I am constantly searching for ways to make lunch feel exciting. Otherwise, I end up eating the same thing every….single….. day for what feels like weeks on end. It’s true. I needed to break out of the rut and this family friendly recipe did the trick. Like the Chicken Salad with Grapes and Dill that I posted a few weeks ago, this simple tuna salad recipe has the addition of fresh, in season apples which offer a twist on the traditional recipe we all grew up eating. Tried and true, this recipe was a staple at my cafe, and I am happy to see it resurface so I can share it with all of you because tuna salad is yummy and easy and there is no cooking involved. Win. Before we dive into the recipe, let’s chat about tuna. If you are questioning the health benefits of tuna it is warranted as we know tuna tends to be higher in mercury. But how much is too much and does the type of tuna you buy make a difference?
Though high in mercury, tuna has many redeemable qualities. It is a good source of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids as well as a number of important minerals including selenium, or in the case of tuna, the antioxidant Selenoneine, which binds to mercury containing molecules, lowering its adverse effects. Selenoneine is also helpful in protecting cells from free-radical damage though that doesn’t give you the go-ahead to eat as much tuna as you want. But how much is too much? It depends on a few things: your body weight, gender, if you’re pregnant/nursing and the type of fish you consume. A good rule of thumb, the smaller the fish, the lower the mercury content. Here is a great article that offers a chart listing the mercury content of commonly consumed fish as well as calculations to determine safe daily mercury intake based on body weight. The Environmental Working Group offers another great tool for calculating how much tuna you can safely eat each week, in accordance with the amount of mercury the fish contains.
Circling back to tuna, smaller species will be lower in mercury. Here is what to look for on the label.
- The term “light” is referring to the species, usually tongol or skipjack, which are smaller tuna species and thus lower in mercury.
- Other larger species of canned tuna like Albacore and yellowfin contain higher amounts of Mercury (more than double) and should be consumed less often.
Play it safe: limit your consumption of tuna to 2-3 ounces once per week. Choose “light” tuna when possible.
What else should you consider?
- Tuna, while primarily wild caught, is not always sustainably caught. I look for tuna that is pole or line caught which is a more sustainable fishing method. Net fishing, a commonly used method by larger tuna companies, can result in damage to the ocean and unnecessary bi-catch.
- Pick your package! Full disclosure: I tend to have a few canned goods on hand for convenience. I believe this to be totally acceptable (remember, choose better instead of perfect) though I try to avoid cans when I can. Many canned goods contain BPA, a known carcinogen. While BPA-free cans are a much better alternative, they can still contain chemicals so I do my best to limit them as well. Pouches offer a convenient, shelf-stable and BPA free alternative to the can though tuna packed in glass jars is my top pick.
- Oil versus water. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend choosing a tuna that is packed in water as many brands use inflammatory vegetable oils, like soybean oil, instead of extra virgin olive oil which leads directly into my next point–only purchase varieties packed in extra virgin olive oil. Otherwise, you are better off adding your own extra-virgin olive oil as you can control the quality.
Okay! Onto the tuna salad. I love the jarred tuna from Tonnino though I recently found a jarred skipjack (light tuna) packed in extra virgin olive oil by the brand, Bela. Both are available at my local Whole Foods. If I grab a can it is usually Crowne Price Chunk Light Tongol packed in spring water.
- 1, 6.7 ounce jar or can of tuna packed in water, drained and shredded
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
- 3/4 cup diced apple (toss with lemon juice)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Mix together and chill before serving.
- I use my hands to break-up tuna. I find it is the most efficient and useful way to get the texture I desire.