10 Reasons Why I Love Sardines (And You Should, Too!)
Sardines are available to everyone plus they are very cheap. If you consider all the benefits like high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium then you should certainly add them into your diet. And even if you are not sardine lover you can easily alter their flavor by choosing right recipe.
I remember the times when I was child and my mother told me that we are having sardines for snack/lunch/dinner. All I would response her was just "Yuck! Why sardines?" I thought I would never eat sardines again until...
... until one day when I listened to Tim Ferriss Show Podcast with host Dom D'Agostino. By the way if you are low carb euthanatist as I am you MUST listen to this episode!
I was already few years in the paleo / low carb diet and I knew fish is great for health and should be eaten few times a week but I was totally ignoring sardines. I am not sure why I did so but after listening that podcast I went to shop and bought 20 cans of sardines in olive oil.
I was pretty surprised that sardines are not so bad as I thought, I was even able to eat them right from the can which was nearly impossible for me when I was child. I have also found out some recipes that would make these sardines even more delicious like these delicious fish cakes, this one with tomatoes or this one with spinach and egg and I am still looking for more information on how to cook with them.
These are few main reasons why I love sardines so much. Sardines are also very cheap, great for bone health, easy to take away (you can take can of sardines almost anywhere you want) and I never thought I would say that but they are delicious.
But enough of my history with sardines check top 10 reasons why adding sardines into your diet is one of the best things you can do!
1) Canned sardines are cheap
Surely there are some cheaper sources of protein than sardines but if you are on the budget and you are looking for healthy fish, canned sardines are usually way to go. Canned sardines can be bought for as low as $1 per can and if you are lucky you may find them for even better price.
But when buying sardines don't judge them just by price, usually it is worth to pay extra .50 cents or more per can. How to buy "right" canned sardines at your local grocery store?
- Visit grocery store
- Read all canned sardines labels
- Check price, manufacturer, country of origin, fishing area (FAO), sauce (ingredients) and other relevant information
- Select ones that appeal to you
- Try one can per day and make notes
- Return for the ones that were the best and buy plenty of them
Try to avoid sardines that are in vegetable oil - it can be any oil and it is better to avoid it and also try to avoid crushed sardines - sardines that are whole with or without head/tail tastes much better.
I personally prefer local (Czech) brand Nekton which makes delicious sardines in olive oil but in US I would probably trust recommendation of Dom D'Agostino and would go for King Oscar's sardines in olive oil.
2) Sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids
There are few types of omega-3 acids first we have ALA which can be found in plant sources such as nuts, seeds and certain vegetable oils. Next we have EPA/DHA which are found in certain fish and fish oil.
US National Institute of Health recommends daily intake of 650mg/day of EPA/DHA and 2.22g/day of ALA. But what about canned sardines? How much EPA/DHA and omega-3 acids do they have?
Levels of EPA/DHA may vary for different brands but for example King Oscar's sardines in olive oil does have 2.5g of omega-3 acids from which 0.8g is EPA and 1.2g is DHA which is much more than recommended daily intake.
So, forget about your fish oil supplement and get can of sardines instead!
But what is so great about all these omega-3 acids? There are many pros of omega-3s for example:
- Works as an anti-inflammatory
- Faster muscle recovery
- Decrease in age-related memory loss
- Lower death rate due to cardiovascular disease
- Omega-3 is used to treat bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) and schizophrenia
- Markedly reduces breathing difficulties and other symptoms of asthma
- Omega-3 may also help prevent arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death
- And omega-3s helps with many more like ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, depression and others
3) Sardines are great source of vitamin D
People usually get about 90% of their vitamin D intake from the sun. And as you may already know human skin has capacity to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
But not everyone is able to get enough sun exposure especially if you leave for work in the morning and return back in the evening. For lighter skin types even 15 minutes of sun exposure per day may be enough while people with darker skin may require up to 6x more sunlight.
There are only few foods that naturally contain vitamin D and sardines are one of these foods with ~360 IU per 3.5-ounce serving. Recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU so if you are person who has hard time getting enough sunlight than occasional can of sardines will surely help you at least little.
There are few symptoms of vitamin D deficiency like bone pain and muscle weakness. Also low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children or even cancer. It looks like sardines can even save your life.
4) Sardines are great for bone health
Humans usually don't eat bones but sardines are the exception. When sardines are made they are cooked and the bones in them are soft enough for us to eat them - check video of how are sardines made.
As I mentioned earlier sardines are full of vitamin D which helps to increase calcium absorption plus sardines are very rich in calcium. Human body removes small amounts of calcium all the time and uses calcium that we eat to "remodel" bones. If you will lose more calcium than you intake your bones will slowly become weaker and more prone to breaking.
Besides calcium sardines are also great source of phosphorus which helps calcium to maximize its bone strengthening benefits and improve the bone matrix.
5) Sardines will strengthen and whiten your teeth
It may be just placebo effect but I've heard it in Tim Ferriss podcast where they mentioned that after eating sardines regularly your teeth will become whiter.
It may be just myth but after listening to that podcast I have started eating 1 can of sardines per day and after 1 month I have noticed my teeth were slightly whiter but maybe it was just placebo effect.
Anyway if I want make my teeth whiter natural way I would definitely go for can of sardines before trying other products because if I don't get whiter teeth I would have at least stronger teeth thanks to all that calcium and phosphorus which is in the sardines.
6) Sardines are one of the best natural vitamin B12 sources
B12 is essential vitamin and if you have deficiency of vitamin B12 you could suffer from pernicious anemia. B12 also helps with memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. Sometimes it is also used to treat heart disease, male infertility, diabetes, sleep disorders, depressions, AIDS, cancer and other very serious diseases.
On other hand having just enough of vitamin B12 will boost your mood, improve your energy levels, help you concentrate and it will also strengthen your immune system.
It looks like getting enough of vitamin B12 is really worth. Luckily sardines are one of the best vitamin B12 sources (compared to other species of fish). One 90g/3.2oz can of sardines has about 338% of recommended daily allowance (RDA) and from what I found if you don't exceed RDA levels by thousands of percents than you should be fine.
7) Sardines are rich in protein
Sardines are rich in very high quality protein with amino acid score of 148. Amino acid score shows how complete protein is from the view of essential amino acids and if ingredient has amino acid score under 100 it means that some essential amino acids are missing and they need to added from other ingredients because other way the food will have incomplete protein structure.
Complete protein sources are essential for your diet because they are very important for physical and mental growth, well being and optimum health. Complete protein is required to be consumed every day because it can't be stored and sardines are very great source of complete protein but there are also some other sources of complete protein like meat, fish, dairy products and other.
Drained canned sardines have about 25g of protein per 100g/3.5oz while typical size of can of sardines is usually between 3-4 oz. You can easily get 20g of protein or more from one can of sardines.
8) Sardines are low toxins (mercury)
Eating sardines and other seafood may be really beneficial but when choosing what fish to eat it is great to consider mercury levels which may be really high in some species of fish. Don't worry you won't die by eating too much fish but for some of you eating fish that is high in mercury everyday may not be a good idea and some symptoms of mercury poisoning may appear.
Higher levels of mercury are usually found in larger fish that lives longer and eats smaller fish to survive but luckily for us sardines are low in the food chain and their mercury level is very low.
For example average levels of mercury in canned tuna are about 30 times higher than in canned sardines and shark or swordfish steak have levels of mercury even about 75 times higher than sardines.
That very low levels of mercury makes sardines perfect food for everyday eating and if you consider all other benefits like very high omega-3 levels, vitamin B12 and vitamin D than it's really worth to eat sardines at least few times per week.
9) You can buy canned sardines in many different flavors
If you didn't liked sardines for the first time it may be because you have chosen wrong sauce. Someone may like sardines in olive oil while other one will like sardines in tomato sauce. So, if you really want to eat sardines you will surely find the one sauce that will suit you the most.
For example if I look at King Oscar's website they offer about 17 different flavors (some flavors are available only in certain regions) and the same applies for all other sardines companies. I personally prefer to use sardines in olive oil or in pure water to minimize other ingredients but if you don't like sardines then trying different flavors may be way to go.
Check all the 17 flavors of sardines that King Oscar offers:
- Sardines in olive oil
- Sardines with spicy cracked pepper
- Sardines with hot jalapeno peppers
- Sardines Mediterranean style
- Sardines in zesty tomato juice
- Sardines in Dijon mustard
- Sardines in soybean oil
- Sardines in pure spring water
- Sardines Spanish style
- Sardines in tomato sauce
- Sardines in vegetable oil
- Sardines in hot oil
- Sardines in vegetables
- Sardines in Italian sauce
- Sardines in Greek sauce
- Sardines in hot tomato sauce
- Sardines Japanese style
10) Sardines are delicious! (When you have right recipe)
Sardines are not sold in the street like cheeseburger, they are also probably not the most popular food and eating them right from the can (even when there are so many different flavors to pick from) may not be the most appealing experience but if you consider all the benefits they give you it's really worth to look for at least one delicious recipe that will help you eat sardines on weekly basis.
Here are my 3 favorite ways of how to make sardines delicious.
My favorite sardine pâté is from canned sardines in olive oil with just 1/2 of finely chopped onion, salt and black pepper. It is very easy to make just move sardines in olive oil from can into the bowl, smash it with fork until you get smooth pâté (you can also use mixer), now just add all the ingredients and enjoy.
Here are some other delicious pâté combinations:
- sardines in olive oil + cayenne + lemon juice
- sardines in olive oil + tomato paste
- sardines in olive oil + shredded cheese + garlic powder
- sardines in olive oil + crushed garlic + finely diced onion + butter
Making my own sauce for sardines
As I mentioned earlier you can buy sardines with many different sauces but sometimes these sauces are not perfect choice for your diet. Why? Some of them may be high in sodium, have unnecessary sugar or they could be from lower quality ingredients for example refined olive oil compared to extra virgin olive oil.
Making your own sauce is great idea because you have control over all ingredients. You can also add some extra ingredients that will make the meal much better.
Check video of my recipe for canned sardines in tomato sauce or try to replicate any sauces that I already mentioned earlier.
I have my favorite recipe for canned tuna cakes which also works very great with sardines.
Recipe is very simple, all you need is 1 of smaller broccoli, 2 eggs, 1 can of sardines and cooking fat like ghee or coconut/olive oil.
Chop broccoli very finely and mix it with 2 eggs and with smashed sardines, heat up cooking fat, place small cakes into cooking oil, put lid on and cook slowly for about 3 minutes until cakes are cooked through, rotate and cook quickly from other side, enjoy.
Check video of my recipe for healthy sardine cakes.