Study: Canned Tuna and Salmon Offer the Biggest Brain Boost for Your Buck

As dietitians, we are well aware of the disconnect between what we say people should eat and what they actually do eat.  The reasons for the gap are complicated, but, simply put, health just isn’t the only – or even primary – reason people eat what they eat.  So what is?

When it comes to seafood during pregnancy, the nutrition science is clear – when moms-to-be regularly eat a variety of seafood, it improves their babies’ brain development.  Children can gain 3+ IQ points when their moms eat 8-12 ounces of seafood weekly during pregnancy.  The average American mom-to-be eats less than 2 ounces of seafood each week.  Here are some of the reasons why Americans say they don’t meet the recommendation:


For a newly published Nutrition Journal article, we compared the consumption of select fish species necessary to achieve IQ benefits, the amount necessary to have adverse developmental effects due to mercury exposure, and the cost-per-week for pregnant women to achieve maximum IQ benefits for their developing child.


Here are the takeaways:

  • Canned light tuna was the least expensive option at $1.83 per week to achieve maximum IQ benefit, followed by canned salmon ($2.61) and canned albacore tuna ($2.72).
  • For these types of fish, moms-to-be would have to eat more than six times the beneficial amount to approach harmful effects.
  • Making the shift to canned and pouch seafood options can save a person up to $130 per year in discretionary food spending.

So what can we include in nutrition advice that gets people eating healthy foods like seafood without going on and on about how healthy it is?  This study underscores the importance of nutrition advice that address real-world considerations like cost and convenience.