Tuna & Mercury - Is It Safe? - FearlessLeeFit.com

Tuna & Mercury – Is It Safe?

Tuna & Body Buildinglight chunk tuna

Canned or ready-to-eat tuna is an extremely popular source of protein in body building. A 2 oz. serving will get you about 13g of protein. In a regular 6 oz. can that’s 39g of protein! It’s also low in fat and carb. You don’t have to cook them and can pop them open wherever and whenever you want to eat. I used to eat a can of tuna during dinner right after the workout. It saved me a bunch of time without having to prepare the protein from any whole food.

Tuna & Mercury

During the first month of my P90X workout, I was eating quite a bit of solid white Albacore tuna. I liked its solid texture and the mild flavor. Later, I remembered that Albacore tuna is a larger predatory fish and it accumulates all the mercury it ate from smaller fish in its body. Those mercury in turn get ingested by us. Tuna, especially Albacore tuna, is toxic with high levels of mercury — the most dangerous heavy metal to threaten human health.

I got paranoid and later switched to eating light tunas which are basically smaller species in the tuna family. The taste is stronger and the meat texture is not as solid but hey if I could still get high protein and not having to spend much time cooking, what do I care, right? Well, even light tunas contain relatively high mercury and if we overeat them, we might be poisoning ourselves without knowing it.

What is Mercury?

While I haven’t had or experienced any negative side effect of eating one can of tuna a day, it’s good idea to know what it is.

Mercury, like zinc, iron, and Lead, is a heavy metal. But unlike zinc and iron, lead and mercury have no useful function in the human body. The only functions that mercury has are adverse; negatively affecting the brain and kidneys. Once in the body mercury has a half-life of ~3 days in the blood stream and a 90 day half life in other tissues (e.g. brain, kidneys, etc).

What Does FDA Say About This?

So how much can we safely eat? According to FDA and this online calculator (http://www.ewg.org/research/tuna-calculator), a male who weights 170 lbs can eat:

Light Tuna – about 15.5 oz. (or about 2.5 cans) a week.*

Albacore Tuna – 5.3 oz. a week (less than a can) a week.*

* assuming that the person doesn't eat other seafood and that every can of tuna has an average amount of mercury. EWG recommends that women of childbearing age and children under 5 not eat albacore tuna at all.
Should We Cut Out Tuna?

No, we don’t have to completely cut out tuna. Just make sure we don’t overeat it like anything else. Sometimes, too much of a good thing could be a bad thing 🙂 The good news is our kidney can actually remove toxic mercury from the body and storing them in a safer form. The key is not to overwhelm our system. You can introduce it slowly into your diet so that your kidney can adjust and learn how to deal with it. There’s a good article about it here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mroussell5.htm

Where Else Can We Get Protein?

There are a bunch of other good and relatively safer source of protein. Here are some for consideration:

  • Lean Meats: Turkey, Chicken, Tilapia, etc.
  • Deli Meats (watch your sodium)
  • Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
  • Eggs/Egg whites
  • Beef/Turkey Jerky (watch your sodium)
  • Whey Protein
  • Protein Bars

There you have it! Let’s play it safe while we continue on with our fitness journey!

Coach Al


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