Friday, November 18, 2011

The Ultimate Snack: Canned Fish

My Dorm Room
I've been wanting to do this article for a while, as it covers something dear to my heart.  This food has some of the greatest health benefits per calorie of anything I've ever come across, and should be a staple in anybody's diet, especially those looking to support the growth of lean muscle mass.  The best part is, it's cheap stuff, portable, and low calorie, and therefore can easily fit into almost anybody's daily meals.  What is this remarkable super food that I personally am sooo fond of?

Canned fish!!!  Or actually, I should say packaged fish.

Whether it be salmon, tuna, crab meat, herring, mackerel, or even anchovies, canned fish will do wonders for your diet.  It's satiating, and an extremely rich source of some of the leanest protein available.  It's a must for gym goers, and I usually have it at least once a day as a between meal snack.  Another great benefit to canned fish is that there's so much variety!  Seriously, go to your local Walmart and look around, you'll see fantastic amounts of fish of every variety in cans or vacuum sealed packages, ready to eat AS IS!!!  Let's examine some of the benefits a little more closely, and see why it's truly one of my most favorite foods in existence.

Protein:  OK, clearly I've already stated these varieties of canned fish are packed with lean, dense protein.  But exactly how much?  Well, in most average sized cans of tuna there are two servings of the fish, and there can be anywhere between 10 and 20 grams of protein PER SERVING!  Eat the whole can and you've got yourself a serious muscle meal.  Plus, for chunk light tuna in water, you're only getting 100 calories PER CAN!!!  WOW!!!  That's a lot of protein for barely a caloric blip in your diet.  Perfect!

To give an example of the protein power of fish, check out these two different foods I have in my dorm room.  One is a package of pink salmon (absolutely delicious might I add, and at 98 cents a package they are more than affordable), and a dedicated protein bar (a remarkably good bar for such a low price.)  The bar has 20 grams of protein, and 180 calories.  The salmon?  17 grams of protein, but only 90 calories!  I could eat two of those salmon packages and get 14 more grams of protein for the same amount of calories!  That's pretty impressive.

Omega-3 fatty acids:  These unsaturated fatty acids are essential in everything from heart health to skin health to joint health.  They will support healthy cholesterol, and will help keep joints lubricated and sliding smoothly throughout your day.  They will also help to support the immune system, and have shown signs to being an effective anti-inflammatory supplement as well.  They alleviate pain all over the place, and keep that heart of yours ticking powerfully and efficiently.

Vitamins/Minerals: Fish naturally have a whole host of beneficial vitamins and minerals, including large dosages of vitamin B12, niacin, selenium. vitamin A, and folate.  The great news is that no matter what fish variation you choose, you're most likely going to get a heaping helping of the daily nutrients your body needs.

There's no doubt whatsoever that canned fish has a lot of good packaged with it.  There are a few little things to watch out for though.

Sodium:  Packaged fish usually has a pretty good amount of sodium in it.  Some isn't too bad, and I specifically look at all nutritional labels before I buy, but some are pretty substantial.  On average I'd say canned fish has between 150 mg and 500 mg of sodium per serving, and there's usually two or three servings per can, so all that salt can add up fast.  Read the labels, and go for the varieties lower in salt.

Mercury:  Many people are extremely worried about mercury poisoning when it comes to fish.  Yes there is a slight risk if you're having the stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  But a can of tuna per day won't do you much if any harm at all, and I bet you won't feel a speck of difference even if you ended up doubling that number.  My advice?  Take a couple days break from fish if you eat it a lot, but don't be afraid of it.  If the mercury starts to add up, you'll know it.

So what are my favorite varieties?  I like all sorts of things, but tend to drift towards bumblebee and beach clif brands.  Here's a quick little description of the varities I have in my dorm room:

Chunk Light Tuna- This stuff is my foundation.  I get it in water, not oil, to cut down on both calories and fat content.  It takes a little getting used to, especially if you eat it plain.  What I would suggest is eating it with some salsa, or mix it in with some vegetables.  You can even spread it plain on some whole wheat bread and top it off with mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, or whatever floats your boat.

Tiny Shrimp-  These are probably the most protein packed of anything I have on my shelf.  They're exactly what the can says:  tiny...shrimp.  For about 140 calories you're getting 30 grams of protein, and they're delicious!  Especially if you like traditional cocktail shrimp.  Eat them plain or with a little salsa.  I've mixed them into brown rice before as well, and boy was that good!

Salmon- I have a bunch of varities of this big fish in my dorm room.  I eat it both from the can (bumblebee pink salmon) or via my new favorite method, vacuum packed pouch.  Salmon is naturally a very tasty fish, and will taste better to most people than tuna straight from the can.  Again though, mix it in with a few things.  I've had it accompanying some butternut squash, and as mentioned above I've had it with salsa as well.

Fish Steaks- I love these things!  Fish steaks from beach clif are dense, yummy, and really fill you up.  They're great to eat plain, especially the ones covered in mustard sauce or Louisiana hot sauce.  They've got some sodium, but aren't atrocious compared to some other varieties.  Just pop the top, grab a fork, and dig in!

Crab Meat- This stuff is goooodddd.  It's very "light" and fluffy, and has a much less distinct taste to it than say, tuna.  It still is packed with protein, but tends to be very low calorie (only around 80 calories per can).  Because it doesn't have a huge amount of taste to it naturally, I like to add it to things that do have some taste, or at least eat them with it in a meal.  I used to have a can of crab meat and a sweet potato for my morning snack.

Sardines- These little suckers are tasty, but might take some getting used to.  They have a powerful taste, and still have the bones in them!  Don't worry, the bones only add a tiny little bit of texture (which I enjoy a lot), and are actually a great source of calcium!  Give them a try.  If you don't like them straight off the bat, try them on a whole wheat cracker or something, or again, mask the taste with a healthy sauce.  Give them a chance!

Kippered Seafood Snacks-  These big flat cans are full of smooth, tasty goodness.  The kippered herring in these things is absolutely delectable!  It's filled with healthy oils, and slides quite easily down your throat.  The high fat content will help them to taste much better to most people, and I highly suggest giving them a shot.  They're only 130 calories per can, and I'm sure they'll fill you up!

The bottom line:  Fish is unquestionably one of the greatest foods you could fit into your diet.  It's packed with all sorts of health benefits, and will really help your body to maintain healthy muscle mass and a resulting fast metabolism.  I'm not going to say fish straight from the can is immediately palatable by everyone, and I wouldn't suggest digging straight in.  Mix some canned fish in with other foods, like rice, vegetables, chilies, pastas, anything really.  You'll find you'll take to the taste much more quickly, and pretty soon you'll be popping cans of tuna and salmon out of your lunch box for a quick, low calorie, protein packed snack.  Give them all a try, I bet there's a variety out there you'll love!

Give fish a chance, your body will thank you.  Good Luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment