Canning was invented in France in 1810 as a way to preserve food before more advanced refrigeration and transportation methods were invented. Canning fish is a centuries-old tradition. It is a good way of preserving it at its best and bringing out its flavour with spices and oils. Canned food is still convenient today and tinned seafood can last up to 7 years. Canned fish fell out of favour over the past 30 years or so in North America but remains popular in other parts of the world and is currently making a comeback.
In recent years, consumers have become more aware of where their food comes from and the impact of their eating habits on the planet. One of the most important reasons to buy canned fish is because it can be sustainable.
According to the UN, 33% of marine populations are overfished and almost 60% are at maximum capacity. Popular food sources like halibut, tuna, and salmon are unsustainably sourced.
Small, less popular seafood, like sardines, mussels, clams, mackerel, and anchovies are more palatable when they are canned, which is good news for the oceans because they are also more abundant than other types of fish and seafood and are lower on the food chain. Eating fish that is lower on the food chain reduces the impact on larger species and fish like mackerel and sardines are not only lower on the food chain but also have healthy populations.
Canned fish also requires less energy for preservation because it does not need to be refrigerated and is not perishable until it has been opened so there is less food waste.
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent and manage heart disease and may help reduce triglycerides and lower blood pressure. Tinned clams, crab, salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are some of the best sources of omega-3s.
Vitamins A, D, and B12
Canned fish is high in vitamins A, D, and B12.
B12 is important for making nerves, red blood cells and DNA, and for other functions. It cannot be made from your body and must come from your diet.
Vitamin A supports eye and bone health and stimulates the production of white blood cells. You can get vitamin D from the sun but it is beneficial to have it in your diet as well. Vitamin D has many functions like regulating phosphorous and calcium absorption. It also supports your immune system and the development of teeth and bones.
Canned fish is a good source of calcium because the way it is processed makes the bones edible. A serving of sardines has close to half of your daily calcium intake. Calcium is important not only for your bones but also for your blood, muscles, and heart.
Canned seafood is high in healthy protein. There is protein in almost every part of your body and it is needed for many functions, such as building muscle.
Small tinned fish have low levels of toxins
Small fish are less likely to have toxins like mercury in them because they are lower on the food chain.
Adding small tinned fish to your diet
Canned seafood is versatile and can be added to salads, pasta, rice or quinoa bowls, used in casseroles, roasted with veggies, made into fishcakes, added to wraps, or eaten on crackers. Try sautéing canned sardines with spinach, tomatoes, and capers and serving them on crusty bread. You can also bake seasoned fish with breadcrumbs in a tart shell.
Choosing high-quality tinned fish
Make sure you choose sustainable options. Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch database here: https://www.seafoodwatch.org/
Look for line-caught fish because fishing with a net catches other species of fish and marine life (bycatch) that die in the net.
Look for heart-healthy oils like olive oil.
Do not buy the cheapest option because it will probably not be of great quality. Go for options that have a whole filet in the can because that means the fish was minimally processed.
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