We've all read how important it is to get our weekly allotment of fish into our diets. Fish oils are critical for proper brain functioning. But what is the difference between chunk light tunafish and albacore tunafish?
First, the basics. Tunafish - the flaky stuff sold in a metal can - comes from a fish called a tuna. Makes sense! The tuna is part of the mackerel family. There are a number of types of tuna, from albacore to yellowfin to bluefin. They can come in sizes from two feet to fifteen feet long.
So "tunafish" - the canned stuff in stores - is chopped up tuna. In the US, if it says "white meat" or albacore, it's albacore. The "light" is normally yellowfin, skipjack, and bluefin. So you do actually get different flavors, depending on which brand and style you eat.
Also, tunafish is normally packed in either oil or water. While you drain that off before you use the tunafish, you don't get it all out, so that also impacts the flavor. It rarely has a measurable impact on calories though.
It's hard to generalize, since fish can be caught all over the world and mixed up in a myriad of combinations. In general, albacore tends to have more mercury. However, yellowtail is nearly as mercury-rich as albacore, so if you happen to get a chunk light mix made primarily from yellowtail, you're not making any difference there.
Skipjack tuna tends to taste "fishier" than other tunas - but again it's hard to know what is in your brand. They should give you a percentage of tuna list on the back of the can, just like they do with fine wines and the grapes they use! That way you know for sure.
Albacore tends to have more omega-3 oils in it, so it's healthier in this sense. There's always a balancing act. Just like eating zero citrus fruit / vitamin C would be dangerous for your health - but trying to live on only oranges would cause its own problems.
Pregnant women - and young children - shouldn't have more than a can of tunafish a week. In general doctors recommend having 2-3 cans per week for most people - i.e. don't eat it daily, but don't neglect it either.
So, to summarize, albacore tunafish is supposed to be primarily from the albacore type of tuna. Chunk light tunafish comes from the other types of tunafish. Depending on the particular brands you get, it could taste fisher or less fishy. It could also have more or less mercury. In the end, the best idea is to do some sampling, see which ones you personally enjoy, and then have one or two cans a week. That gets you your important fish oils, your protein, while balancing the mercury intake.
Come by our forums to talk about your favorite tuna fish brands and recipes!
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