If I told you how many cans of tuna and all the concoctions, I would make with it in my early “bodybuilding days” you’d probably think I lived off the stuff, which I guess isn’t too far off from the truth.
Canned tuna in oil or water is an often forgotten source of protein and healthy fats that’s not only convenient, but versatile in the ways you can prepare it.
Is tuna in oil keto friendly? Most tuna in oil or water is free of carbohydrates, which make them perfect to include while following a ketogenic diet.
In this article, I’ll cover tuna in oil and other variations, the health benefits, the downsides, why you may want to get tuna in water or strain your oil, and some keto-friendly ideas you can use to spice up your tuna game.
Can You Eat Canned Tuna On A Keto Diet?
Can you eat canned fish like tuna or salmon on a ketogenic diet? Of course you can. Canned tuna whether in oil or water is perfect acceptable to enjoy while following a ketogenic diet.Canned tuna in oil or water is generally carb-free which makes it an ideal food choice to include while following a keto diet.
However, not all tuna is created equal. Some brands or variations of tuna also pack in added sugar, which make it less desirable.
Notice I said less desirable, but not completely off limits. We’ll dive into that topic later on in the article.
Canned tuna is not only a high-protein food that’s rich in nutrients and heart-healthy fats, but you can use tuna in an endless assortment of ways to keep your diet a bit more exciting.
How Many Carbs Are In Canned Tuna?
For about 99% of canned tuna and most tuna sold in packets, you can expect zero carbohydrates per serving. Canned tuna is purely a source of protein and some fat, similar to that of eating any other type of fish or meat like chicken and steak.
The only time you need to concern yourself with the carb count of tuna is when you start getting into the flavored varieties. Often times, certain flavored variations of tuna as pictured below will have added sauces and seasonings that increase the carbohydrates count.
The most popular brand of tuna that has these flavored tuna pouches is Starkist. The carbohydrates vary according to flavor so I have included a list that breaks down each flavor below for you to compare.
Are Starkist tuna pouches keto friendly? Yes, Starkist tuna creations pouches are keto friendly. However, some flavors have more carbohydrates than others which make them less ideal, but can be accounted for in your daily carb intake.
Carbs in Starkist Tuna Creations Pouches (per pouch)
- Tuna Creations Ranch: 1g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Herb & Garlic: 2g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Lemon Pepper: 1g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Hickory Smoked: 0g
- Tuna Creations Sweet & Spicy: 4g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Deli Style Tuna Salad: 3g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Bacon Ranch: 2g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Honey BBQ: 4g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Ginger Sesame: 9g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD Thai Chili Style: 7g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD Jalapeño: 2g of carbs
- Tuna Creations Hot Buffalo Style: 1g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD With Rice & Beans In Hot Sauce: 14g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD Sriracha: 4g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD Tapatio: 0g
- Tuna Creations BOLD Korean Style With Gochujang: 6g of carbs
- Tuna Creations BOLD Red Curry With Coconut: 4g of carbs
Health Benefits Of Tuna
Canned tuna Is more than a convenient source of protein.
Canned tuan is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients.
Source of Essential Fatty Acids (Omega-3’s)
Tuna is a great source of the essential fatty acids (EFA’s) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and your risk of chronic diseases.
Your average 5 oz. can of tuna will provide you upwards of 28 mg of EPA and 850 mg of DHA. Canned albacore is likely to provide more EPA and DHA than light tuna, but you’ll also be getting more mercury form canned albacore.
May Aid Weight Loss
Despite what you may have read, protein is not your enemy, even on a ketogenic diet.
Not only is protein considered the most satiating macronutrient compared to fat or carbohydrates, but protein has the highest thermogenic effect.
Increasing your protein intake will help you feel more full much quicker and far longer than carbohydrates or fat. Something you definitely want to be mindful of when attempting to lose fat.
When you eat food, it takes a certain amount of energy (calories) to absorb, digest, and utilize it known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). 1 Protein has a TEF Of 20-30%, meaning upwards of 30% of the calories is burned just to digest it. Compare that to fat which only has a TEF of 0-3% and carbohydrates with a TEF of 5-10%
Promote Thyroid Health
Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, maintaining energy levels, and producing hormones.
Tuna is high in the mineral selenium that plays a vital role in the health of your thyroid gland. Some studies show that selenium supplementation may be of benefit for certain conditions like hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis 2
Negative Of Canned Tuna
Regarding tuna, one of the biggest concerns is mercury poisoning. Tuna contains mercury as mercury content accumulate the larger a fish is (i.e., higher on the food chain).
For most individuals, there isn’t enough mercury in tuna to cause a concern. However, there are certain groups of people that the mercury content can pose an issue.
- Pregnant women
- Nursing women
- Babies and young children
With canned tuna though, there is less of a concern. Canned tuna is primarily made using smaller fish (which accumulate less mercury). It’s typically the fresh or frozen tuna that contain a higher level of mercury.Light canned tuna contains less mercury than albacore tuna (white canned tuna).
Unless you fall into one of the high-risk categories mentioned above, there isn’t likely much of concern. But as with everything, moderation is always great to practice.
Should You Strain The Oil From Canned Tuna On Keto?
I often get the question on whether you should buy the canned tuna that’s packed in oil or packed in water, and to be honest, it just depends.
While there is nothing wrong with either tuna packed in oil or tuna packed in water, it boils down to what your preference is and what your goals are.If you only like tuna that’s packed in oil, well, then you have your answer. However, if weight loss is your goal, a simple way to save some calories is to opt for canned tuna in water instead.
If you purchase tuna in oil and drain the oil, you’ll also be saving some calories. If you’re following a macro approach where you track calories and macros, it would be almost impossible to give you an accurate measure if you’re draining the oil and wondering how much oil is left.
Your best bet is to buy canned tuna packed in water if you’re intending to strain it anyway.
Should you strain the oil from canned tuna on keto? There’s no need to strain the oil from canned tuna while following a ketogenic diet. However, if you’re looking to save calories, then straining the tuna is the better option, and purchasing canned tuna in water would be the best option.
What To Mix With Canned Tuna On Keto
If you’re looking for keto-friendly mix-ins to make your canned tuna more palatable, below is a list of some things you may want to consider.
- Hot sauce
- Marinara Sauce like Rao's
- Your favorite cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Salt and Pepper
- Other spices like garlic and onion
- Sliced mushrooms
- Dill pickles
Other Keto Friendly Canned Tuna Recipes
If you’re looking for some inspiration on what to do with some of that canned tuna in oil (or water), then here are a few great ideas to transform some canned fish into a healthy keto tuna snack.
Keto tuna cakes
These tuna cakes taste great, and there’s no need for bread crumbs or flour of any kind. Whip up this recipe using ingredients like eggs and mustard for a super delicious and easy keto-friendly meal.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Healthy Recipes Blog. If you want another idea from Healthy Recipes, here is a tuna casserole great for the family.
Keto tuna salad
Most tuna salad is probably keto friendly, except for something doused with a sweet sauce.
For my tuna salads I like to mix in the following ingredients:
- Can of tuna (light or albacore)
- Diced celery
- Sweet or red onion
- A little mayo
- Dijon mustard
- Squeeze of lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Serve it right away or let it chill in the fridge overnight for an easy keto snack the following day. You can also use it in a multitude of ways such as lettuce wraps, on a salad, or in a sandwich.
Tuna whether in oil or water is keto friendly. Whether you should drain the oil is a matter of preference or if you’re trying to save some calories.
If the latter, I’d probably just opt to get the tuna packed in water.