Sardines are a healthy convenience food that is rich in omega-3’s, vitamin D, protein and calcium. They’re a cost-effective way to get in a whole host of nutrients! Plus, it’s fairly simple to make them taste good.
Have you ever tried sardines? Whenever I bring up sardines I get one of two answers…
- You grew up eating them regularly and eat them often as a convenience food,
- You can’t stomach the thought of them and have no idea how you would make them taste good!
Recently, when I was at the grocery store shopping for sardines a woman asked me, “excuse me, what do you do with those? I’ve heard that they’re healthy, but I don’t know how to eat them!” I could relate to her a lot, and I’m sure many of us can!
So, why are they so healthy? And how do you eat them?
1.Packed with calcium
Calcium is vital for healthy bones and heart health. Sardines are especially high in calcium as they have tiny pin bones that contain calcium. Don’t worry about getting these tiny bones stuck in your teeth! They’re so small and soft that you truly won’t even notice them.
2. Protein rich
The average 4.4oz can of sardines contains up to 23 g of protein. As whole sardines also have the cofactors of healthy fats, calcium, vitamin D, and more, they’re a far healthier option than something like protein powder for getting a protein boost.
3. They’re a great source of Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful for our heart health, as well as supporting our bodies ability to naturally anti-inflame. Salmon is a popular source of Omega-3’s, but don’t count out sardines! They’re one of the best sources with up to 1.8 g of Omega-3’s in a 4 oz serving (source).
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4. Lower in Mercury than other fish
Mercury in fish is indeed a concern, especially if we’re deficient in selenium, have blocked detox pathways, and consume a lot of large fish like tuna. I’ve had my own personal battles with mercury toxicity that you can read about here. Though metal toxicity can be complex and there are multiple factors, one of the biggest factors in my own healing journey was removing fish that were higher in mercury and replacing them with fish that were had less mercury, like sardines.
Generally speaking, the smaller the fish, the less mercury it will have. According to the FDA sardines have far less mercury than tuna, but a 3.5 oz serving will still have as much Omega-3’s as salmon (source)!
Regardless of the lower levels of mercury, it’s still always important to discuss fish consumption with your doctor if you’re pregnant, currently have mercury issues or other health concerns.
5. Great for travel & meals of the go
In 2016, sardines gained some popularity as venture capitalist Craig Cooper was quoted saying that they were his favorite travel superfood. I couldn’t agree more!
Though other travel foods like beef jerky are a great option, sardines are one of the best out there. Simply pick them up at a grocery store and bring them along in your suitcase, or pick them up at your destination and eat them straight out of a can for a nourishing protein option. Much better than airport food, right?
It’s also a great idea to keep a can of sardines in your pantry for when you need a quick meal on the go and don’t have time to cook.
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6. Cost efficient
A can of sardines is far cheaper than many other convenience foods, and buying them from discount sources like Thrive Market, or buying them in bulk can help to cut down costs.
7. High in selenium
Selenium is vital for thyroid health and is something that I focus on as someone with Hashimoto’s. Sardines are a rich source of selenium that comes with the cofactors to make it easy to absorb.
8. Rich in vitamin D
Sardines are rich in vitamin D which is vital for our overall health. Many people suffer from vitamin D deficiency which can impact our immune system, hormone health, and health as a whole. Eating foods like sardines and getting more time in the sun can positively influence our vitamin D levels.
9. Sustainably fished
Farm raised fish can be less humane and nutrient dense than traditional fishing, and overfishing is harmful to the overall ecosystem of the ocean. Luckily, sardines are one of the most sustainably fished options and continuing to purchase sardines that from a good source helps to influence the process longterm.
10. They can taste good!
From what I’ve gathered talking to others about sardines is that they’re afraid to eat them because they don’t think that they’ll taste good. However, I assure you that they can taste good! With the right preparation, they’re honestly really yummy.
How to Eat Sardines
Fry them in a pan or grill them
Sardines taste great grilled or fried! Simple coat them with oil and heat them on a grill or in a pan.
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This recipe for Mediterranean garlic and herb sardines sounds amazing (I would omit the paprika and mustard for AIP). They roast quickly and with minimal ingredients.
Add them to pasta or serve them on crackers
Add them to a pasta dish like zucchini noodles with pesto, or eat them on a cracker with some salt and lemon.
Eat them in salads
This is by far the easiest and most convenient way to eat sardines, and one that I eat almost weekly.