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Salmon vs Tuna - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Salmon
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Tuna

Introduction

Salmon and tuna are two of the most widely consumed fishes in the world. Growing in similar conditions, the nutritional composition of these fishes can be very alike. However, in this article, we will also talk about the dissimilarities between salmon and tuna and how these differences affect their impact on health.  

Classification

The term salmon includes multiple species of fish that belong to the Salmonidae family. Other types of fish in this family include trout and whitefish.

Salmon is classified as part of the oily fish species, therefore they are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins.

Tuna, also known as tunny, is part of the Thunnini tribe of the Scombridae family. Tuna shares this family with mackerels and kingfishes.

Appearance

Raw tuna tends to be darker in colour when compared to raw salmon, due to the higher level of myoglobin and iron. Raw salmon has a light red or orange hue. 

Salmon and tuna when cooked lose colouring becoming different shades of light pink or white.

Raw meat often has visible wavy white lines, called marbling. These are lines of intramuscular fat. Salmon is often richer in fat, having more marbling. Farm-raised salmon tends to be similar to tuna in lack of marbling.

Taste and Use

Tuna and salmon are not too dissimilar in taste. Salmon is often described to have a stronger flavour than tuna. The taste of these fishes mostly depends on how they’re cooked.

Depending on availability, salmon and tuna can be used fresh or canned. Fresh fish is often served raw, smoked or cooked.

Varieties

The six major species included in the term salmon are the Atlantic, King (Chinook), Sockeye (Red), Coho (Silver), Pink (Humpback) and Chum (Dog, Silverbrite). These species can differ in their nutritional values. The king salmon, being the largest one, contains the most fat. Chum, on the other hand, has the lowest percentage of fat. All of these species are similarly rich in protein.

Fifteen species make up the tuna tribe, of which the four most commonly consumed types are the Atlantic bluefin, the albacore or longfin, the skipjack and the yellowfin or Ahi. Canned tuna is often of the albacore variety, while bluefin is used fresh. 

Tuna and salmon can also be wild-caught or farm-raised. Whilst farm-raised fish can contain antibiotics, wild-caught fish is at a higher risk of being contaminated with toxins such as mercury and dioxin-like compounds (1).

Nutrition

The nutritional values below are presented for wild, raw Atlantic salmon and fresh, raw bluefin tuna (2).

Macronutrients and Calories

Overall, salmon and tuna have very similar nutritional densities. Salmon consists of 69% water, while tuna contains 68% water.

Salmon and tuna also have the same average serving size of three ounces, equal to 85 grams.

Calories

Tuna is higher by only 2 calories per every 100g serving. A 100g serving of salmon contains 142 calories.

Protein

While both of these fishes are a great source of proteins, tuna is richer in these. One hundred gram serving of salmon contains nearly 20g of protein. At the same time, an equal amount of tuna has 23.3g of protein.

The quality of protein found in salmon and tuna is excellent, as they both contain high amounts of all essential amino acids.

Fats

When looking at the fat compositions of these two, salmon is not only richer in fats but also has a more favourable quality of fats. The predominant fats found in salmon are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Tuna is higher in saturated fats.

Salmon contains more cholesterol. One hundred gram serving of salmon contains 55mg of cholesterol, while the same amount of tuna has 38mg of cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Both tuna and salmon do not contain a notable amount of carbohydrates.

Vitamins

Salmon and tuna are both rich in various vitamins. Overall, salmon may be more favourable in its vitamin composition, being higher in vitamins B2, B5 and B6, folate, as well as vitamin D and vitamin E (3). Salmon also contains a small amount of vitamin K which tuna lacks completely (3).

Tuna, on the other hand, contains significantly higher levels of vitamin B12, vitamin A and vitamin B3. 

Salmon and tuna contain a similar level of vitamin B1. 

Minerals

Tuna is the winner in the category of minerals, containing higher levels of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, choline and manganese.

However, salmon is richer in calcium, potassium and copper. Salmon is also a little higher in sodium.

Tuna and salmon have nearly equal amounts of zinc.

Glycemic Index

As salmon and tuna contain no carbohydrates, the glycemic index is considered to be 0. You can find more information about the glycemic index of foods containing no carbohydrates on our website.

Acidity

Fresh tuna is a little more acidic when compared to fresh salmon. The pH value of fresh tuna has been calculated to fall in the range of 5.2 to 6.1, while the pH of fresh salmon falls between 6.1 to 6.3 (4). Both fresh tuna and fresh salmon are slightly acidic. The pH of the fish increases, becoming more alkaline as it starts to spoil.

We can also measure acidity by looking at the potential renal acid load or the PRAL value of the given food. This value demonstrates how much acid or base the food produces inside the organism.

The PRAL values for tuna and salmon are 14.1 and 5.9 respectively. This shows that tuna is significantly more acid-producing than salmon.

Weight Loss & Diets

Salmon and tuna contain a similar amount of calories. One serving of salmon or tuna, while providing a moderate amount of calories, also supplies numerous healthy nutrients.

Salmon containing slightly fewer calories per serving, might be the better choice for a low calorie diet. Tuna, on the other hand, is the preferred option for a low fats diet. Tuna and salmon both fit well into low carb and low glycemic index diets.

Studies have shown that incorporating lean or fatty fish into restricted-energy diets, results in greater weight loss compared to the same restricted-energy diet without seafood (5).

The supplementation of protein found in salmon, called hydrolysate, has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on body mass index in overweight people (6).

Consumption of boiled tuna has also been shown to have potential anti-obesity effects in mice with obesity (7).

Health Impact

Now that we know what nutritional components these fishes consist of, we will look at how they affect our health.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

One study concluded that consumption of tuna, as well as other broiled or baked fish, but not fried fish or fish sandwiches, was associated with a lower risk of ischemic heart disease, especially decreasing the risk of death from arrhythmic ischemic heart disease (8). 

Supplementation of fish products rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or tuna, along with a weight loss diet, can substantially reduce cardiovascular risk in overweight patients with high blood pressure (9).

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to possess anti-triglyceridemic, hemostatic, antiarrhythmic, anti-atherogenic, and antithrombotic qualities, which all leads to improving the heart’s structure and function (10). 

Diabetes

Tuna and salmon, containing no carbohydrates, both cause little to no effect on blood glucose levels after consumption.

Daily consumption of one serving of lean, but not fatty fish, has been studied to have beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes (11). As salmon and tuna are fatty fishes, most studies show their consumption to not have a significant effect on the development of diabetes (12).

Cancer

Limited evidence suggests that the consumption of fish can decrease the risk of colorectal and liver cancers (13).

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may also improve prostate cancer survival rates (14).

Downsides and Risks

Diabetes

A potential correlation has been discovered between an increased risk of diabetes and the consumption of farmed salmon, as it may contain persistent organic pollutants that cause insulin resistance and obesity in laboratory mice (15). Wild salmon does not pose similar risks.

Cancer

While baked fish might have a positive effect on health, a high intake of grilled or broiled and charbroiled or barbecued fish may increase the risk of stomach cancer (13).

Mercury Poisoning

Mercury is a toxic metal that can be found in our environment due to pollution. Consequently, when fish consume mercury, they can be a source of mercury poisoning for humans. Wild fish contain mercury in higher amounts when compared to farmed fish.

One study has found wild bluefin tuna to be significantly higher in mercury than Atlantic and chinook salmon (16).

Most commercial seafood has been studied to contain less than the maximum residue limit of mercury (17) and to be a safe source of omega-3 fatty acids (18). However, pregnant women are still advised to stay away from fish high in mercury, as high levels of this toxin are especially dangerous for developing brains (19).

Summary

In summary, salmon and tuna contain similar amounts of calories. However, tuna is higher in protein, while salmon is richer in fats, particularly in omega-3 fatty polyunsaturated fats. Salmon is also higher in cholesterol.

Salmon has a more favourable vitamin profile, being richer in vitamins B2, B5, B6 and folate. Then again, tuna is a more preferable source of minerals, such as magnesium, phosphorus, iron and selenium.

Tuna and salmon can both have various beneficial effects on health when consumed in moderation.

Sources.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7514503
  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173706/nutrients
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175167/nutrients
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343396902
  5. https://www.nature.com/articles/0803643
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297727596
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27498820/
  8. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.CIR.0000055315.79177.16
  9. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/5/817/4729086
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/
  11. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0089845
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2768220/
  13. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2843087/
  15. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0025170
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3556626/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5985176/
  18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5640885
  19. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/make-smart-seafood-choices-minimize-mercury-intake-201404307130
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: April 27, 2021

Infographic

Salmon vs Tuna infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Salmon
4
:
4
Tuna
Contains more Calcium +20%
Contains more Potassium +51.7%
Contains more Copper +127.3%
Contains less Sodium -12%
Contains more Iron +63.8%
Contains more Magnesium +120.7%
Contains more Zinc +20.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +63%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 30% 4% 44% 21% 84% 18% 86% 6%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 50% 3% 29% 46% 37% 22% 140% 7%
Contains more Calcium +20%
Contains more Potassium +51.7%
Contains more Copper +127.3%
Contains less Sodium -12%
Contains more Iron +63.8%
Contains more Magnesium +120.7%
Contains more Zinc +20.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +63%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Salmon
4
:
4
Tuna
Contains more Vitamin B2 +24.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +21.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +55.8%
Contains more Folate +1150%
Contains more Vitamin A +6200%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +23%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +34.1%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +242.1%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 3% 0% 0% 57% 88% 148% 100% 189% 398% 0% 19%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 152% 0% 0% 70% 71% 198% 83% 122% 1361% 0% 2%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +24.2%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +21.5%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +55.8%
Contains more Folate +1150%
Contains more Vitamin A +6200%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +23%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +34.1%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +242.1%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
83
Salmon
171
Tuna
Mineral Summary Score
36
Salmon
41
Tuna

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
119%
Salmon
179%
Tuna
Carbohydrates
0%
Salmon
0%
Tuna
Fats
29%
Salmon
29%
Tuna

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Salmon Tuna
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Salmon Tuna
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Tuna
Tuna is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 6mg)
Which food is cheaper?
Tuna
Tuna is cheaper (difference - $6)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Salmon
Salmon contains less Sodium (difference - 6mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Salmon
Salmon is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.631g)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar ( g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Salmon Tuna Opinion
Calories 142 184 Tuna
Protein 19.84 29.91 Tuna
Fats 6.34 6.28 Salmon
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 0 0
Cholesterol 55 49 Tuna
Vitamin D
Iron 0.8 1.31 Tuna
Calcium 12 10 Salmon
Potassium 490 323 Salmon
Magnesium 29 64 Tuna
Sugar
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.25 0.11 Salmon
Zinc 0.64 0.77 Tuna
Starch
Phosphorus 200 326 Tuna
Sodium 44 50 Salmon
Vitamin A 40 2520 Tuna
Vitamin E
Vitamin D
Vitamin B1 0.226 0.278 Tuna
Vitamin B2 0.38 0.306 Salmon
Vitamin B3 7.86 10.54 Tuna
Vitamin B5 1.664 1.37 Salmon
Vitamin B6 0.818 0.525 Salmon
Vitamin B12 3.18 10.88 Tuna
Vitamin K
Folate 25 2 Salmon
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 0.981 1.612 Salmon
Monounsaturated Fat 2.103 2.053 Salmon
Polyunsaturated fat 2.539 1.844 Salmon
Tryptophan 0.222 0.335 Tuna
Threonine 0.87 1.311 Tuna
Isoleucine 0.914 1.378 Tuna
Leucine 1.613 2.431 Tuna
Lysine 1.822 2.747 Tuna
Methionine 0.587 0.885 Tuna
Phenylalanine 0.775 1.168 Tuna
Valine 1.022 1.541 Tuna
Histidine 0.584 0.88 Tuna
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Salmon - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173686/nutrients
  2. Tuna - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173707/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.