Fish figures a lot in the Mediterranean diet.  People following the Mediterranean diet plan are recommended to eat fish at least twice a week.  Fresh or water-packed tuna, trout, salmon, herring, and mackerel are good choices.  While fish are highly recommended, especially grilled fish, it is better to avoid eating fried fish and deep fried fish.  You can eat fish that is sautéed in a small amount of olive oil, though.

There are a lot of healthy ways of preparing fish.  Aside from good taste and the ease of preparation, one important consideration in cooking fish is how to make the most out of the nutritional benefits it gives to our body.

When on the Mediterranean diet, it’s not always  easy to get hold of fresh fish all the time.  It is always best to have fresh fish as the Mediterranean diet usually calls for fresh ingredients for most of its Mediterranean diet recipes.  Canned fish, on the other hand, is easier to find.  This is where the issue on whether canned fish can give you the nutritional benefits that fresh fish provides.

Canning is a very effective method of preserving fish.  The processes in fish canning kills harmful bacteria and protects against the growth of various microorganisms.  However, the high heat that is usually used when canning fish can rob you of vast amounts of nutrients that you enjoy consuming fresh fish.  Many important vitamins and minerals are lost or are reduced in the canning process.  Despite this, you can still benefit from the macronutrient nourishment and mineral supply you get from canned fish.

Here is a look at the difference in nutrient contents between fresh fish and canned fish:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  Fish, especially those that are considered oily fish, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids than those in the white fish category.  Some examples of oily fish are herring, trout, sardines, mackerel, and salmon.

Omega-3 fatty acids are famous for helping prevent cardiovascular diseased, improve blood flow, prevent extreme blood clotting, lower the amounts of lipids in the bloodstream, and reduce the risks of arrhythmia.  It also said to boost immune function, help increase fertility, fight degenerative diseases, promote healthy skin, and improve mental health.  Consuming the proper amount of omega-3 can also make you less vulnerable to various autoimmune disorders and inflammatory diseases and you will be less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, and emotional or mental disorders like depression.

The amount of omega-3 found in canned fish is usually lower than that found in fresh fish.  To get the most omega-3, look for canned fish from the oily fish category.  Experts also agree that it is better to purchase canned fish packed in water rather than those packed in oil.  This is because some of the natural fat found in tuna can mix with the oil and some of the omega-3 may come with the oil when you drain it from your canned tuna.

Carotenoids.  Carotenoids can be found in various food stuff and they are also found in fish.  The amount of carotenoids in canned fish is usually lower as compared to fresh fish because some are lost during the canning process.  However, some carotenoids can also get lost when you cook fresh fish.

Carotenoids are antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals.  They may also guard against certain types of cancer and fight heart disease by blocking the formation of LDL cholesterol.

B Vitamins.  A number of B vitamins can be found in fish and this includes vitamins B1, B3, and B6.  The amount of B vitamins in fresh fish is higher than those found in canned fish.  The canning process is also said to be responsible with the loss of certain of amounts of B vitamins in canned fish.

Vitamin B1 or thiamine is needed to metabolize carbohydrate and for the release of energy from food. It is also said to help the nervous system and the heart to function well.  Vitamin B3 or niacin needed for DNA repair and it helps boost energy.  It is also said to help reverse the progression of atherosclerosis and lower cholesterol levels.  Niacin is also said to be helpful for people who have diabetes because it helps the stimulation of insulin secretion.

Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is needed by the body to produce more than 60 enzymes needed by the immune system and other body systems to function well.  It is also said to help prevent cancer, migraines, and kidney stones.  Pyridoxine also has a diuretic effect by helping reduce water retention.  It is also included in the treatment for arthritis and is said to help increase the body’s serotonin levels.

Calcium.  If other nutrients usually found in fish are lost during the canning process, calcium stands as an exception.  Canned fish, especially canned salmon, is said to have higher calcium concentration than its fresh variety.  There are studies suggesting that the amount of calcium found in canned fish is about 10 to 20 times higher than what is found in fresh fish.  Since fish is canned with its bones that are rich in calcium, the heating process involved in canning softens the bones so calcium is easily ingested with the meat of the fish.

Aside from playing a major role in bone and tooth health, calcium is also important to heart rhythm, blood clotting, muscle function, nerve transmission, and cell membrane function.  A little known function of calcium is it being a natural tranquilizer and a key in aiding metabolism.  Calcium works synergistically with vitamin D for it to be absorbed and used for various bodily functions.

Aside from these, fish is also a good source of vitamins A, D, and K.  Fish is also a good source of protein, magnesium, selenium, and potassium.  The amount of these vitamins and minerals that can be found in fresh and canned fish may differ.  However, it is important to remember that the loss of nutrients found in fresh fish is not brought about by canning alone.  Nutrients are also lost in the process of cooking fresh fish, even if you cook your fresh fish the healthy way.

Since the two-fold heating process involved in canning can result to a significant loss in nutrients, there are fish canning companies that do away with the pre-treatment process to lessen nutrient loss.  These companies place the fish in its fresh and raw form into the can.  It is said that lesser nutrient loss results when the cooking of the fish occurs in the sealed can.  These companies that cook on in the can put emphasis on wild-caught fish and give focus on the environmental and health issues involved.

Moreover, there are now methods to replace the lost nutrients so that people can enjoy enhanced nutritional benefits from canned fish.  One of these methods is through fortifying canned fish with a number of vitamins and minerals that the human body need to function well.  Though there are still differences in the overall taste and texture between fresh fish and canned fish, this depends entirely on the palate of a person.  Besides, since fresh fish is not that readily available, canned fish is still your most convenient, practical, and satisfactory option.

I hope you enjoyed today’s article – stay well,

Ray Baker