What You Should Know About Canned Tuna
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
Should you drain canned tuna?
Technically, you do not have to drain the water or oil from a can of tuna to enjoy it. Most people do not enjoy soggy sandwiches, though, so draining your tuna is the common-sense solution to that problem. However, draining tuna is beneficial for more than just removing excess liquid. It has a nutritional impact, too. Tuna packed in oil, for instance, has twice the amount of calories as tuna packed in water. According to the USDA, a can of tuna in oil has a whopping 317 calories compared to the 150 calories from tuna in water. So, removing the oil reduces calories by quite a lot. Both water and oil-packed tuna also contain sodium, which can be partially eliminated by draining the liquid.
How do you drain the liquid from the tuna can?
To do this, you can employ one of the following options.
Take a second to think before you throw out that dusty tuna can in your pantry or that opened tuna you stored in the fridge a few days ago. Some of us tend to be squeamish regarding seafood, so it is no wonder tuna is often tossed too soon for fear of it going bad. The good news is that canned tuna can be stored longer than believed. According to the USDA, tuna can be stored in the pantry for up to five years. The best place to store it is in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
The leftover tuna you put in the fridge can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. The same holds for tuna salad. You can enjoy it for three days. However, if you add the canned tuna to a casserole or cooked dish, you can safely store the leftovers in the freezer for up to two months.
Storing canned tuna near heat or light.
Foods can be spoiled or degraded by both heat and light. It is recommended not to expose canned goods to temperatures above 100°F. High temperatures increase the risk of food spoilage, but even temperatures of 75°F and above can cause nutrients to be lost. Tuna should be stored in a cool, dry area below 85°F, preferably between 50°F and 70°F, to keep it in its prime condition. However, temperature and light are not the only factors. Store cans on a shelf instead of the floor to prevent crushing or rusting. Additionally, storing your oldest tuna cans at the front and your newest ones at the back of your pantry as you replenish your supply would be best. Using the oldest cans first will reduce the chances of your canned goods expiring before they are consumed.
Storing leftover tuna in an opened can.
Despite what you might have heard, refrigerating leftover food in a can is not a safety risk. According to the USDA, cooling food in a can after opening is perfectly safe but may affect its quality and flavor. Hence, the agency recommends sealing leftovers in plastic or glass containers.
However, it is essential to note that the safety concerns about Bisphenol-A (BPA) are not unfounded. The chemical is used inside the lining of metal cans and in many food storage containers. Newsweek reports that the chemical mimics estrogen and is associated with diabetes, cognitive, and fertility issues.
Canned tuna, on average, contains about 140ng/g of BPA (per Atuna). It would take 25 cans of tuna to exceed the EU's maximum guideline for this additive. The presence of BPA at this low concentration is considered harmless. However, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, Americans take in 5,000 times the amount of BPA that the European Food Safety Authority considers safe. That may be reason enough to look for BPA-free cans.
Essentially, the best reasons for transferring your leftover tuna to another container are to protect your fridge from taking on a fishy smell and to preserve the quality of the fish. Nevertheless, seal it with plastic wrap if you decide to store it in a can. It will keep the flavor (and odor) of the fish.
Not choosing a low-sodium option.
Compared to fresh foods, canned foods contain more sodium. On average, canned tuna contains 247 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving. That amount is slightly more than 10% of the Centers for Disease Control's recommended dietary reference intake for sodium, which is 2300 mg daily. If you are on a low-sodium diet, this is concerning. But watching your sodium does not mean you have to give up your tuna, as long as you follow a couple of guidelines.
When buying tuna, look for the low-sodium varieties. It may sound easy, but labels can be tricky. You may think that tuna packed in water, for example, is just tuna and water. That often is not the case when you examine the list of ingredients where you will find salt was added. You should instead look for labels that state "no salt added," "low sodium," or "reduced sodium."
Do not give up hope if you cannot find reduced sodium tuna at your local grocery store. An American Dietetic Association study found that rinsing canned tuna in water for three minutes reduces sodium content by 80%. That is a significant reduction for only a little bit of effort.
Are you overeating canned tuna?
The Food and Drug Administration answers YES. The same is true for all fish, not just tuna. The FDA recommends eating two to three servings (8 to 12 ounces) of cooked fish per week. Why, if fish is full of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, and that is what we need?
The concern is mercury. While canned light tuna is a low-mercury option that you can enjoy two to three servings of, albacore tuna is higher in mercury and should only be served once a week. You can ensure your portions are just right in a couple of ways. You can measure 4 ounces of tuna using a kitchen scale or look at your hand. Four ounces is about the same size and thickness as your palm.
Not inspecting the cans.
Do you regularly check the dates on the canned food in stores or as you pull it out of your pantry? Do you look for dents, rust, and bulges? If not, it is worth the few extra seconds to avoid potentially eating food that has gone bad or degraded in quality. When inspecting cans, note dates, dents, bulges, rust, and leaks. When it comes to the product date, it is more about food quality, not an indicator of food safety. Cans have a "best by," "use by" or "sell by" date on them. Ideally, you will use canned foods before the "best by" date. But if some time has passed, eating is still safe as long as the smell and color are normal. The "sell by" date is helpful for grocery stores and is usually years from when you find the can on the shelf.
Not choosing lower mercury options.
Pregnant women and young children must be cautious about mercury consumption, but we must all be aware of it. Mercury enters the atmosphere via natural and man-made means and gets into our rivers and oceans when it rains. When it enters the waters, it enters the food chain.
What is the concern with mercury? The World Health Organization reports that it has toxic effects on babies in utero, lungs, kidneys, and several bodily systems. The primary exposure route is by consuming methylmercury from fish and shellfish. The presence of mercury is not a reason to give up canned tuna. However, following some simple guidelines will help you minimize your consumption. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the mercury level in albacore tuna is three times higher than in light tuna.
Using tuna that's gone bad
Sometimes, we take risks with our food. But taking chances on bad tuna is risky. Suppose you found a tuna can in your pantry just past the "best by" date. It is probably still good as long as the exterior of the can is free of bulges, rust, dents, or leaks. Opening the can tells the tale. Opening a can of food is usually uneventful. But if it spurts liquid upon opening, that is a sign that the tuna is unsafe for consumption. According to the USDA, spurting liquid can indicate the presence of toxin-producing bacteria, which are very dangerous.
Toss foul-smelling tuna in the trash. If the scent is off, trash it and clean up the area where you opened it. Examine the color of the tuna to see if it passes the smell test. Tuna is typically pink or light tan in color. Discolored meat that is dark brown, green, or black gets thrown out.
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