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The #1 Best Canned Tuna to Buy, Says Dietitian

We're decoding this popular protein with help from an expert.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Tuna is a lean protein that fulfills many dietary needs and tastes delicious—and we're not alone in our tuna fandom. The canned version of the meat, in particular, is wildly popular. In the U.S. alone, we eat around one billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna a year, according to the National Fisheries Institute. A can of tuna can last for up to four years in your cabinet, before eventually making its way into a tuna sandwich, salad, or any one of these inventive recipes.

When you do finally crack that lid and dig into the delicacy, your body will thank you. Not only does a single can of tuna cover most if not all of your recommended daily protein intake, but it also has omega-3 fatty acids that help improve your brain and eye function. Clearing your mind and vision while also indulging in a tuna melt? Count us in.

Another major pro, when it comes to canned tuna, is the fact that it contains much less mercury than other types of fish, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA says it is safe to eat up to 12 ounces of fish a week that is low in mercury—which can be around 2 to 4 cans of tuna, depending on the size.

The main—and, really, one of the only—problems with canned tuna is the simple act of buying it. There are a wide variety of brands on the market, and even when you've chosen a brand, there are decisions to be made about type: water or oil? White or light? We called in our medical expert board member Amy Shapiro MS, RD, and got some guidance on where to begin.

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canned tuna
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According to the National Fisheries Institute, the most widely-purchased kind of canned tuna is light meat chunk tuna in water. Based on what Shapiro shared with us, it seems like most people are getting it right.

"Canned in water is ideal," she said, before adding, "If you get it canned in oil, make sure it's olive oil."

Shapiro also specified that consumers should look for "no added salt" on their canned tuna labels. In terms of her favorite, go-to brand? She was torn. Both Tonnino and Wild Planet made her top two.

So, next time you're loading up on a supply of chicken of the sea, keep Shapiro's guidance in mind. For even more insight, check out our comprehensive roundup of the best and worst canned tunas on the market.

For even more canned tuna tips, read these next:

Kaley Roberts
Kaley Roberts is a food writer. Read more