Sardines are a good source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. They are high in protein which can make them a satisfying part of a weight loss diet, and they are a good source of vitamin B12.
Sardines may not be very popular in the United States, but in other parts of the world they are a much loved staple in the diet. The name sardine can be a catch all term for small fish in the herring family.
Sardines are in abundance in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea. People living close to these waters can enjoy fresh sardines. However, people who live further away from these larger bodies of water only know sardines as a canned item because they are highly perishable.
Health benefits of eating Sardines
Incorporating sardines as part of a healthy, balanced diet can provide many health benefits.
Like other seafood, sardines are a good source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. They are high in protein which can make them a satisfying part of a weight loss diet, and they are a good source of vitamin B12.
Sardines also are a source of many minerals including calcium, iron and magnesium.
If you have viewed sardines in a negative light, consider adding them as a protein source in your diet. Besides as a main entrée course, sardines can also be used to top salads, top crackers or incorporated into sandwiches.
Here are the top reasons to add sardines to your daily diet:
- They are rich in Omega 3’s
- They provide 148% DV Vitamin B12
- They are a compete source of protein
- They are a natural source of vitamin D and magnesium
- They are a rich source of iron
- Sardines can play a beneficial role on gut bacteria levels
Sardines are Rich in Omega 3’s
According to Berkeley Wellness (1), sardines are one of the top sources of omega 3’s even more than some fish oil supplements.
Fish, especially larger fatty fish, are good sources of omega 3’s because they consume plankton that consume omega 3 rich algae.
Therefore, a general rule of thumb is the larger the fish the higher the potential for omega 3 amount. However, even though sardines are a smaller fish, they are still rich in omega 3’s.
Several large studies have shown a relationship between higher intakes of dietary omega 3’s and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors. However, the relationship between omega 3 supplements and improved heart health may not offer the same protection.
Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory and can help thin the blood which is why they are correlated with lowering risk for cardiovascular disease.
Omega 3’s are also important for brain function, mood and a building block for cell membranes.
Sardines provide 148% DV Vitamin B12
A 100 gram serving of canned sardines in oil provides 148% DV vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is needed for nerve function and to make new red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 along with folate and vitamin B6 can lower homocysteine levels in the blood which can be beneficial for heart health and may lower risk for dementia.
Sardines are a Complete Source of Protein
All seafood is a good, complete source of protein. When you eat a high protein food, the protein can sit for a long time in the stomach to digest. This lowers appetite and can help lower food intake after eating.
A 100 gram serving of sardines provides 25 grams of protein 50% DV. Pair a serving of sardines with some fruit, vegetables and a whole grain for a balanced meal.
Sardines are a Natural Source of Vitamin D and Magnesium
Sardines that have the bones in them can be a good source of bone building nutrients calcium and vitamin D.
A 100 gram serving of sardines provides 38% DV calcium and 48% DV vitamin D. Sardines are one of the few foods that are a natural source of vitamin D.
As more people are not getting adequate vitamin D from the sun, eating foods that provide vitamin D are important to get adequate amounts of this nutrient.
Eating sardines can be a surprising source of bone building nutrients that you may not have thought of. It can be a good addition to the diet for anyone who is lactose intolerant or does not eat dairy foods in the diet.
Besides calcium and vitamin D, sardines also provide magnesium which also plays a role in bone health. A 100 gram serving of sardines provides 9% DV magnesium.
A serving of Sardines provides about 16% DV Iron
Another mineral sardines provides is iron. A serving of sardines provides about 16% DV iron. Iron is important for carrying oxygen around the body, helps muscles use oxygen for fuel and is part of many enzymes in the body.
Iron deficiency is one of the top nutrient deficiencies worldwide with young children and child bearing women at increased risk for iron deficiency.
Sardines can play a beneficial role on gut bacteria levels (Research Studies)
A 2016 study (2) analyzed the effect of a sardine rich diet on metabolic indicators, inflammatory markers and gut bacteria on study participants with type 2 diabetes.
Subjects were randomized to either follow a control diet or a diet enriched with 100 grams of sardines 5 days a week for 6 months.
At the end of the study, researchers found the sardine group had significantly higher omega 3 levels, and the omega 3 group had significantly higher levels of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut.
Therefore, researchers suggest incorporating sardines into the diet could play a beneficial role on gut bacteria levels.
Is there any concern with eating sardines?
Many health agencies advocate to eat fish at least two times per week to gain the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet.
However, there is some concern for eating fish and the potential of contamination with harmful substances like PCBs and mercury.
To balance the benefit of regular fish consumption, the frequency, meal size and variety of fish eaten should be taken into consideration.
Sardines can be considered a safer choice of seafood because the sardine is a smaller fish.
In general, the larger a fish is, the higher the risk for contamination from harmful substances in the environment.
Therefore, eating sardines in place of larger fish may lower risk for potentially harmful contaminants.
However, for the most accurate information, research where your fish is from no matter what type of fish it is. Eating a variety of seafood is always recommended to lower risk from pollutants associated with fish intake.
If you are eating canned sardines, look for canned sardines that are BPA free. BPA can be in the lining of cans, and some research suggests it may have adverse effects in the body, but more research is needed.