Sardines are small, oily fish that belong to the herring family (Clupeidae). Sardines are named after an Italian island “Sardinia”, where they were first found abundantly. These fish are found mostly in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
The sardine fish has a distinct appearance that sets it apart from other types of fish. Its body is flat and covered with large, reflective silver scales. In the center of their belly is a set of specialized scales that are jagged and point backwards.
Sardines commonly live in dense schools and migrate along the coast. They typically feed on plankton and are at the bottom of the food chain; since their diet is plankton, they do not contain high level of mercury and other contaminants like other fishes do.
Despite sardines are usually classified as a single species, there are actually more than 20 types of fish that fall under the sardine category. Some of the most well-known species include sardinops, sardinella, and dussumieria.
Sardines are delightful enjoyed fresh, but since they are highly perishable, they are most commonly found canned. Sardines, either fresh or canned, are an excellent source of nutrients, including various vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for our overall health and well-being.
Nutritional Value of Sardines
The nutritional value of 3.2 ounce serving of sardine, Atlantic, canned, are as follows (in Percent Daily Value):
- Vitamin B12: 338%
- Selenium: 87%
- Phosphorus: 64%
- Omega-3 fats: 61%
- Protein: 45%
- Vitamin D: 44%
- Calcium: 35%
- Vitamin B3: 30%
- Iodine: 24%
- Copper: 19%
- Choline: 16%
- Vitamin B2: 16%
Health Benefits of Sardines
1. Prevent heart disease
Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to break down arterial plaque, which blocks arteries and increases blood pressure. By clearing the plaque, these fatty acids help in controlling blood pressure as well.
2. Improve brain function
Sardines are a great food for the brain because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the brain memory and performance. It also helps protect the brain from cognitive decline and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Reduce cancer risk
Sardines are one of the rich sources of calcium and vitamin D, which plays significant role in prevention of certain type of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Also, omega-3 fatty acid intake has been proven particularly effective against the lymph cell-related cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
4. Control blood sugar
Sardines are packed with both healthy fats and protein, which both work to slow down the absorption of sugar in our blood stream.
Consuming sardines with foods that are rich in carbohydrates, such as bread or pasta, helps the body to release glucose from the carbs into the blood stream more slowly so avoiding a sugar spike followed by a quick dip.
5. Boost immune system
The omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish such as sardines are known to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Research suggests that sardine fish oil may improve immune system by increasing the count of immune cells. The selenium in sardines can help neutralize free radicals and protect organs from damage.
6. Strengthen bones
Sardines are a great source of calcium which helps in strengthening bones. A deficiency in calcium can result in problems like osteoporosis, tooth decay, and muscle tension. Sardines are also a good source of phosphorus, a mineral that’s play an important role in building and maintaining bone mineralization.
7. Maintain healthy hair and skin
Sardines contain a good fat and consuming them on a regular basis not only protect the skin from UV damage but also can improve skin condition after the effects of sun damage has formed. In addition, omega-3s fatty acids have also been known to alleviate skin blemishes.
As for hair, it helps maintain a good luster, provides nourishment to hair follicles, helping to stimulate hair growth and preventing hair loss.
8. Promote eye health
The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in sardines are also beneficial for the eye health as they can help prevent age-related macular degeneration and dry eyes.
Recent studies have shown that consuming fish, such as sardines, results in a reduced risk of developing AMD, a condition that commonly occurs in people ages 50 and older .
9. Fight anxiety and depression
Sardines contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Many studies show that a decline in omega-3 fatty acids leads to elevated depression and anxiety.
In addition, sardines are also rich in selenium, a trace element that helps to stabilize mood levels. Selenium deficiency has been shown to cause depression and anxiety .
10. Support joint health
Omega-3 fatty acids has anti-inflammatory properties and therefore eating sardines is beneficial to treat joint problems like arthritis.
Recent studies show that the omega-3s found in sardines support joint cartilage. It helps stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in bone and surrounding tissue .
How to Select and Store Sardine Fish
If you are purchasing fresh sardines, look for ones with bright eyes and shiny skin. The flesh should be firm and should not sink if pressed. To store the fresh sardines, remove them from the store packaging, rinse and put them in a plastic storage bag, then store it in a deep freezer.
As far as canned fishes are concerned, check for the expiry date and the preservatives that have been added to them before consuming it. Canned sardines can be stored in the kitchen cupboard, ideally one that is cool and not exposed to excessive heat.
Sardines contain a high amount of purines. Purines are the components that create and build both RNA and DNA. These purines devolves into uric acid.
High levels of uric acid concentrations are known to put a strain on your kidneys as they have to flush out excess amounts of uric acid. Expressed uric acid can cause a bout of gout so people with gout or kidney problems should avoid sardines.