Canned tuna is a nutritious and convenient source of protein that many people enjoy. But when choosing between tuna canned in water and tuna canned in oil, many wonder – how many calories are actually in canned tuna in water?
On average, a 3 ounce (85 gram) serving of canned tuna in water has about:
- 70-80 calories
- 15-17 grams of protein
- 0-1 grams of fat
The exact calorie count can vary slightly depending on the brand, type of tuna and can size. Skipjack tuna tends to be slightly lower in calories than albacore tuna.
Calorie Content by Type of Canned Tuna
There are a few main types of tuna commonly found canned in water:
Skipjack, also sometimes labeled as “light tuna”, is the most commonly canned tuna variety. A 3 ounce (85 gram) serving of canned skipjack tuna in water contains:
- 70-80 calories
- 15-18 grams protein
- 0-1 grams fat
Albacore tuna, also called “white tuna”, tends to be slightly higher in calories and mercury than skipjack. A 3 ounce (85 gram) serving of canned albacore tuna in water has:
- 80-90 calories
- About 17 grams protein
- 0-1 grams fat
Yellowfin tuna is less common canned than skipjack or albacore but is available in some brands. A 3 ounce serving of canned yellowfin tuna in water contains:
- 80-100 calories
- About 18 grams protein
- 0-1 grams fat
Calories in a Whole Can of Tuna
Canned tuna comes in a few different can sizes. Here are the approximate calories for some common canned tuna sizes:
|Can Size||Total Calories*|
*Based on 70-80 calories per 3 ounce serving of skipjack tuna
Water-Packed vs Oil-Packed Tuna
Tuna canned in water has significantly fewer calories and fat than tuna canned in oil. For example:
- A 3 ounce serving of tuna in water has about 80 calories and 0 grams fat.
- The same amount of tuna canned in oil has about 170 calories and 7 grams of fat.
If your goal is to limit calories, tuna canned in water is the better choice. The difference in calories between the two adds up, especially if eating tuna frequently. Over the course of a week, choosing tuna in water could save you 500 calories or more.
Tips for Reducing Calories in Canned Tuna
Here are some easy ways to reduce the calories in canned tuna, if you are keeping an eye on your calorie intake:
- Choose tuna canned in water instead of oil
- Drain the water before eating to remove any excess oils
- Rinse with extra water to further remove oils
- Flavor it yourself with lower calorie options like lemon juice, herbs, mustard, hot sauce, etc.
- Opt for tuna packed in “no salt added” water
- Buy tuna canned in smaller sizes like 2.5 ounces instead of 6 ounces
- Limit additional high calorie mix-ins and condiments
Ways to Use Canned Tuna
Canned tuna in water is very versatile. Here are some healthy, low calorie ways to use it:
- Make tuna salad with low fat Greek yogurt instead of mayo
- Add to a lettuce wrap or spinach salad
- Make into tuna patties or tuna cakes
- Put on top of a baked potato
- Mix with avocado for tuna guacamole
- Add to whole grain crackers for an easy snack
- Top a green salad or lettuce-wrapped tacos
- Stir into whole wheat pasta or zucchini noodles
Tuna canned in water is very healthy and provides several important nutrients, including:
- High Quality Protein: A 3 ounce serving contains 15-18 grams of protein. The protein in tuna is complete, containing all essential amino acids.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Tuna provides omega-3s EPA and DHA, which support heart and brain health.
- Vitamin D: Many brands contain added vitamin D, with about 150 IU per 3 ounce serving.
- Selenium: An important antioxidant mineral, with about 40% of the RDI in a serving.
- Vitamin B12: Necessary for red blood cell formation and neurological function. A serving of tuna provides over 80% of the RDI for B12.
- Iron: Tuna contains about 5% of the iron you need daily. Iron is important for circulation and energy levels.
While canned tuna can be a healthy choice, there are a few potential downsides to be aware of:
- Mercury: Larger fish like albacore and yellowfin tuna contain higher mercury levels.Consumption should be limited to 6 ounces or less weekly for children and pregnant women.
- Sodium: Canned tuna contains added salt, providing about 10% of the daily limit per serving. Seek lower sodium options if needed.
- BPA: Some cans may be lined with this chemical. Opt for BPA-free brands if concerned.
- Sustainability: Some tuna fishing methods can harm other marine life. Look for sustainably caught options.
The Bottom Line
Canned tuna packed in water is an affordable, easy protein option that provides about 75-100 calories in a 3 ounce serving. Choosing tuna canned in water instead of oil saves a significant number of calories and fat. Tuna in water offers high quality protein, omega-3s, selenium, B12 and other nutrients with minimal downsides. Overall, water-packed canned tuna can be part of a healthy, low calorie diet when consumed in moderation.