Many of us know by now that fish and other seafood play an important role in our diet. Fatty fish in particular, which includes things like salmon, sardines, and tuna, are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omgea 3’s are responsible for reducing inflammation in the body and help promote heart health. Because of these beneficial properties, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association now recommend eating fish twice/week.
Unfortunately, most Americans do not adhere to this recommendation. There are many reasons why people may not be including fish in their diet: maybe they don’t like the taste, maybe they don’t have access to fresh seafood, or maybe they don’t know how to prepare it. Something that comes up often is the concern about mercury, especially when it comes to tuna.
Mercury is a neurotoxin, so very high levels can damage nerves in adults and may impact the development of the brain and nervous system in infants and young children. However, the effects of the lower levels of mercury currently found in fish are controversial.
So if you are concerned about mercury, what fish should you avoid? The highest level of mercury is found in large fish including shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Smaller fish will have less of a chance for mercury to build-up.
There are two main types of canned tuna: chunk light/skipjack and solid/chunk white/albacore. Most canned light tuna uses skipjack which is a smaller fish, so it would have lower mercury levels than the albacore tuna.
Tuna can be a great alternative to processed meat at lunch time. This Mediterranean tuna salad is packed with flavor from the roasted red pepper, onion, garlic, parsley and lemon. The chickpeas add some fiber and plant-based protein and the olive oil and olives provide healthy fat. I like to serve it on a bed of greens but it would also be delicious eaten on whole wheat bread as a sandwich or with some whole grain crackers.
- 2, 5oz cans tuna, drained
- ⅓ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
- ½ cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup black or kalamata olives, sliced
- ½ small red onion, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Pinch of black pepper
- In a medium bowl, mix together tuna, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, olives, onion, parsley and garlic.
- Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil and black pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Serve on top of greens or with whole grain crackers or bread.