by Amy Sherman
Canned fish is one of those pantry staples it’s easy to forget about: It’s always there, so much a part of the routine that we forget just how awesome it is. In fact, it’s considered a delicacy in Mediterranean countries like Portugal, Greece and Italy (and you know how healthy those folks are).
Now’s a perfect time to fall in love with this old friend all over again. It’s nutrient-rich, shelf stable and convenient. It’s also versatile — just as good in a quick lunchtime salad as it is whipped into pates or transformed into seafood croquettes. Read on for more details about the canned fish that belongs in your pantry and tips for buying the most sustainable varieties.
Canned tuna is tied with salmon as the second most frequently consumed seafood product in the U.S. (shrimp is number one). And it’s got a lot going for it: Whether you choose water-packed or tuna in oil, it’s rich in protein, omega-3s, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, phosphorus and selenium.
Look for skipjack tuna, sometimes labeled “light tuna,” which are smaller fish that contain less mercury and are considered the most “dolphin-safe.” Avoid albacore or white tuna, which can be high in toxins and may not be dolphin-safe. Line- or pole-caught tuna (look for this on the label) also helps save other ocean dwellers.
Canned salmon is milder and far less expensive than fresh. Some varieties come with nutrient-rich skin and bones, which are soft and edible. Rich in protein, vitamin D, niacin, vitamin B12 and phosphorous, it’s also a good source of calcium if you eat the bones. When buying, choose wild caught. Alaskan salmon is especially low in mercury and other toxins.
Get a recipe: Yummy Salmon Burgers with Slaw
Sardines are small, oily fish, related to herring, and are smoked before canning. Now considered trendy, sardines are lower in mercury than larger fish like salmon and tuna. They’re also rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D, niacin, phosphorous, selenium and omega-3s.
Mackerel is related to bonito and tuna, but milder in flavor. It’s rich in protein, omega-3s, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and selenium.
Choose wild caught, ideally line-caught, which helps protect other fish. The best brands are packed fresh, rather than frozen.