In his song Juicy, Notorious B.I.G reminisces about when he used to eat sardines for dinner. He’s pretty much saying that now that he’s a super famous rapper he doesn’t have to eat cheap, simple fish from a tin anymore. Well Mr. B.I.G., you don’t know how you good you had it with those inexpensive, super nutrient-dense little fishies.
Sardines are little nutrition powerhouses that everyone, kids and adults, should be eating. You eat them whole so you are getting nutrients from the skin, bones, and muscles. Don’t be a weeny and get grossed out. First let’s talk about their benefits; then we’ll talk about how to eat them.
OMG so much Omega-3!
Sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3s. Just one serving provides you with 60% of the recommended daily intake of omega-3s.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are beneficial for heart health, can reduce cholesterol and triglycerides, are anti-inflammatory, promote healthy brain development in infants and children and maintain brain health in adults.
Sardines are like multivitamins from the sea. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods Rating they are:
An excellent source of:
A very good source of:
- Vitamin D
A good source of:
- B3 (niacin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
Put down the junk-filled protein bar. Sardines pack 17 grams of protein, 130 calories and 7grams of fat into about 3 ounces. Perfect for a satisfying snack or as part of a meal.
Low Contaminant Concern
The Environmental Defense Fund rates sardines with an eco-friendly rating of “best” and mercury rating of “low.”
Fish at high risk of mercury and environmental toxin contamination are large, predatory fish. Sardines are small and low on the aquatic food chain making them a safe choice.
Sardines are inexpensive, do not require refrigeration and can be eaten right out of the tin.
How To Choose Sardines
Choose wild-caught sardines and be sure to pay attention to what they are packed in. Look for sardines packed in water or olive oil and avoid sardines packed in refined seed oils like soybean oil. Smoked sardines are also available and are said to be less fishy.
How To Eat Sardines
The tricky part about sardines is actually eating them. My first attempt was completely unsuccessful.
I bought my first can of sardines after listening to Liz Wolf rant about their health benefits on the Balanced Bites podcast. I was ready and determined to add these little nutrient bombs to my diet.
I studied the packaging of all the varieties available at the grocery store, chose the best one and got home feeling super proud and ready to eat sardines for lunch. I grabbed a plate and fork and sat down at the table with my little tin of sardines. I peeled back the tin lid and…was horrified by the dead little fish laid out, looking up at me. I just sat there and like a child told myself, “you can do this, they can’t hurt you” over and over until I stood up and threw the whole untouched tin in the garbage. I was defeated by four dead fish. It took me 6 months to make a second attempt.
My second sardine attempt was successful for two reasons.
One, I bought sardines that didn’t have heads. The Trader Joe’s wild caught, unsalted in spring water are headless. Thank you for your kindness Trader Joe’s.
Two, I smothered them in tahini and lemon juice and smashed them up so they looked like tuna salad instead of whole fish. I still eat them this way. Those of you who can eat them intact, straight from the can are true heroes.
Besides the recipe I like with tahini and lemon juice here are a few ideas to help you get these little suckers down:
- Top with mustard
- Top with cumin and guacamole
- Top with pico de gallo and hot sauce
- Top with marinara
- Mix with avocado oil mayo and Dijon mustard
- Mix into a salad
- Add sardines to tuna salad
Buy two cans of wild-caught sardines in water or olive oil. (In case your 1st attempt is anything like mine). Choose a recipe to try and promise yourself you’ll take a few bites. Sardines really are an acquired taste so try them again (and again and again) in different ways until you find one you like.
I am not affiliated with the companies of any of the products I recommend or link to. They are simply high-quality products that I choose to use.
I am not a Registered Dietician or licensed medical doctor. I do not diagnose or treat disease, but instead make healthy lifestyle recommendations for balancing the body and promoting optimal wellness. No recommendation or comment made by me should be construed as being medical advice or diagnosis.
- Real Food Liz. The Health Benefits of Sardines & Why You Should Eat Them! http://realfoodliz.com/health-benefits-of-sardines/
- Axe. Sardines Nutrition, Benefits & Recipe Ideas. https://draxe.com/sardines-nutrition/
- EDF Seafood Selector – Sardines. http://seafood.edf.org/sardines?_ga=1.188731304.1222600959.1483115425
- EDF Seafood Selector, Common questions about contaminants in seafood. http://seafood.edf.org/common-questions-about-contaminants-seafood
- The World’s Healthiest Foods – Sardines. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=147
- Mercola. Your Practical Guide to Omega-3 Benefits and Supplementation. http://articles.mercola.com/omega-3.aspx