Albacore tuna, sometimes referred to as longfin tuna, is a highly sought after type of tuna fish. Here is everything you need to know about this healthy, delicious fish.
What is Albacore Tuna?
Albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) is a species of tuna that is distinguished by its long pectoral fins. Some key facts about albacore tuna include:
- Albacore tuna can be found in temperate and tropical waters across the globe. Prime fishing grounds include the Northeast Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Southern Atlantic Ocean.
- They are a highly migratory fish that can travel long distances very quickly. Albacore tuna are built for speed and power.
- Albacore tuna are the only tuna species that can maintain their body temperature higher than the surrounding water temperature. This allows them to be active predators in colder waters.
- They have dark blue backs with silvery white undersides. This helps camouflage them from above and below.
- Albacore tuna are smaller than other tuna species like bluefin tuna. They usually weigh 10-45 pounds.
- Albacore tuna can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. However, most caught are under 30 pounds.
- Albacore tuna are prized by sport fishermen for their fighting ability when hooked. They make long runs and test the skills of anglers.
- Albacore tuna meat is white in color which gives it the nickname “chicken of the sea.” It has a milder flavor and finer flake compared to other tuna species.
Is Albacore Tuna Good For You?
Yes, albacore tuna is very good for you and one of the healthiest fish you can eat:
- It’s high in lean protein, low in fat, and rich in essential nutrients like selenium, vitamin B12, omega-3s, and potassium.
- Eating albacore provides numerous health benefits including supporting heart health, brain function, thyroid function, bone health, and immunity.
- Albacore is reasonably low in mercury compared to other large tuna species, so it can be eaten regularly as part of a healthy diet.
So including albacore tuna in your diet a few times a week can provide excellent nutrition.
Albacore Tuna Recipes
Some delicious ways to enjoy albacore tuna include:
- Seared albacore tuna steaks – brushed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and seared rare.
- Albacore poke bowls – diced raw albacore mixed with rice, vegetables, and umami sauces.
- Canned albacore tuna salad sandwiches – mixed with mayo, celery, onion, and spices.
- Grilled albacore tuna tacos – seasoned tuna grilled and served in corn tortillas with lime and avocado.
- Albacore sushi and sashimi – thinly sliced raw albacore tuna is a traditional sushi topping.
- Albacore tuna casserole – a classic American dish mixing tuna with egg noodles, mushroom soup, peas, and cheese.
Albacore Tuna Fishing Season
The albacore tuna fishing season varies by location:
- Northeast Pacific – May to October with peak season June through August
- Northwest Pacific – April to November with peak season June through September
- South Pacific – November to May with peak season January through March
- Mediterranean Sea – May to October
- South Atlantic – October to May
The seasonality is driven by the migration patterns of albacore tuna as they follow prey species and optimum water temperatures for feeding.
In the Northeast Pacific, albacore tuna make a large migration across the ocean each summer to feed on anchovies, sardines, and krill off the west coast of North America.
How Big Do Albacore Tuna Get?
Albacore tuna are the smallest of the tuna species. They typically reach:
- 10-25 pounds caught commercially
- Up to 45 pounds caught recreationally
- Can potentially grow over 100 pounds if they live long enough
But most albacore tuna caught and eaten by humans are under 30 pounds. Their small to moderate size contributes to their sustainable fisheries and lower mercury levels compared to giant bluefin tuna.
Is Albacore Better Than Regular Tuna?
Albacore tuna is considered a premium tuna variety and commands higher prices over regular “light” tuna:
- Milder Flavor – Albacore has a milder, subtler flavor compared to regular “light” tuna which can taste fishier.
- Texture – Albacore has a smoother, finer flake when cooked. Regular tuna can be drier and chunkier.
- Color – Albacore flesh is white giving it the nickname “chicken of the sea.” Regular light tuna is pinkish.
- Mercury – Albacore generally has lower mercury levels compared to other tuna species like yellowfin and bigeye tuna. But levels can still be high if the fish is larger or older.
- Omega-3s – Albacore is very high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart, brain function, and immunity.
- Sustainability – North Pacific and South Pacific albacore tuna fisheries are well managed and healthy.
So for its mild taste, texture, nutrition, and eco-friendliness, albacore is considered one of the best and highest quality tuna varieties.
Is Albacore the Healthiest Tuna?
While all tuna is nutritious, albacore does stand out as one of the healthiest tuna fish:
High in Protein
Albacore is an excellent source of lean protein. A 3 ounce serving provides 22-25 grams of protein which helps build muscle, repair tissues, and keep you feeling full.
Low in Fat
Albacore only has 1-2 grams of fat per serving. It’s low in saturated fat and high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Rich in Key Nutrients
Albacore tuna provides:
- Selenium – supports thyroid hormone function and immune system.
- Niacin – converts food into energy.
- Vitamin B12 – needed to create red blood cells.
- Potassium – helps control blood pressure.
- Phosphorus – supports bone health.
High in Omega-3s
Albacore is exceptionally rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These promote heart health, brain function, healthy aging, and immunity.
So with its stellar nutrition profile, albacore can certainly make a case for being the healthiest tuna variety you can eat.
|Nutrition Facts for 3 ounces of Albacore Tuna|
Albacore tuna stands apart from other tuna varieties as a premium fish with a mild flavor, great texture, high nutritional value, and sustainable fisheries. Its high protein content, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals make it one of the healthiest fish you can eat. Look for fresh albacore tuna during its peak season from early summer through fall. Incorporate albacore tuna into your diet if you enjoy tuna sashimi, seared tuna steaks, tuna salads, and grilled tuna sandwiches.