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The dos and don’ts of canned seafood

We’ve all heard how healthy seafood can be for us. But does that remain true when it is preserved in a can or tin? Not always.

Getting your seafood in a healthy way
Canned tuna

Read on to get a better sense of which canned seafood items to toss in your cart and which you should leave on the shelf.


Tuna is in some ways the riskiest canned seafood to purchase, simply because there are so many varieties. Canned tuna can be either salted or unsalted; packed in oil, water, broth or a combination of the two; and labelled as either “white” or “light.” That’s a whole lot of options! Fortunately there are a few specific items you can look for to ensure you select the best option.

Firstly, make sure you pick an unsalted variety. Livestrong reports that salted tuna contains around 650 milligrams of sodium, while unsalted tuna contains only 100 milligrams. You can save yourself a whole lot of sodium right there!

Secondly, you need to decide between tuna packed in water and tuna packed in oil. Tuna packed in oil may have a better taste, but it will also add some calories and fat to your diet. A can of tuna packed in water comes in at around 200 calories, while a can packed in oil is well over 300. So it’s up to you as to which option will fill your nutritional needs more efficiently.

Thirdly and finally, you must make a choice between white tuna and light tuna. Because white tuna is higher in fat, it does have slightly more calories, but this also means it is richer in omega-3 fatty acids. Light tuna, on the other hand, is a greater source of vitamins and minerals and provides you with slightly more protein. It tends to have a “fishier” taste and is slightly less expensive. So there are benefits to both. Bottom line: Read the label to determine the option best for you.


Salmon has been receiving a lot of praise as a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. So the real question is, does canned salmon own the same honours? The answer is yes.

The only risk that comes with eating canned salmon over fresh salmon is the added salt. Goldseal’s unsalted red sockeye salmon, for instance, has only 3 per cent of your daily intake of sodium, while its salted variety has 20 per cent. So unsalted salmon is the healthier choice.


The World’s Healthiest Foods (WHF) reports that consuming sardines contributes to heart health and bone health. Sardines are also packed with protein, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. And because sardines are so readily perishable, it is easier to find them canned than fresh. WHF recommends sardines packed in olive oil rather than soya oil, but if you’re keeping an eye on your fat intake, sardines packed in water are the best option.

Because sardines can perish so easily, it’s important to store them properly. First, check the can when you buy them to know when they will expire. Keep the can in a cool, dry cupboard, and rotate the can every once in a while so all sides of the sardines are kept moist. Most important, aim to eat the sardines right away once the can is opened, as they will keep in the fridge for only a few days. If you store them properly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy this healthy snack.


Canned oysters are either natural or smoked. For the health-conscious individual, it is best to steer clear of smoked oysters, as they tend to be preserved in oil. Instead, look for oysters packed in water, such as Cloverleaf’s Whole Pacific Oysters. You can add any spices or sauces you want to them and know exactly what you are eating.


Moral of the story: Read the labels on canned seafood before purchasing. The less ingredients listed, the less additives the product unneccessarily contains. And make sure to check when the product expires so you don’t eat something that has gone bad. Also keep an eye on the fat and sodium levels to ensure you pick the best option for you and your family.

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