Although this oily fish has gotten a bad rep through the years as canned seafood with a pungent odor, sardines are actually a great nutrient-dense, low-calorie food. Packed with antioxidants, it also comes with many health benefits.
Great source of Healthy Fats
This oily fish is a rich source of "healthy" fats our body needs. Not only does the fish have heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids, it also has monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats can benefit the body in several ways, including:
- Cancer prevention: Studies have suggested that intake of the omega 3 fats may slow tumor growth and improve the quality of life in cancer patients. Doctors may also suggest a diet high in the omega 3 fats as part of a preventative measure against cancer.
- Strengthening the cardiovascular system: Fatty fish high in healthy fats have been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular problems. Since it decreases blood cholesterol level, it also prevents heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.
- Protecting the brain and nervous system: Omega 3 fatty acid is vital in supporting the brain and neurological systems, as much of it is found in the fats of the human brain. Studies have also shown that it can also decrease the risk of depression and slows the progression of schizophrenia in children.
Stronger Bone Health
Not only do sardines have great calcium content, they also have vitamin D. These two nutrients are essential in healthy bone growth and synthesis. In fact, vitamin D has been shown to aid calcium absorption, as it is commonly found in fortified dairy products. Phosphorus, another mineral present in sardines, is also important in strengthening the bone matrix with the help of vitamin B12.
Great source of Protein
For individuals who do not eat red meat, sardines are a great source of protein. Protein is important because it can provide the body with essential amino acids, which the body cannot spontaneously create, but needs for everyday functions. Indeed, protein is also great for muscle tissue wellbeing, as well as serving as the base components in connective tissues, antibodies and nutrient transporters in our body.
Interesting Health Facts about Sardines
- Sardines are relatively low on the food chain, so they tend to have lower levels of contaminants in relation to other fish.
- A can of sardines may have as much calcium as two glasses of milk.
- Sardines are often canned because they are highly perishable.
- Along with the popular salmon, sardines are also an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Vitamins and Minerals in Sardines
In addition to various health benefits, sardines are also packed with:
- Vitamin B12: One of the b vitamins and also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is important in the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system and blood formation. It also plays a role in the metabolism of cells and affects DNA synthesis and regulation.
- Selenium: Known as an effective antioxidant, selenium can help in the prevention of cancer by repairing free radicals in the body. It also helps maintain normal thyroid functions and the immune system.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that helps absorption of calcium a mineral crucial in the formation, growth, and strengthening of the bones. It also protects the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties linked to the prevention of cancer.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus not only helps synthesize protein for the maintenance of cells and tissues, it also plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth
- Calcium: Often associated with milk, calcium is known to strengthen and build strong bones and teeth.
- Vitamin B3: Also known as niacin, vitamin B3 is vital in the skin, digestive and nervous system. Research has shown it may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, help convert food to energy and promote skin repair.
- Vitamin B2: One of the b vitamins and also known as riboflavin, vitamin B2 helps metabolize fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and can affect DNA synthesis, regulation and energy production.
- Amino Acids: Our body needs essential amino acids to carry its day-to-day functions normally. Sardines are rich in amino acids that help support joint cartilage, create collagen, regulate insulin and help the digestive tract. Some of such amino acids include tryptophan, lysine, tyrosine and methionine.
Adding Sardines to Your Diet
Some suggestions for adding the fish to your diet include:
- Mix sardines with pesto, sun dried tomatoes and olives for a Mediterranean-inspired spread.
- Try pickled sardines instead of canned - they're delicious!
- Balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon can cut the oily taste of sardines.
- Choose sardines packed in olive oil for an even higher omega 3 fatty acid boost.
- Throw some canned sardines into your salad for additional flavoring.
- Crackers with canned sardines make a great snack!
- Lightly pan fry sardines in olive oil.
- Pair sardines with some mayonnaise and a dash of hot sauce.