Is Tuna Good For Weight Loss? Nutritional Value & How To Eat 2024


Reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN
is tuna good for weight loss
Tuna is eaten worldwide, but is it safe and healthy? Photo: Tetiana Chernykova/Shutterstock

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If you’re trying to think of healthy lunches good for weight loss, you might think of a tuna salad.

Tuna fish is popular worldwide thanks to its high-protein, low-calorie recipe versatility. But what about its mercury concerns and the fact that some tuna species are endangered?

After all, even if it’s healthy, there are certain foods to avoid to lose weight

So, is tuna good for weight loss and safe to eat? Read on to learn its nutrition facts, safer varieties, and other healthy fish alternatives.

Is Tuna Fish Good For Weight Loss?

Yes, tuna fish can be good for weight loss. It’s low-calorie and protein-rich, making it a filling food that can help create a calorie deficit.

However, it’s important to consider concerns about its mercury content and the environmental impact of tuna overfishing. Safer alternatives with sustainable fishing practices that are also high in protein include sardines, hake, and salmon.

Is Tuna Good For Weight Loss?

is tuna good for weight loss
Tuna’s high protein content makes it good for weight loss. Photo: Maryia_K/Shutterstock

Scientific studies support high-protein foods for a weight-loss diet, and tuna is a particularly high-protein food. It’s used by bodybuilding and muscle maintenance enthusiasts worldwide in their high-protein diets.

A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increased protein intake helped to reduce appetite[1] and increase feelings of fullness and satiety.

Another study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that a higher protein intake was effective for weight loss as part of a reduced-calorie diet. The study suggests increased protein could help preserve lean muscle[2] mass during weight loss. This is important because muscle mass helps maintain your metabolic rate[3] — muscles burn more calories at rest than fat tissue. This is also why resistance training and exercise are recommended for weight loss.

Feeling satisfied with your meal is another important factor in healthy eating. If you don’t feel full and satisfied, you might want to eat more or eat again sooner rather than later.

Is Tuna Salad Good For Weight Loss? 

Whether or not tuna salad is good for weight loss depends on how you make it. Like any dish, the ingredients you add have the potential to make it better or worse for weight loss.

For example, adding commercially prepared dressings like ranch, Caesar, or blue cheese can drastically increase the amount of calories and saturated fats. The same goes for salad toppings. Adding fried onions, bacon bits, and bree cheese isn’t as helpful for weight loss as tomatoes, cucumbers, or avocados.

Research shows that eating a plant-based diet[4] with more vegetables, such as salad, can lead to weight loss. However, you must make a salad you enjoy to help boost your mood.[5]

The Nutritional Value Of Tuna 

The nutritional value of tuna varies greatly depending on the added ingredients, type, and brand. For example:

One can of drained tuna, 167 grams, packed in water[6] has:

  • 150 calories.
  • 31.7 grams of protein. 
  • 1.57 grams of fat. 
  • 0.13 grams of carbs. 
  • 366 mg of sodium. 

Meanwhile, 171 grams of drained light tuna packed in oil[7] has:

  • 339 calories.
  • 49.8 grams of protein. 
  • 14 grams of fat. 
  • 0 grams of carbs. 
  • 711 mg of sodium. 

Check the ingredients label and nutrition facts to see which tuna suits your needs best.

How To Eat Tuna For Weight Loss?

is tuna good for weight loss
Choose skipjack tuna and check additives if you’re buying cans. Photo: DronG/Shutterstock

Eating tuna good for weight loss is more effective if you consider how it’s prepared and what it’s paired with:

Choose The Right Type

Look for tuna that is sustainable-certified by the Marine Stewardship Council with a blue MSC label. Light or skipjack tuna might be the best choice since it’s smaller and has lower mercury levels.[8] You can also choose other types of fish[9] for variety, such as sardines, hake, and salmon.

Check The Additives

Opt for canned tuna in water rather than oil to avoid extra calories. Otherwise, you can try fresh tuna or a grilled tuna steak.

There’s also canned tuna packed in olive oil for extra flavor. Even though it adds calories and fat, it’s healthy fats. 

Olive oil is anti-inflammatory and rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are great for heart health and weight loss. Plus, it’s even better if the olive oil helps you avoid mayonnaise, which is high in unhealthy saturated fat and calories. 

While olive oil doesn’t have omega-3 fatty acids, tuna has a good share, without additives. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good brain health and many other health benefits. 

Portion Control

Any food, no matter how healthy, should be managed through moderation and portion control. Even though tuna is low in calories, it’s still a fish that may be high in mercury. Plus, variety helps your body get all the essential nutrients it needs. Getting bored with a tuna diet can also make other unhealthy foods sound much more appealing.

 For weight loss, try incorporating other high-protein foods like herring, squid, or even eggs

Balance Your Meal

Serving tuna with other healthy foods will help keep you fuller for longer — and more satisfied with your meal, too. Try adding fiber-rich veggies like spinach or complex carbs like quinoa for sustained energy. You still need a certain number of carbs per day to lose weight

Add Healthy Habits

Eating only tuna isn’t going to help you achieve rapid weight loss. Little by little, you’ll want to add other healthy habits slowly. This includes eating regular meals, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

 And don’t forget to hydrate with water to lose weight

Potential Drawbacks 

While eating tuna can be healthy, some drawbacks exist, such as:

  • Sustainability issues: Some tuna species are overfished[10] or caught using methods that harm other marine life. Opt for sustainably caught tuna and eat a variety of other less endangered fish species. 
  • Mercury exposure: Tuna, especially albacore or white tuna, can be high in mercury. This can be harmful in large amounts and particularly dangerous in even smaller amounts for pregnant or breastfeeding women[8] and young children. 
  • Caloric additions: While tuna is low in calories, other additions, like mayo or creamy salad dressings, can turn it into an unhealthy meal. 
  • Sodium content: Canned tuna can be high in sodium, which might contribute to high blood pressure. 


Tuna can be good for weight loss when paired with other healthy habits. This includes adding fiber-rich vegetables and avoiding unhealthy salad dressings. 

It’s also important to aim for variety to avoid mercury poisoning and choose sustainably sourced fish. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is canned tuna good for weight loss?

Yes, canned tuna in water is good for weight loss since it’s protein-rich and low in calories. Focus on nutrient-rich foods and avoid fat burners, which are no better than eating healthily. 

Is tuna or chicken better for weight loss?

Both are excellent sources of lean protein and helpful for a healthy body weight. It’s best to include a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet. 

How much tuna is safe per week?

The FDA recommends 2-3 servings of fish per week,[8] which is 8-12 ounces. However, some types, like albacore or white tuna, have higher mercury levels. Albacore tuna should be limited to a maximum of 4 ounces per week.

Does tuna burn belly fat?

No food can burn belly fat. However, eating healthily and exercising can lead to weight loss and less belly fat. Fish, including tuna, is part of a balanced diet that can help create a calorie deficit to lose weight

+ 10 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Leidy, H.J., Clifton, P., Astrup, A., Wycherley, T.P., Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Luscombe-Marsh, N.D., Woods, S.C. and Mattes, R.D. (2015). The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 101(6), pp.1320S1329S. doi:
  2. Pasiakos, S.M., Cao, J., Margolis, L.M., Sauter, E.R., Whigham, L.D., McClung, J.P., Rood, J., Carbone, J.W., Combs, G.F. and Young, A. (2013). Effects of high‐protein diets on fat‐free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal, [online] 27(9), pp.3837–3847. doi:
  3. McMurray, R.G., Soares, J., Caspersen, C.J. and McCurdy, T. (2014). Examining Variations of Resting Metabolic Rate of Adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, [online] 46(7), pp.1352–1358. doi:
  4. Greger, M. (2020). A Whole Food Plant-Based Diet Is Effective for Weight Loss: The Evidence. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, [online] 14(5), pp.500–510. doi:
  5. Lee, M., Bradbury, J., Yoxall, J.S. and Sargeant, S. (2023). ‘It’s about What You’ve Assigned to the Salad’: Focus Group Discussions on the Relationship between Food and Mood. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 20(2), pp.1476–1476. doi:
  6. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at:
  7. (2023). FoodData Central. [online] Available at:
  8. Center (2023). Questions & Answers from the FDA/EPA Advice on Eating Fish. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at:
  9. Center (2023). Advice About Eating Fish. [online] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at:
  10. Tidd, A., Blanchard, J.L., Kell, L.T. and Watson, R. (2018). Predicting global tuna vulnerabilities with spatial, economic, biological and climatic considerations. Scientific Reports, [online] 8(1). doi:


Jennifer Olejarz is a certified nutritionist and health counselor specializing in binge and emotional eating, stress management, and mental health. She has almost a decade's worth of experience in the health and wellness field writing health… See More