A question I receive very often from my readers is if canned tuna is even allowed on Paleo and Autoimmune Protocol diets. Luckily, the answer is yes, making this one of the easiest and quickest snacks to grab for those on the AIP. But, since not all products are created equal, there are some exceptions, and in this article, I will give you some guidelines about how to identify the best canned tuna for Paleo AIP diets, a food that you can safely include in your list of AIP approved foods.
Tuna is actually a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
As opposed to taking a pill of fish oil, eating the whole fish allows us to get in all the good, easily digestible proteins, iodine (which supports healthy thyroid function, brain function, and cell metabolism) and Vitamin D, together with selenium (another great aid for thyroid functions and for preventing oxidative stress), antioxidants and B vitamins.
And that is such a relief because not only is canned tuna delicious, but it’s also affordable, nutrient-dense and so versatile that it can be used in a variety of dishes: from one of my favorite Italian gluten free recipes called “Riso Freddo”, to paleo Tuna Salads. And for a simple meal, I love to mix canned tuna with olive oil, basil and avocado and use it to stuff a backed yam or even enjoy it some eggs and garlicky spinach (just like you see in these photos).
This article is sponsored by Blu Harbor Fish Co
What’s the Best Canned Tuna for Paleo AIP Diets?
The inspiration to write about canned tuna on the Paleo AIP came from my recent visit at Expo West 2018, the biggest Health Food Convention in the United States, where I had the pleasure to connect with Laura Ali, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist that I met at the Blue Harbor’s Tuna booth.
While I was walking around the countless stands, I could not take any more samples of energy bars and grain free granola… I was craving real food! And when I spotted the Blue Harbor’s Tuna sign it seemed like a mirage! I stopped there and enjoyed some of their Albacore tuna, which is delicious: firm, meaty and super clean, since it only contains three ingredients: tuna, water and a little sea salt (even though they also have salt free line). Finally!!
There, in between one yummy sample and another, I started chatting with Laura Ali, who’s super passionate about clean and healthy seafood! And I used some of her knowledge to put together this handy guide to help you identify the best canned tuna for paleo AIP diets that’s healthy for you and for the environment as well.
How to Select the Best Canned Tuna for the Paleo AIP:
1. Make Sure it’s MSC Certified!
MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) is an international non-profit organization established to address the issue of unsustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future, ensuring that the ocean remains sustainable and that we don’t overfish.
Also, MSC defines wild seafood, which is preferable to farmed for various reasons. Farmed fish needs to be regularly treated with antibiotics to prevent diseases and infections from spreading in fish farms. And, due to their diet, farmed fish are not as nutritious, as they have lower Vitamin D and Omega-3s than wild fish, which are what make seafood so beneficial!
2. Check the Provenience on Seafood Watch
When, a few years ago, my functional medicine doctor found out that my mercury levels were off the chart, she recommended me to always check Seafood Watch before I buy fish, because, depending on where it’s caught, even a the same variety of fish can be contaminated with more or less pollutants and have higher mercury levels.
Here’s an example: I asked Laura where Blue Harbor tuna is caught and she informed me that it comes from the Western Pacific, in between Hawaii and New Zealand, an area that’s not overfished, where there’s a big fresh fish supply.
We checked how Albacore tuna fished in this area scored on Seafood Watch, and it got approved as a “Good Alternative”! BUT, the same exact fish caught in other parts of the world got a red label that stands for “Avoid”.
3. Opt for Canned Tuna Stored In BPA Free Packaging
PBA stands for Bisphenol A, a synthetic compound used to make epoxy resins, which are put on the inner lining of canned food containers to keep the metal from corroding and breaking. PBA is also in water bottles, in kitchen plastics – including food storage, plates, utensils and cups – and it’s even on receipts!
Laura explained to me that, “because BPA is an endocrine disruptor which behaves in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body, it might affect our hormonal system“. And that’s why at Blue Harbor they don’t use packaging that has BPA intentionally added”.
4. Flip the Can and Carefully Read the Ingredient
Make sure you read the ingredient list accurately: many times canned tuna contains soybean oil or other unhealthy vegetable oils, spices (which might not be AIP compliant) and other fillers and preservatives. I even found “milk solids” listed amongst the ingredients in a canned tuna once!!
Always select clean tuna brands (Blue Harbor is a great example as it’s super pure and only contains tuna, water and salt).
And if you do choose one with olive oil, make sure it’s extra virgin to avoid getting tuna drenched in a mixture of undefined oils in which actual olive oil is only a small percentage.
5. Monitor Your Weekly Seafood Intake
Mercury levels are a big concerns for fish lovers today, and we are so bombarded with different information that we don’t even know what to believe anymore. I trust Dr. Sarah Ballantyne the most when it comes to digging deeper into food science and comparing medical information from different sources, so I always like to see what her take is on topics that are particularly tricky.
And the good news is that approximately 97% of all seafood satisfies this requirement, with the exceptions of that with more methylmercury than selenium, like pilot whale, tarpin, swordfish, shark, marlin, king mackerel, and tilefish.
With this in mind, according to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, we can safely consume 6 ounce servings of seafood 5 to 6 times per week, alternating small fish, shellfish and bigger seafood, especially if we deal with inflammation.
To women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, Laura Ali reminds that “the FDA recommends to limit their Albacore tuna intake to 4 ounces (113 gr) a week”. Ultimately, it’s up to you to form your opinion on how much seafood you want to eat, but whether you want to be conservative or a bit more bold, seafood should definitely be an important part of your diet, especially if you are trying to heal from autoimmune conditions or chronic inflammation.
I hope you enjoyed reading through these guidelines to identify what’s the best canned tuna for paleo AIP diets.
But really, no matter what diet you are on, canned tuna (if it comes from a clean and healthy brand like Blue Harbor) is a great source of lean protein, and because it’s already cooked, it’s a quick solution to keeping up with that nutrient density intake we are recommended even when we don’t have time to cook.
PS: And now that I tried tuna in no-drain pouches like the ones produced my Blue Harbor that you see in these photos, I think they will become my favorite snack to stick in my purse and eat when I am traveling (or flying)!