Head to your local supermarket and you’re guaranteed to find at least two seafood standards: tuna and salmon.
Whether you buy ’em canned, frozen, or fresh, these marine mainstays are delicious, easy to cook, and pretty darn good for you.
But have you ever wondered which one is healthier? Let’s dive into the tuna vs. salmon debate.
Tuna vs. salmon: At a glance
Both salmon and tuna are nutritious sources of lean protein. Tuna’s the heavyweight in the protein department, while salmon dishes up healthy fatty acids and an incredible vitamin D punch.
Seafood? Check. Protein? Check. But how do tuna and salmon perform in a head-to-head nutrition competition?
Just the (nutrition) facts
Here’s the nutritional breakdown of 4 ounces of boneless raw tuna and salmon (which becomes about 3 ounces after cooking).
|Tuna||Salmon||And the winner is…|
|Calories||124||174||It’s nearly a tie.|
|Protein||28 g||23 g||tuna!|
|Fat||0.5 g||8.4 g||tuna!|
|Carbs||0 g||0 g||It’s a tie!|
|Cholesterol||44 mg||51.6 mg||tuna!|
|Vitamin B-12||2.4 mcg||4.2 mcg||salmon!|
|Vitamin D||1.9 mcg||12.24 mcg||salmon!|
|Omega-3 fats||121 mg||1,493 (wild) – 2,840 mg (farmed)||salmon!|
Whether tuna or salmon is better for you depends on your health goals.
At first glance, you might think salmon’s fat content would make it the less healthy option. But remember: Most of the salmon’s fat comes from omega-3s. Salmon also dominates in the vitamin D department.
Still, tuna is the clear winner for folks who are hoping to dial back their calorie and fat intake.
Let’s talk cholesterol…
Cholesterol has a bad rep for heart health, but the research is a little murky. The USDA’s latest dietary guidelines don’t mention a specific daily limit for cholesterol.
Instead, the USDA and the American Heart Association recommend trying to maintain an overall healthy diet, which will naturally be pretty low in cholesterol.
A 4-ounce serving of tuna provides 44 milligrams of cholesterol, and the same size serving of salmon has 52 milligrams. These aren’t high numbers.
Swapping red meat for fish is likely to lower your cholesterol intake. And adding fish to an already healthy diet is unlikely to push your cholesterol over the edge.
Salmon technically provides more cholesterol. But both types of fish are great stand-ins for more cholesterol-heavy proteins.
First things first: Salmon is downright delicious. No one who’s ever eaten a lox bagel can say otherwise.
Flaky, moist, lean… good things come to those who eat salmon. But salmon’s two leading perks are vitamin D and omega-3s.
Omega-3s are essential fats that your body can’t make on its own. Research suggests they can help:
- reduce your risk of heart disease
- increase your level of HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind)
- potentially lower your LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind — good riddance!)
- possibly lower your risk of breast cancer
- boost your eye health
- maybe reduce pain and inflammation in folks with rheumatoid arthritis
Salmon also provides more than 12 milligrams of vitamin D in just 4 ounces. The National Institutes of Health recommends that most adults get about 15 micrograms per day, so you can get nearly all you need from a hefty helping of salmon!
Vitamin D supports your body and brain in the following ways:
- healthy immune function
- a better mood
- reduced anxiety
- strong bones
The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish per week. It specifically gives props to albacore tuna (and salmon).
Tuna *is* pretty great for a variety of dietary concerns:
- It’s low cal.
- It’s low carb.
- It’s packed with protein.
- It’s versatile: You can easily spread canned tuna on crackers, mix it into a salad, or throw it into a packed lunch.
Canned tuna is an easy, affordable way to add lean protein to snacks and packed lunches.
Our advice? Pick water-packed tuna. Tuna that’s canned in oil has twice as many calories as tuna that’s packed in water.
You’ve probably heard concerns about getting mercury poisoning from eating too much fish.
Signs of mercury poisoning include:
- memory probs
- unexplained changes in vision or hearing
If you’re a frequent fish eater or you’re worried about mercury poisoning, you might want to swap that tuna sandwich for a salmon patty.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, salmon’s average mercury concentration is 0.022 parts per million (ppm). Tuna has a higher average concentration of 0.144 ppm.
Health experts recommend eating about 8 ounces of seafood per week. You could easily overdo it if your daily lunch is a good ol’ can of tuna. To play it safe, the FDA advises sticking to one serving of tuna per week if you’ve got a baby brewin’ or if you’re a kid yourself.
The answer depends entirely on your health goals.
Both tuna and salmon are good, healthy sources of protein. They’re also low in cholesterol and highly nutritious.
- If you’re trying to manage your weight, choose tuna for the low fat protein.
- If you want to boost your omega-3 intake, go for salmon.
- If you’re swapping red meat or fried chicken for seafood, salmon and tuna are both good choices.
TBH, variety is the spice of life — and health. Eating different types of fish, veggies, and fruits will help you get all the nutrients your body and mind need.
Scoffing tuna straight from the can is so your dorm room 5 years ago. We’ve got some amazing meal ideas to boost the amount of fantastic fishes swimming right into your mouth.
Give these a try: