Are Sardines Good For You

One of the best things about sardines is that they’re ​way​ cheaper than salmon. You can buy a pack of 12 cans for $22.98 on Amazon — that’s less than $2 per can serving. On the other hand, two salmon filets tend to cost anywhere upwards of $10.

Are Sardines Good for You?

Sardines have been around for centuries. These small fish are said to be named after Sardinia, an island of Italy, because of the abundance that could be found there.

While sardines can be enjoyed fresh, they are highly perishable. This is why they’re most commonly found canned.

Sardines are abundant in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean seas. They feed on plankton only, which means they don’t contain the high levels of mercury that other fish do.

Sardines aren’t a popular fish in the United States. But after you take a look at their nutritional benefits, you might decide to give them a try yourself.

These small fish are packed with nutrients that can be beneficial in the prevention of a number of health conditions. Some of these nutrients are known to help prevent heart disease or may protect against certain cancers.

Sardines are sometimes recommended for pregnant women and older adults. They contain calcium and other vital nutrients.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart disease due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Sardines are an excellent source of them.

Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce the risk of blood clots and lower blood pressure. And they may help protect those who’ve had a heart attack in the past.

Vitamins

Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B-12. This vitamin helps your cardiovascular system and gives you energy.

In addition, these fish contain a healthy amount of vitamin D. Along with B-12, D is necessary for good bone health throughout your life.

Calcium

Sardines are an excellent source of calcium. That makes them a good choice for those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, or need more calcium in their diet.

This can also be helpful during pregnancy if you need alternative forms of calcium for the health of your baby.

Minerals

Along with calcium and lots of vitamins, sardines contain a number of beneficial minerals. These include:

  • niacin
  • iron
  • potassium
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • phosphorus

Protein

Sardines also have protein, which is essential for you to build healthy bones and muscles. Protein also helps create antibodies that keep our immune systems strong. As well, it takes nutrients and oxygen to all the parts of the body.

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If you purchase canned sardines, it’s better to buy those that are packed in olive oil rather than soybean oil. They also come packed in water. This version is a good option if you’re looking for ways to reduce your fat intake.

Whichever you buy, be sure to check the expiration dates on the can prior to purchasing.

If you purchase sardines fresh, be sure to inspect them first. Things to look for in fresh sardines include:

  • fresh smell
  • shiny skin
  • bright eyes
  • firm texture

Sardines are a very versatile food. They can be used in salads, as a snack on crackers, or as part of the main course.

If you are using fresh sardines, they should be gutted and then rinsed.

Once you have them ready, try some of these tasty recipes to integrate sardines into your eating plan.

Greek salad with sardines

When you want to eat light but still want lots of protein and other nutrients, this easy to prepare Greek salad is the answer. View the recipe.

Spaghetti con le sarde alla Palermitana

This recipe gives you a new twist on spaghetti. View the recipe.

Grilled fresh sardines

By putting sardines straight on the grill, you can create a unique and healthy appetizer. View the recipe.

Mediterranean casserole

This tasty casserole takes very little prep time. View the recipe.

Quick sardine curry

If you crave curry and are short on time, this is the perfect meal for you. View the recipe.

Spring salad with tarragon vinaigrette

This colorful salad is delicious and packed with nutrition. View the recipe.

7 Reasons Dietitians Want You to Eat More Sardines

Sardines with tomato and garlic

Whether you’re at a sushi restaurant, steakhouse or grocery store buffet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a menu in the U.S. that doesn’t offer some kind of salmon dish. After all, we spend about $688 million each year on the delectable pink fish, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But despite the country’s high salmon demand, there’s a different fish in your grocery store that dietitians want you to stock up on: sardines.

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This tiny fish packs some great health perks, rivaling its more popular, pink peer. Read on for the health benefits of sardines, and then stock up on a few cans.

Why Sardines Are So Good for You

1. They’re a Great Source of Omega-3s

Alongside its delicious taste, people love salmon for the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA — aka unsaturated fats that are linked to lower inflammation, lower triglyceride levels and keeping your heart healthy, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

But sardines are another excellent and underrated source of omega-3s, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD and author of ​​Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.

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One can packs 64 percent of your adequate intake of omega-3s for the day, per the USDA, and, specifically, 0.74 grams of DHA and 0.45 grams of EPA, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

2. They’re Linked to a Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

A March 2021 study in the journal ​Clinical Nutrition​ found that eating sardines twice a week is linked to protection against developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease in people with pre-diabetes.

The researchers think these benefits are due to the specific nutrients in sardines, namely EPA and DHA omega-3s, vitamin D and the amino acid taurine.

3. Sardines Are Very High in Vitamin B12

Sardines are also extremely high in vitamin B12, Taub-Dix says. One can alone provides about 555 percent of your Daily Value (DV), according to the USDA.

Although it may not be as commonly recognized as, say, vitamin C, vitamin B12 plays a big role in maintaining your body’s nerve function and red blood cell formation, according to the NIH. It also helps your body break down and absorb protein and fat in the body.

4. Their Bones Pack Calcium

There’s a lot of calcium in sardine bones (as the saying goes, “calcium builds healthy bones”). Believe it or not, the bones in sardines are completely edible, which is why this fish is such a calcium powerhouse, Taub-Dix says.

A can of sardines will pack about 44 percent of your DV of calcium, whereas the same size serving of salmon provides only 1 percent of the DV, as you can’t eat salmon bones, according to the USDA.

5. They’re Low in Mercury

You’ve probably heard of mercury but may not know exactly what it is — or what it means for your health. Long story short, mercury is a poisonous compound that’s embedded in the fish food chain and builds up in concentration the higher you go up the chain.

Sardines are generally lower in mercury than salmon, which is a great reason to swap some of your salmon with this alternative. Compared to all seafood, sardines actually contain some of the lowest mercury levels with about 0.013 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, according to the FDA. For comparison, salmon has about 0.022 ppm.

“The FDA recommends taking in no more than 0.46 ppm of mercury per week,” Jim White, RD and ACSM health fitness specialist, says. “Therefore, that makes it safe to eat about 32 cans of sardines before accumulating mercury toxicity in your body.” That’s ​a lot​ of sardines.

6. Sardines Are Budget-Friendly and Shelf-Stable

One of the best things about sardines is that they’re ​way​ cheaper than salmon. You can buy a pack of 12 cans for $22.98 on Amazon — that’s less than $2 per can serving. On the other hand, two salmon filets tend to cost anywhere upwards of $10.

Plus, canned sardines are shelf-stable, which means you can stock up without having to eat them all immediately. When you buy sardines, though, be mindful of the sodium content, Taub-Dix advises.

“Some sardines are packed in water while others include sauces that could provide more sodium than you may think,” she says. “In any case, you should read food labels carefully to check sodium contents.”

7. They’re Loaded With Protein

Fish is packed with protein and sardines are no exception. One can has nearly 23 grams, so you can count on this little fish to help fill your daily protein needs and keep you full until your next meal.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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