Tuna – Oil, Brine or Springwater?

Most of the food we eat should perishable. Tinned tuna can be a convenient exception.

Fresh tuna is best – more of the healthy OMEGA-3 Fatty Acids – but for pure convenience you can’t beat fish in a can. That being said – it isn’t just fish in that can. It’s usually found swimming in either sunflower oil (the most common oil for preserving fish), spring water, or brine. So which is better?

First the oil, and the least favourable of the three options, for two reasons:

  1. Fat is fat soluble. This basically means that all the good fats in the fish (OMEGA-3s) will leech away with the sunflower oil when you drain it off. Bearing in mind that there is already less of the good stuff in tinned tuna (versus fresh), you cant really afford to lose any more.
  2. Other than the good fats it steals from your tuna, Sunflower Oil has very little OMEGA-3 of its own. It is however high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely OMEGA-6. OMEGA-6 is ok, as long as it’s balanced by OMEGA-3. It’s not… so sunflower oil loses.

How about in brine. Brine is basically salt water. So no surprise that this increases the amount of sodium in the tuna. Most of us get enough sodium from our food without having to add it – so a low sodium option is a good one.

Which leaves us with springwater. The OMEGA-3s are maintained, no bad stuff is added. This is our pick of the three. That being said, brine is often cheaper, and a good rinse will minimise the sodium. In order of preference, spring water, brine (a close second), oil (a distant third).

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.