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Choosing Best Canned Fish and Seafood Types, Brands for Good Health

Updated on November 15, 2016
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John applies his scientific & research skills (PhD) to develop recipes, food guides, reviews of healthy whole foods, ingredients & cooking

Health Authorities in most countries have urged everyone to eat more seafood, especially the oily species such as Mackerel and Salmon. Fish is a prominent component in the famous Mediterranean diet.

Fresh fish may not always be available locally and it can be very expensive. Fresh fish is nice, but it requires careful preparation, cleaning, de-boning and a lot of effort to cook it properly. A lot of so-called 'fresh fish', may be of doubtful origin and may the thawed imported fish from countries which don't have tight restrictions on the use of antibiotics and may be tainted by local pollution.

Virtually all fresh fish you buy has been frozen and thawed, which means it hard to buy when its cheap and store frozen for later use. Most health authorities suggest that meat and fish that has been frozen and thawed should not be frozen again.

For cost, reliable place of origin, and for convenience and minimum preparation, canned seafood can be a good choice, especially if good local fresh seafood is unavailable or is too expensive.

The healthiest choice is fish canned in spring water from a reliable and established brand and country with good health standards
The healthiest choice is fish canned in spring water from a reliable and established brand and country with good health standards | Source
Fish canned in tomato and other sauces can be very high in calories, sugar and fat
Fish canned in tomato and other sauces can be very high in calories, sugar and fat | Source
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid | Source

Tips for Choosing the Best Canned Fish and Seafood Options for Health Purposes

There are a huge wide variety of canned seafood packaging types available. Fish or seafood can be packed with water, oil, tomato sauce or various other added ingredients such as vegetables and tomatoes.

The following tips provide sensible advice:

  • Read the label very carefully to determine county of origin and where the fish was canned. Where the fish was caught is very important. Many countries have pollution issues, widespread chemical and antibiotic use in seafood farms and doubtful handling procedures
  • Only choose products from reliable companies likely to have good quality control and healthy produce. the major companies depend on maintaining their reputation and standards to sustain the value of their brands. Smaller and less well known companies may not care about their reputation.
  • Be very careful with 'home-brand' fish and seafood which may have doubtful origins and hygiene standards. There may be bad reasons why its cheap.
  • Look carefully to see how the fish is packed, especially the liquid in which it is canned. Avoid products with seafood and fish packed in oil. Seafood packed in plain water is much healthier and won't be crammed full of oil and fat.
  • Consider washing or rinsing fish to remove the sauce or liquid in which the fish or seafood is canned. This liquid may contain a huge proportion of fat and salt in the package. Most fish have low to moderate levels of fat, and the type of fat is healthier than the oil added to the can.
  • Look carefully at the ingredients list for salt, sugar, carbohydrates, flavors enhances, colors preservatives and other ingredients you may be concerned about. Make sure it contains what it should. A lot of crab meat is actually fish colored and flavored to resemble crab. Many of the so-called 'crab sticks' you buy in fish shops are actually derived from a deep sea fish too ugly to sell as whole fish.
  • Choose can sizes that match what you need for the meal you are preparing. Large cans may be cheaper, but once opened the fish and seafood does not keep well. It is better to buy several medium size cans and used 2 or 3 of them rather then buying one huge can and only eating half of it. Canned fish does not store well once it is opened and deteriorates quickly
  • Seafood in tomato sauce and with various vegetables can only be used for fishes that call or these products. It is better to buy plain fish and add the spices, herbs and vegetables that suit your taste.

Comparison of Calories and Nutrients in Fish Canned in Water, Oil and Tomato Sauce

The table below provides a comparison of how the medium in which the fish is canned affects the nutrients. The main points are:

  • canning in oil doubles the calories, with ten times the calories from fat
  • canning in oil increases the sodium, as fish canned in spring water has no added salt
  • canning in tomato sauce increases the calories and adds carbohydrate and sugars which are absent from the fish canned in spring water and oil

Nutrients in Types of Canned Fish

Serving Size - 1 cup
Tuna canned in Spring Water
Tuna canned in Oil
Mackerel in Tomato Sauce
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Fat 4.3g

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© 2013 Dr. John Anderson


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  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 3 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Useful advice. I eat a lot of this from time to time and do buy products in Olive oil. More calories but sooo much tastier than the bland spring water cans. But I will eat more with spring water in the future having seen the oil varieties nearly doubles the calories.


  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    i usually buy brine canned food.

  • profile image

    RonHc213 2 years ago

    I was hoping that someone could recommend a brand in the United States that is packed in water (less calories) and is not the king mackerel (less mercury).

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 2 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Eat a lot of this stuff and am still kicking (albeit rather sluggishly these days). Good article{ any "what to buy" pieces are useful in the huge international market servicing supermarkets). Re tuna, don't like canned so well as buy fresh sizeable tuna fillet costs as much as two or more cans though. Yes: crab ain't crab and lobbie ain't lobbie! I quite like good quality red salmon which seems real...and sardines of course which give me gas and the taste of the beasts for hours after eating!


  • profile image

    hamviseafoods 15 months ago

    Thanks a lot for focusing on the benefits of buying canned seafood. The various tips mentioned by you for selecting the best canned fish and seafood options for health purposes will truly be useful to your readers. Also, the chart showing the nutrients in types of canned fish is very informative.

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