Thursday, 18 Aug 2022

Pros and cons of eating tuna and cod from healthier hearts to mercury poisoning

Last week also saw the beginning of Lent which for many means giving up some of the foods they love from March 2 to April 14.

And, anybody who follows the more traditional route will stop eating meat – at least for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of the period.

But, fish is allowed which is great for enjoying a tasty, healthy meal when trying to cut down on red or white meat.

Except, nowadays people are discussing more and more the worry of mercury poisoning and its effect on the body meaning fish might not be the healthy choice you think it is.

We spoke to nutritionists to find out more about the benefits and drawbacks of two of the most popular types of fish that Brits love to eat – tuna and cod.

Check out what they had to say…


Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, said: “Tuna is a highly nutritious fish that is low in calories, but high in protein, so is an excellent choice for anyone trying to lose weight. It has a high vitamin B12 content and contains iron, which is excellent as B12 and iron are required to make red blood cells, meaning that eating tuna helps prevent anaemia.

“Again, it is high in omega-3, so shares many of the benefits of eggs and cod, helping keep the eyes healthy, and having a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. Eating tuna several times a week has been shown to reduce dry eye.

“Tuna also contains iodine. Iodine deficiency is a worldwide problem, which also currently affects the UK. Iodine is essential for the function of the thyroid gland, which makes the hormone thyroxine. Low iodine levels result in hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid.”

And, tinned tuna isn’t missing out on these benefits, as Dr Deborah added: “Tinned tuna is an excellent source of vitamin D. A 100 mg portion provides 34% of your daily recommended vitamin D intake.”

Nataly Komova, RD and fitness expert for JustCBD, added: "Tuna is a fatty fish high in healthy omega-3 fats, B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, and other nutrients that: Improve heart health and overall immune system, regulate cholesterol levels and blood pressure, enhance circulation, are good for eye health and lower triglycerides."

However there are some downfalls to this easy, tasty fish.

Dr Deborah said: “Tinned tuna does not count as an oily fish.‘White tuna’ should only be eaten once a week, as it contains higher levels of mercury, but tinned tuna contains lower amounts of mercury than fresh tuna.

“Tinned tuna is also high in salt (sodium). It’s preferable to choose a lower salt tuna option. A high salt intake is strongly linked to high blood pressure.”

Nataly added: "Water pollution increases mercury levels in tuna; when not cooked well this can lead to poisoning and heart disorders."

Due to this, the NHS recommends eating no more than four tins of tuna a week, or two tuna steaks a week, if you are pregnant or trying for a baby.


Tamara Willner, nutritionist, NHS-backed healthy eating plan Second Nature said: “It’s worth noting that there are a number of species of cod that vary in nutritional value. For the most part, however, cod is extremely high in protein and B vitamins. B vitamins help us release energy from food and process nutrients in our bodies.

“Cod is a good source of vitamin B12, which helps our bodies create DNA and red blood cells. As meat is rich in B12, cod is a great option for pescetarians.”

Nataly added: “Codfish is high in lean proteins, B vitamins, and other minerals that have the following benefits to the body: it boosts heart health, is low in mercury hence has less toxic effects after consumption and it’s high in vitamin D nutrients that can boost your immune system.”

While Cod is not particularly unhealthy, Dr Deborah did note that it is overfished and stocks are unsustainable – you should try and find an alternative white fish because of this.

She added: “Fish absorb heavy metals, such as mercury, due to water pollution as well as other pollutants include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and pesticides.

“Take care not to regularly consume fish fried or covered in butter or cheese – which is likely to reverse many of the health benefits.”

While Tamara said: “The downside of cod is that certain species are now classified as vulnerable (on their way to becoming endangered) due to overfishing, so consuming lots of cod would contribute to this problem. “

And, Nathaly added: "Cod is low in healthy omega-3 fats, unlike other fatty fish."

The NHS does not say you should limit your intake of cod during pregnancy or while trying to get pregnant.

The health service states that you should try to eat two portions of fish a week with one being an oily fish like mackerel or salmon.

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