Salmon, tuna, and sea bass would probably rank as the top fish choices for most of us. Sardines, on the other hand, don’t get as much credit as they should. And underestimating this little fish is a big mistake.
Sardines are an excellent protein source. They contain approximately 20 grams of protein per 3 oz serving, apart from being rich in vitamin D and calcium — nutrients that are vital to muscle and bone strength.
Sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight against inflammation and reduce bad cholesterol. Eating a few cans a week might be akin to taking a multivitamin supplement, and they contain low mercury levels to boot.
Here are seven reasons why you should pick up some canned sardines next time you go do your grocery shopping. Or fresh — if you can get them, and if you enjoy consuming them immediately.
They’re loaded with nutrients
Sardines are pretty much the closest thing you can get to a natural multivitamin supplement. That’s because they’re loaded with all that good stuff like protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Pound for pound and ounce for ounce, sardines possess a high amount of nutrients in proportion—most of your recommended daily value of over 80 nutrients in just a single serving. Fresh or canned, it doesn’t matter — you stand to gain as many benefits and nutrients as eating one or the other.
Moreover, sardines have essential B vitamins necessary for proper organ, nerve, immune, and muscular function. This includes vitamin B12, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamine, and folate.
They’re also great if you spend most of your waking hours indoors, or if you live in an area that doesn’t get nearly enough sunshine, sardines may be the answer to a potential vitamin D deficiency. It’s one of the several foods that are packed with vitamin D, as well as zinc, which is essential for immune and sexual function. That’s not to mention phosphorus, magnesium, iron, copper, and selenium — a mineral that regulates metabolism and DNA production.
They contain fewer toxins
Much other fish are eaten as seafood contain higher amounts of mercury and PCBs because they are bigger and live longer than sardines. As a result, consuming these toxins may increase the risk of mercury poisoning or developing certain cancers. Since sardines are shorter-lived and live off smaller organisms like plankton, they contain significantly less, if not negligible, amounts of these substances.
You can eat them anywhere
There’s no better on-the-go snack than sardines. Delicious straight out of the can, they are highly portable and lightweight. Paired with crackers, bread, or rice, they make a healthy, protein-rich snack that’s just as good anytime you eat them.
They are sustainable
In the wild, sardines are abundant and not even slightly in danger of being overfished, unlike other species like bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Ensure you get your sardines from a cannery that has received the seal of approval from the relevant health authorities.
Easy to cook, easy to prepare
Fresh sardines are a breeze to prepare, and practically anyone can do it. Slather them on the grill for about 8-12 minutes to cook them all the way through, making them a tasty grilled piece of seafood. Many of the ingredients you need to prepare fresh sardines are available in your pantries, such as seasonings, herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. Canned sardines are delicious straight from the can — especially that delicious conservas from Spain and Portugal.
They’re tasty and work well with other recipes
Sardines are an excellent ingredient that goes well with practically anything that needs seafood. They can be used as a tasty addition to salads or used as substitutes for other fish like tuna in certain recipes. They’re an excellent fish for someone who enjoys the delicious taste of seafood while avoiding the mercury and PCB content found in other fish.
They’re easy on the budget
Canned meat is far more expensive, and they contain significantly less nutritional value than canned sardines do. That means sardines are a better bang for your buck than that can of Spam will. While processed food is one of the inexpensive options for sustenance, sardines are one of the few food nutritious food choices that are easy on the budget and present better value for money.
The Best Ways to Enjoy Sardines
You can enjoy canned sardines by topping your crackers with whole pieces of fish with just a spritz of balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt for good measure. They’re also great paired with cheese, fruit, and bread, as well as antipasti, and there are endless ways you can enjoy them in this way. Need pasta sauce? Chop up some sardines and throw them into a marinara sauce. Want to spice up your salad? Put some sardines on your favorite greens for major protein gains.
Fresh sardines are often grilled but also salted, smoked, or pickled — while they are a treat, it must be remembered that fresh sardines don’t keep as long as canned sardines do, which is why they are generally sold in cans for longer storage.