Sardine – Benefits, Nutrition, Possible Side Effects, And Recipes

Written by Varsha Patnaik , MSc (Biotechnology), Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach

Sardines are tiny-boned fish that are highly nutritious, versatile, and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Being highly perishable, you will probably find sardines as canned food in most convenience stores. With sardines gaining popularity as a healthier and cost-effective option to other fishes, you can make a nice, juicy salad, or just eat it from the cans just like that. In this article, you will learn how sardines benefit you, how nutritious they are, their possible side effects and some simple recipes to get you cooking!

What Are Sardines?

Coming from the Clupeidae family, they are small, silver-colored fish that have been around for thousands of years. Said to have been discovered by the Romans near the coast, today they play an essential part in both human and animal kingdoms. While they are food for larger mammals like sharks and birds, for humans, they are used as bait, and as a source of nutrition. Not consumed very often in the US, sardines are frequently eaten by people in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal, and Middle Eastern countries. Earlier sardines were consumed fresh. But these being highly perishable, many prefer to buy them as canned sardines. Now, let us look at the nutrition that sardines provide.

Nutritional Information

According to the USDA, 2 sardines give you 209 calories along with a host of nutrients, ranging from vitamin A and vitamin D to a source of calcium and phosphorus. What’s better, sardines have no carbohydrates or sugar, making them very healthy. Find below the nutritional value of sardines as given by USDA (1).

NutrientAmount
Calcium91.7mg
Phosphorus118mg
Potassium95.3mg
Sodium73.7mg
Vitamin D46.3 IU
Vitamin A25.3 IU

Sardines’ nutritional value is very high and can be beneficial to your health in many ways. Let’s read next about the different health benefits of sardines.

Potential Health Benefits Of Sardines

Sardines are considered a great addition to our diets because they offer a multitude of benefits. Due to their large reserve of nutrients such as vitamins, protein, and essential minerals, they are considered healthy (2). Let’s read about how sardines’ benefits our wellbeing and health.

  • May Help Reduce The Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Did your mother ever tell you that eating fish is good for your brain? She was probably right. Sardines fall under the category of fatty fish due to its high level of omega-3 fatty acids. A study was conducted to see the effect of fatty fish such as sardines in diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular disease. The researchers found that in comparison to lean fish, consumption of fatty fish twice a week showed a decrease in the risk of developing dementia by 28% and Alzheimer’s by 41%. While this study suggests that fatty fish may be good for brain health, more studies need to be conducted to understand the connection between sardines and brain health (3).

  • May Play A Role In Preventing Cardiovascular Diseases

Eating a healthy diet rich in fish may prevent the development of cardiovascular disease. Experts conducted a study to see the effect of eating a sardine-rich diet on inflammation, metabolic control, and gut bacteria. 35 patients diagnosed with diabetes were asked to follow a standard diabetes diet, or a diet rich with 100g of sardines for 5 days for 6 months. The results saw a decrease in plasma insulin levels and an increase in gut bacteria. Researchers suggest that having a sardine-enriched diet may be essential in reducing the risk of heart diseases, although more research needs to be conducted on this topic (5).

  • May Play A Protective Role Against Diabetes

In a study that was conducted, 152 people with prediabetes and old age were asked to consume sardine two times per week for 1 year. The results showed that those in the sardine group had a decreased risk of developing diabetes. Along with this, the patients showed a decrease in triglyceride as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), omega3, and bile acid levels. This study indicates that sardines may play a protective role against diabetes and anyone at a high risk of developing diabetes (7).

  • May Aid In The Development Of Healthy Bones

The calcium in sardines is reported to be 91.7 mg, according to USDA (1). Calcium and vitamin D are necessary for the development of healthy bones and play an important role in preventing bone disorders such as osteoporosis, and rickets (8). Sardines being high in calcium, and vitamin D, you can add these silver swimmers to your diet for healthy bones (9).

  • May Protect Your Skin From UV-rays Of The Sun

If you like getting tanned but still need to protect your skin from those UV-rays, then sardines may help you in that. An in-vitro study was conducted to see the anti-inflammatory activity and skin absorption of essential fatty acids from fish oil extracts. The researchers obtained oils from three fish oils, namely, sardine, mackerel, and horse mackerel. The results showed that sardine fish oil extract had a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory activity compared to the other two (10). While the study suggests that sardines may play a role in protecting our skin UV-rays, more studies need to be conducted to substantiate this fact.

You can see from the above section that sardine benefits you in more than one way. From playing a role in the development of healthy bones to protecting your skin against UV-rays, and diabetes, sardines may prove to be a great addition to your diet. Let’s look at the different ways through which you can add sardines to your menu.

How To Add Sardines To Your Diet

Can you eat sardines raw? Can you eat canned sardines? All your questions shall be answered here. While sardines can be eaten from a can, it is best to avoid eating them raw. If you are looking to eat something light yet filling, a nice sardine salad would be the right way to go about it. If you are looking for a snack to complement your beer, then fried sardines would add a nice touch to it. But if you are looking for healthier options with very little oil, then you can either grill them in a pan or bake them in the oven with some salt and lemon.

Sardines are versatile and can be added to your diet in many ways to suit the occasion and mood. Let’s see about the possible side effects you can develop from eating sardines.

Possible Side Effects Of Sardines

Sardines, like their marine siblings, are very good for us. But just like everything, it has its cons too. With pollution increasing every year and rivers being poisoned with toxic metals, it has become a little dangerous to consume fish. A study was conducted to see the negative effects of sardines on rats (12). The rats were fed either red or white sardines for 60 days. The researchers observed an increase in their uric acid level along with high accumulation of lead in the liver. Thus, it is highly advised that you buy fresh sardines and wash them properly before consumption.

Currently, there is little research to show the possible side effects of sardines on our health. More studies will need to be conducted to understand the link between the two. Let us have a look at some simple and delicious ways to prepare sardines.

How To Prepare Sardines Recipes

Sardines provide innumerable benefits as discussed above. With that being said, let us look at some of the best ways to eat sardines.

Grilled Sardines

Grilled Sardines

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of fresh sardines, cleaned, scaled, and gutted
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Combine 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oil, and chilli in a bowl.
  2. Season the mixture with freshly ground pepper and salt.
  3. Cut slits on both sides of every sardine.
  4. Rub the oil and lemon mixture all over the sardines, as well as into the body cavity and slits.
  5. Cook the sardines on medium heat in a pan for around 3 minutes on each side, until it is perfectly cooked through and the flesh flakes fall from the bone.
  6. Put the lemon halves next to the fish for another 3 minutes.
  7. Serve sardines with salad and grilled lemons.

Sardine Salad

Sardine Salad

Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of rinsed capers
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 cans of sardines
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • lettuce, for serving

Instructions

  1. Take a bowl and mix lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, capers, parsley, celery, and tarragon.
  2. Gently put the sardines in.
  3. Season with pepper and salt.
  4. Put the sardines on the lettuce and munch away.

Summary

Sardines are an excellent source of nutrition. Filled with calcium, essential vitamins, and no sugar, these swimmers are a good source of energy. Including sardines in your diet may help reduce the risk of developing many diseases. If you are allergic to fish, then it is best to avoid sardines altogether. Be it grilled, fried, or in a salad, sardines benefit your health holistically.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Are canned sardines good for you?

No research currently suggests that canned sardines are unsafe. However, it is always advisable to purchase fresh sardines.

What happens if you eat sardines every day?

Presently, scientific evidence suggests that sardines are good for your health and offer a good source of nutrition.

Is it healthy to eat sardines every day?

The USDA recommends eating 8 ounces every week for young children and between 8 to 12 ounces of sardines every week for lactating and pregnant women (13).

Are sardines good for Covid 19?

Research suggests that sardines benefits us in various ways, studies are yet to be conducted to see the impact of sardines on COVID 19.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. “Fish” ‘Sardine’ ‘Atlantic’ ‘Canned in Oil’ Drained Solids with Bone
    https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175139/nutrients
  2. Seafood Consumption and Components for Health
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4776937/
  3. Benefits of Fatty Fish on Dementia Risk are Stronger for Those Without APOE Epsilon 4
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7492109_Benefits_of_fatty_fish_on_dementia_risk_are_stronger_for_those_without_APOE_epsilon_4
  4. Non-communicable Diseases
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases
  5. Effects of Sardine-enriched Diet on Metabolic Control Inflammation and Gut Microbiota in Drug-naïve Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Pilot Randomized Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4836051/
  6. Diabetes
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
  7. Type 2 Diabetes Preventive Effects with a 12 Months Sardine-enriched Diet in Elderly Population with Prediabetes: An Interventional Randomized and Controlled Trial
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33932804/
  8. Food for Healthy Bones
    https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/food-for-strong-bones/
  9. Eating the Right Foods for a Healthy Body and Bones
    https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/eating_the_right_foods_for_a_healthy_body_and_bones
  10. In-vitro Percutaneous Absorption Studies and In-vivo Evaluation of Anti-inflammatory Activity of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) from Fish Oil Extracts
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15979259/
  11. Fish Allergy
    https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/fish/
  12. Negative Health Effects in Rats Fed on Sardine Fishes
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257494083_Negative_health_effects_in_rats_fed_on_sardine_fishes
  13. Advice about Eating Fish
    https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish
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