Canned Fish: Your Guide To Choosing The Healthiest Options

The right ones are brimming with nutritional benefits!

canned fish
Image: Courtesy of iStock

It’s no secret that fresh fish is super good for you, brimming with nutritional benefits and, as a consequence, pretty damn expensive. Although choosing something from the canned food aisle won’t look as Insta-worthy on your plate as a fresh salmon fillet, there are some real gems waiting in the canned fish section that shouldn’t be overlooked, in terms of cost, convenience AND health benefits.

The benefits:

Many people often assume that because it’s canned and cheaper, the health benefits of canned fish are compromised. This largely isn’t the case, however, and canned fish provides a great source of protein, minerals like zinc, vitamin D, B12, iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium, selenium plus a whole lot more, and of course, the hallowed long-chain omega 3 fats.

These fatty acids are one of the main benefits of eating fish, with health professionals contending that consumption leads to a decreased risk of chronic disease as well as significant anti-inflammatory benefits. Eat up, ladies!

The options:

Canned fish options.

Canned salmon is one of the healthiest options available—bursting with omega 3s and low in mercury and other contaminants. The sockeye variety is full of healthy omega-3 fats and is an excellent source of protein, vitamin D, and selenium. 

ICYMI, we’re already in a long-term love affair with sardines; thanks to the fact that they are literally chock-a-block with omega 3’s, calcium and protein. Okay, they may be a little too fishy for people’s likings, however, unlike many of their counterparts, they are low in contaminants thanks to their lower position in the food chain. They are also one of the most sustainable fishes around and a super affordable way of incorporating more fish into your diet. Incorporating them into your meals a couple of times a week will fight inflammation, clear up your skin, give you luscious locks and lend sustainability a helping hand while you’re at it.

Canned herring, kippers and mackerel all pack a similar punch to sardines, because of their small, close-to-the-bottom-of-the-food-chain status. In fact, because these fish haven’t been endangered by overfishing like some of their counterparts, they’re a real win for sustainability, too.

Beware of high mercury fish:

Easily the most popular canned fish out there is tuna and it’s been a lunchtime staple for decades. According to the Environmental Defence Fund, however, several species of tuna, like other large ocean fish, contain higher-than-average amounts of mercury, a highly toxic substance that can cause both chronic and acute poisoning.

Mercury is particularly dangerous for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, with the Environmental Working Group recommending that pregnant women should ardently avoid high-mercury species such as tuna, sea bass, and halibut. Safer options include salmon, shrimp, cod, and catfish; which is worth bearing in mind whether you’re pregnant or not—‘cause mercury poisoning ain’t no joke.

Beware of flavourings and salt content:

Canned fish healthy options.

Owing to the fact that, for a lot of people, fish is quite an acquired taste, the grocery store shelves are bursting with different flavourings and marinades. As a rule, the healthiest to go for would be spring water—however, if you’re looking for an extra dose of healthy-fats while you’re at it, oil can also be a great pick. Beware, however, as the majority of brands use more inflammatory oils than plain old olive; so it’s worth taking note of those on the packaging. When it comes to salt content, be aware that those that are smoked, flavoured or packaged in brine will pack quite the sodium-heavy punch, so are better to be consumed in moderation.

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