Can You Eat Tuna Steak Raw?

by Charlie
Raw tuna steak

You might feel a little doubtful about the idea of raw tuna. Although sashimi is a dish enjoyed by many and lots of people like the raw fish that accompanies sushi, most of us feel somewhat unsure about raw fish in other contexts.

Is it safe to eat, and if not, what are the dangers? Is there anything you need to do to make sure it is okay to eat? You don’t want to just eat any old raw fish, so you should be a little careful about what you buy and consume. If not properly handled, raw fish could make you ill.

Can you eat tuna steak raw? Yes, raw tuna is generally safe to eat when prepared properly, and is actually highly nutritious. Often, the best pieces of tuna are saved for this kind of consumption, so don’t dismiss raw tuna steak as unappetizing. Sushi bars and fancy restaurants often serve it – for good reason.

Why Would You Eat Raw Tuna Steak?

Raw tuna – like cooked or canned tuna – has plenty of health benefits and it is an attractive food source. It has plenty of protein, healthy fats, and low carbs. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to improve the health of the heart. Further benefits are vitamin C, manganese, and zinc, which can boost your immune system.

Many people also enjoy the raw steaks. Tuna is almost universally popular when canned or cooked, so it’s not surprising that its raw version is greatly enjoyed by some people. It is a good alternative and can be used in many dishes, such as sashimi and tuna tartare.

A further reason for eating raw tuna is that overcooked tuna loses its texture and can become unpleasant and chewy. As the fish begin to break down with the heat, the tuna’s quality degrades and it becomes a less enjoyable meal.

What are the Potential Dangers of Raw Tuna Steak?

However, there are some good reasons not to eat tuna raw, including the risk of parasites and the high levels of mercury. It is not recommended for pregnant women to eat raw tuna, and immuno-compromised people may also wish to avoid it to reduce their chances of catching anything dangerous.

Raw tuna is a fairly common source of parasites, many of which can be harmful to humans. The chance of tuna containing parasites depends on where it was caught and what kind of tuna it is, but it’s certain that a high percentage of the fish will have parasites.

Some of these might cause diarrhea, food poisoning, vomiting, stomach pain, etc. In general, they are not thought to be dangerous, but they are certainly unpleasant and best avoided.

These parasites will usually be killed by the cooking process, but good handling will help to reduce them in raw fish – and freezing is an excellent way to kill them without having to cook the fish.

Most tuna steak should therefore be frozen before it is processed and eaten. This should take care of parasites and ensure that the fish is safe for human consumption.

However, the high levels of mercury may also put people off eating tuna – and while mercury isn’t removed by cooking, the kinds of tuna that tend to be eaten raw are also the kinds that tend to be high in mercury.

The large species of tuna, those that feed on lots of smaller fish with mercury in them, are more likely to be high in mercury themselves. Smaller fish tend to have lower amounts, because they are not so likely to be feeding on mercury-rich foods.

Mercury in small doses should have little effect on you, but if you eat a lot of raw tuna, you might suffer from problems. Excessive amounts of mercury in the body can damage both your heart and your brain, and many people who eat fish are consuming more mercury than they should be on a daily basis.

If you eat a lot of tuna, consider being mindful of this when choosing a tuna steak, and try to pay attention to the kind of tuna that is being offered. Bigeye, bluefin, and yellowfin – popular for raw steaks – are commonly high in mercury.

Will Freezing Always Help Remove Parasites From Tuna?

No, freezing is not guaranteed to remove all parasites, although it should kill off most and minimize the risk. Most restaurants freeze their tuna steaks for a certain period of time prior to serving them, and the FDA offers strict guidelines to help increase the chances of killing off parasites.

If you plan to serve raw tuna steaks at home, make sure you thoroughly familiarize yourself with the stipulations, the safe levels, and the full process for freezing and defrosting. Tuna needs to be frozen for a specific period of time (how long depends on the temperature) to ensure it is safe to eat.

How Much Raw Tuna is Safe to Eat?

This depends very much on the individual and their diet. Raw tuna should ideally be limited to an occasional treat, not something that you are eating daily. Try to get your omega-3 fatty acids from other sources, rather than depending on tuna to meet the requirement.

For some people, raw tuna is considered an unnecessary risk in any quantity. We have already mentioned that pregnant women and immuno-compromised people should avoid consuming it. Others who may be at risk from this food include older adults and young children. It is also recommended that breastfeeding mothers do not eat it, so they don’t risk passing anything unpleasant on to their babies.

On the whole, unless you are in good health, you should not eat raw tuna. The risks that it poses are not worth taking, and cooked or canned tuna would be a better option – or another kind of fish altogether.

Final Thoughts

You can certainly eat tuna steak raw, but it is something to do with caution, and in moderation. Large amounts of raw tuna steak are not considered healthy, partly due to the mercury levels, and partly due to the parasite risk. If you are unwell in any way, it would be much safer to choose cooked tuna; you will enjoy many of the same nutritional benefits without the increased risk.

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