“How much canned tuna can I safely consume a week?”
I get asked this question a lot — particularly at this time of year.
When it’s hot outside and we don’t feel like cooking, nothing is easier than opening a tuna can and chopping some veggies to make a great salad.
Not to mention that tuna is pretty cheap and a good source of protein and omega-3s too.
The issue with eating tuna is that it has been found to contain high levels of many contaminants, especially mercury (which is harmful to our nervous system).
Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and can come from industrial pollution. Mercury falls from the air and can accumulate in streams and oceans, becoming methylmercury in the water.
Methylmercury is absorbed by micro organisms, that are then consumed by small macro organisms, and so on up the food chain until they reach big predators such as tuna.
Tuna eat a lot of other fish, which accounts for the high levels of contaminants built up in their bodies
Just to be clear, nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methylmercury. However, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methylmercury because they've had more time to accumulate it. Which means that fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and - of course - tuna have the highest levels of methylmercury.
Methylmercury accumulates in our bloodstream over time. Though it’s removed from the body naturally, it may take over 12 months for the levels to drop significantly.
The recommended amount one week's consumption of fish does not change the level of methylmercury in the body much at all. If you eat a lot of fish one week, you can cut back for the next week or two.
To be honest, I know of only one person who got mercury poisoning.
This dude who use to come to my gym, ate 2 cans of chunk light tuna a day for 2 months.
He then started experiencing symptoms such as dehydration/heat exhaustion, nausea on standing, and dry/itchy patches of skin.
He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with mercury poisoning.
He was treated and recovered well, but I remember him telling me how scary the whole thing had been.
Just stick to the recommended amount, and you’ll be fine.
After talking about tuna and mercury poisoning (and probably scaring you), let’s get to this Tuna Quinoa Salad.
First off, quinoa and tuna make a snappy pair. Wait, did I just said snappy? [ugh!]
They work so well together: a great mix of flavors and textures.
And then there's the fresh mint.
I know many of you like to tweak my recipes adding stuff you probably have lying around or changing one or two ingredients; but trust me on this one. The fresh mint is necessary, without it would be a bit of a snooze flavor-wise.
Also, this salad screams for acid. So lemon juice and lemon zest are also non-negotiable.
From a nutritional standpoint this dish is amazing. It's packed with protein, it’s gluten-free, and it’s delicious. A one-meal salad. Tasty, filling and healthy all at the same time.
So let’s all rejoice in our mercury levels and let's dive in!
1 cup / 6 oz / 170 gr quinoa
2 cups / 500 ml water
2 (5 oz / 140 gr) cans tuna in water, drained (I used Wild Planet wild albacore tuna)
1 cup / 5.3 oz / 150 gr cherry tomatoes, halved
½ red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups / 7 oz / 200 gr mesclun salad mix
2 large handfuls mint leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Juice and zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Place quinoa into a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly with cool water for about 2 minutes. Rub and swish the quinoa with your hand while rinsing. Drain.
Place quinoa and water in a small saucepan and season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cover. Cook until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, fluff with a fork and let cool.
To make the dressing, combine olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes (if using) in a small bowl.
To make the salad, add the greens in a large bowl and toss them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add tuna, quinoa, tomatoes, onion, and mint. Toss through dressing and season. Scatter over pine nuts and serve!
One serving yields 471 calories, 27 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, and 24 grams of protein.