Tuna, a large marine fish, represents a staple of the American diet. Tuna can be consumed as a steak, grilled, fried or broiled then served rare; or made into wraps, sandwiches or salads. In addition to its versatility in the kitchen, tuna provides a number of beneficial and essential nutrients. Specifically, tuna contains a rich source of protein, an essential macronutrient.
Importance of Dietary Protein
Consuming protein each day plays a role in numerous aspects of your health. At any given moment, billions of cells in your body use up chemicals called amino acids to make new protein in your cells. Dietary protein, such as the protein from tuna, provides a source of essential amino acids, and insufficient protein intake can hinder your cells' ability to generate new protein. In general, you should include in your diet 0.8 g of protein for every kg of your body weight, recommends Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD. Eating tuna can help you achieve this protein intake.
Protein in Fresh Tuna
Any type of fresh tuna provides a significant source of protein, though the specific protein content varies slightly depending on the species of tuna consumed. There are three main tuna species consumed as fresh meat; bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin tuna. A 100 g serving of bluefin tuna contains 23.3 g of protein, while equivalent servings of skipjack or yellowfin tuna contain 22 and 24.4 g of protein, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you're selecting fresh tuna strictly for its protein intake, choose yellowfin tuna to consume slightly more protein in each serving.
Protein in Canned Tuna
Consuming precooked and canned tuna also provides your body with a source of protein. There are two main varieties of tuna; light tuna, made from skipjack, bluefin or yellowfin tuna; or white tuna, made from albacore tuna. The fish is pasteurized during the canning process and comes packed in oil or water, with the meat flaked or separated into chunks. A 100 g serving of light tuna packed in water generally contains 25.5 g of protein, while an equal serving of white tuna in water provides approximately 23.6 g of protein. The specific protein content of canned tuna may vary slightly depending on the brand and species of tuna purchased, so check the nutrition label on canned tuna to definitely determine its protein content.
Use tuna to make a variety of tuna sandwiches. A mixture of relish, chopped onion and pickle juice makes for a traditional dilly tuna sandwich, while a mix of cottage cheese, dried cranberries and sliced grapes makes for a more festive and heathful meal. Use leftover tuna sandwich filling leftovers as healthful salad toppers. Alternatively, sear tuna steaks for a healthful main course, and round out your meal with steamed or sauteed vegetables.