fish for, since a number of species organize themselves in large vertical columns near the surface of the water, ideal for catching large numbers quickly.
Tuna have been fished for since 2000 BC in Phoenicia, and evolutionarily, tuna fish appear to have been developed about 45 million years ago. To reduce the impact of overfishing for this high-demand food source, tuna farming has become a massive industry, with over 240 tuna farms in the Mediterranean Sea alone. The taste of tuna fish makes it perfect for eating as a tuna steak, in “burger” form, as a spread with mayonnaise on crackers or bread, in tuna salad, or any number of other varieties. It is versatile, delicious, inexpensive, and very good for you. But what healthy components does tuna fish really contain? Let’s find out….
Nutritional Value of Tuna Fish
The many health benefits of tuna fish that are listed above can be attributed to the impressive content of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and other 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, and good amounts of phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and potassium. In terms of vitamins, there is a wealth of vitamin B12 and niacin, as well as a good amount of vitamin B6 and riboflavin. Now, let’s explore more of the health benefits of tuna fish that these components confer.
Health Benefits of Tuna Fish
Perhaps the most common health benefit that is attributed to tuna fish is its significant impact on heart health. In terms of reducing coronary heart disease, tuna fish has very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce omega-6 fatty acids and cholesterol in the arteries and blood vessels. Furthermore, it often replaces foods with high saturated fat content, further lowering the risk of heart diseases of various types.
The combination of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce blood pressure, along with potassium, a vasodilator, make tuna fish very good for lowering blood pressure. Reducing hypertension can significantly boost your health by lowering the strain on your cardiovascular system. This will help prevent heart attacks and strokes, as well as conditions like atherosclerosis, which can lead to a number of health complications.
Growth and Development
When people give up red meat or become a vegetarian, one of the most dangerous dietary challenges is acquiring an appropriate amount of protein. Luckily, for pescatarians, tuna fish is packed with 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, and with proper amounts of protein in our system, we are guaranteed to have increased growth and development, faster recovery from wounds and illnesses, improved muscle tone and growth, and overall metabolic efficiency. It can boost our energy levels and make our body work more effectively thanks to the impressive levels of protein it contains.
Obesity is one of the most troubling conditions that is on the rise in recent decades. Thankfully, tuna fish is low in calories and fat, yet loaded with beneficial nutrients and protein. Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna 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, helping to quickly get your diet and appetite back on track.
Boosted Immune System
Tuna contains good amounts of vitamin C, zinc, and manganese, all of which are considered antioxidant in nature. Antioxidants are one of the body’s defense mechanisms against free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause cancer and other chronic diseases. However, the real champion of tuna’s immune system-boosting potential is selenium. This relatively rare mineral is found in huge quantities in tuna fish, nearly 200% of the daily requirement in a single serving. This makes tuna fish a very powerful antioxidant and immune system-stimulating food source.
The B complex of vitamins has been connected with a wide range of different health aspects, but as a whole, they are mainly involved in improving the metabolism and increasing the efficiency of our organ systems, while also protecting the skin and increasing energy. By consuming tuna fish regularly, you can ensure that you are active, energetic, and healthy.
Many people turn to tuna fish because it is so beneficial for the heart, but people often forget that it is also very good for the blood! Tuna fish 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 (another issue that many vegetarians and vegans face), and their blood is unable to properly oxygenate the body’s extremities or vital organ systems that need fresh oxygen to function efficiently. It provides that important source of iron, keeping our body operating at optimal levels.
As mentioned earlier, tuna fish has very good antioxidant properties thanks to selenium and various other nutritional components, making it effective at preventing some types of cancer. Numerous studies are ongoing, but those already conducted have connected tuna to a reduction in the occurrence of breast cancer, while other studies have also revealed a benefit against kidney cancer as well. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals before they can cause mutations in healthy cells, thereby turning them into cancer cells. Other promising results have shown a reduction in colon cancer, thanks to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acid.
The potassium and sodium content in tuna is well-balanced, which helps to manage the fluid balance in the body. When your body properly maintains the fluid balance between salts and potassium, then the kidneys can function properly and without undue stress, thereby lowering the chances of developing and serious kidney conditions.
By generally reducing the inflammation of the body thanks to healthy cholesterol and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals, tuna fish can keep the body’s overall stress levels down. A reduction in inflammation across the body helps all of the organ systems by not diverting resources away from essential functions. It also helps to prevent against inflammatory diseases like arthritis and gout, both of which afflict millions of people around the world.
Cell Membrane Damage
When tuna fish is cooked, something very interesting occurs. The proteins in tuna begin to break down into fragments, called peptides, when heated, and 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 cooking tuna and boosting our membrane protection is a very good idea!
Mercury and Selenium Balance
One of the most exciting recent developments in the study of tuna’s impact on human health comes about due to a dangerous aspect of marine life. Many fish contain small levels of methyl-mercury, and when eaten in small quantities, does not harm humans. However, in larger quantities, mercury poisoning can occur, which is complicated and dangerous. Therefore, opposing studies have recommended certain amounts of tuna to be eaten, but that might bring the mercury level to an unhealthy point. The most recent 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. This has been witnessed occurring in the tuna’s body, but ongoing studies will show if we can receive the same benefits.
Intake of fish is also a good remedy for depression. Findings of a research study suggests that fish consumption may be beneficial for women’s mental health and reduce risk of developing depression in women.
A Few Words of Caution: The most common danger of eating too much tuna 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 eating fresh, unprocessed tuna.
Other than that, tuna is a wonderfully delicious and beneficial part of any diet. Time to go fishing!