Canned Fish is Delicious, Safe + Healthy! In this guide, you'll learn what to look for, sustainability + the health benefits of canned fish + how to eat it!
This post is sponsored by BELA Brand Seafood. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make it possible for Root + Revel to provide free content and healthy living inspiration.
Nearly a decade of writing about restaurants taught me many lessons about food, but one that really stands out is that food can be pretentious. Or rather, people can be snobs about food.
I don't exclude myself entirely from this snobbery–I'm the first to admit that cheap, mass-produced wine makes me cringe, or that I really can taste the difference between the generic “food” served at chain restaurants and the food lovingly handcrafted by thoughtful, professional chefs (see, I told you I'm biased!)–but there are certain food pretensions that I really do wish would die.
Like, pretty much all the coffee braggarts (“Oh you don't know what the difference between a cortado and a pour-over is… poo-poo on you”…blech!). Or the foodies who pretend like they don't enjoy a greasy cheeseburger as much as they love 20-course meals of tiny plates specked with tweezer-food.
But most of all, I want the pomposity around canned fish to end…now, and fast.
I get it. Canned fish is not cool, not even a little bit. I can think of a handful of things that smell better than canned fish (though my cats might disagree). Canned fish is cheap–the antithesis of the fancy, flamboyant food beloved by millenials.
But that is one of the main reasons I love canned fish. Who isn't looking for a quick, affordable meal that's also, dare I say, healthy?
Canned fish is a heck of a lot cheaper than filets, but truly no less delicious. And certainly equally nutrient-dense (hello, omega-3 fatty acids).
Plus, it's shelf-stable (no waste!) and incredibly versatile–make a seafood salad in a matter of minutes, fry up a delicious seafood cake or fritters, toss it with some lemon-olive oil pasta, top your pizza with some tangy sardines, garnish a crostini or toast with a beautiful silvery piece of fish…the options are endless!
Which Canned Fish is Best?
Ok, hopefully now I've convinced you to hop aboard the canned fish train (if you haven't already). So now it's time to go shopping.
Like just about all food these days, the sheer number of options of canned fish can be overwhelming–do you want it packed in water or olive oil? Wild-caught or farm-raised? Pole and line caught or trolled? And what about mercury?
Let me take the guesswork out of shopping for safe and healthy canned fish for you–just buy BELA Brand Seafood, at least for all of your canned tuna, sardines and mackerel needs.
Sourced from centuries-old fisheries along the non-industrial European coastline, this family-owned seafood biz sells the ONLY Portuguese sardines and mackerel on the market. AND they're packed within 8 hours of catch, resulting in some uber fresh fish.
Likewise, their sustainably pole and line caught Skipjack Tuna comes in beautiful glass jars (buh-bye BPA and toxic plastic). All of their seafood is full, premium filets (rather than those unappealing chopped up bits you find in most tuna cans), and it's packed fresh in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic sauces.
Safe Canned Tuna: What to Look For
Oh, how I love thee. I probably eat some version of canned tuna at least once a week.
But not just any tuna. Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program (my go-to for determining seafood sustainability) advises shoppers to choose wild-caught tuna (albacore, Skipjack or yellowfin is best).
BELA's tuna fillets are sustainably pole and line caught and packed in organic extra virgin olive oil, rather than harmful canola or vegetable oil and some of the toxic additives lower-quality tuna brands include (Bumble Bee tuna adds soy to their cans, and don't even get me started on Starkist's Tuna Lunchables).
Skipjack Tuna is also protein-packed, rich in Omega-3s, low calorie and contains literally ZERO carbs.
There is some concern over mercury in tuna (which can affect neurodevelopment, especially in pregnant or nursing mothers and young children), however this is more of a concern for albacore tuna, whereas the smaller skipjack tuna has three times less mercury.
If you're not sure how much seafood you should eat, check out EWG's Personalized Seafood Calculator.
Why You Should Eat Sardines
Let me just stop you right there. I know you probably think you hate sardines, but have you ever tried them? And have you ever tried a really good one?
They're so tasty–tangy, fresh, light. They're sort of like anchovies, on steroids. Add em' to pasta, make a caesar salad with them, throw some on your pizza.
Plus, sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar levels, and improve mood. These good fats also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Sardines are also chockfull of vitamins and minerals that are proven to benefit everything from heart health to metabolism, cellular function to bone health.
And unlike some other more controversial fish, like red snapper and swordfish, sardines are extremely low in contaminants like mercury due to the fact that they're at the bottom of the aquatic food chain and eat plankton, which means they do not carry toxins and heavy metals. (source)
BELA's sardines are sustainably wild caught, and literally the only Portuguese sardine on the market. They're also MSC certified and Kosher, and come in delicious flavors like Lemon, Tomato, and Cayenne.
Don't Be Scared: Mackerel is Delicious!
Much like sardines, mackerel can catch a bad rap. But in reality, mackerel is mild, fresh and light, and delicious as a quick afternoon snack or roasted with tomatoes, capers, and olives.
In fact, mackerel can be cooked much like a steak–it takes to stuffing and grilling incredibly well, or you can use a broiler to crisp up the skin or do a quick sear on both sides using a hot cast iron pan. Squeeze some fresh citrus juice over it, or use leftovers to make omelets or a frittata.
What's more? Mackerel contains nearly 30g of protein per serving (a great pre- or post-workout meal), which helps our bodies build cells, build brainpower, break food down into energy and keeps us feeling fuller, longer.
The oily fish is also rich in Omega-3s (are you sensing a pattern here?!), Kosher, low calorie and contains NO carbs. Plus, it is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and B12, all of which can help against cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, age-related vision loss, arthritis, and dementia. (source)
Once again, BELA's mackerel is the ONLY Portuguese mackerel; it's sustainably wild caught off the non-industrial European coastline (rated a “Best Choice” by Seafood Watch), and packed in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic Piri-Piri.
And don't worry–most people think mackerel is too “fishy” tasting. But the truth is, fishy flavor comes from a fish that's not straight out of the water. And because BELA packs their mackerel within 8 hours of being caught, it's super fresh and thus not super fishy tasting.
You can buy BELA Canned Fish at Amazon, Food52, and grocery stores nationwide.
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.