14 Surprising Anchovies Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Health benefits of anchovies include healthy heart, skin care, weight loss, as well as healthy bones and teeth. These benefits are due to omega-3-fatty acids, proteins, and various nutrients present in them. Intake of anchovies also lowers the levels of bad cholesterol and toxins.

What Are Anchovies?

Anchovies are small, salt water, foraging fish with more than 100 different species spread across the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. They are generally found in large schools, which makes them very easy to catch in large quantities. One of the most popular places to catch anchovies is the Mediterranean Sea, which is why they are such an integral part of European, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines.

Even though their taste is not pleasant people eat them due to their various health benefits. They are normally sold in tins or cans and can be put on pizzas, sandwiches, in Caesar salad dressing, and tomato sauce.

Nutrition Facts

Fish, anchovy, european, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]73.37
Energy [kcal]131
Energy [kJ]548
Protein [g]20.35
Total lipid (fat) [g]4.84
Ash [g]1.44
Calcium, Ca [mg]147
Iron, Fe [mg]3.25
Magnesium, Mg [mg]41
Phosphorus, P [mg]174
Potassium, K [mg]383
Sodium, Na [mg]104
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.72
Copper, Cu [mg]0.21
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.07
Selenium, Se [µg]36.5
Thiamin [mg]0.06
Riboflavin [mg]0.26
Niacin [mg]14.02
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.65
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.14
Folate, total [µg]9
Folate, food [µg]9
Folate, DFE [µg]9
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0.62
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]15
Retinol [µg]15
Vitamin A, IU [IU]50
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.57
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]0.1
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.28
12:0 [g]0.01
14:0 [g]0.3
16:0 [g]0.72
18:0 [g]0.25
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]1.18
16:1 [g]0.4
18:1 [g]0.62
22:1 [g]0.12
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.64
18:2 [g]0.1
18:4 [g]0.06
20:4 [g]0.01
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.54
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.03
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.91
Cholesterol [mg]60
Tryptophan [g]0.23
Threonine [g]0.89
Isoleucine [g]0.94
Leucine [g]1.65
Lysine [g]1.87
Methionine [g]0.6
Cystine [g]0.22
Phenylalanine [g]0.79
Tyrosine [g]0.69
Valine [g]1.05
Arginine [g]1.22
Histidine [g]0.6
Alanine [g]1.23
Aspartic acid [g]2.08
Glutamic acid [g]3.04
Glycine [g]0.98
Proline [g]0.72
Serine [g]0.83
Sources include : USDA

Anchovies Nutrition

According to the USDA FoodData Central, anchovies are rich in omega-3-fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and minerals that help maintain good health. They contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Anchovies are a good source of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin C, B12, B6, A, E, and K. These oily fish also contain good fats and cholesterol.

Health Benefits of Anchovies

Anchovies have many amazing health benefits, let us discuss them in detail below.

Improve Heart Health

In a 2013 report published in the Nutrition Journal, Dr. Yaakov Henkin, Cardiology Department, Soroka University Medical Center, Israel, revealed that anchovies contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fats, which can reduce the presence of LDL (bad) cholesterol. They help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.

High In Omega-3-Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acid, found in large in anchovies, eliminates unhealthy cholesterol. It improves heart and brain health, promotes weight loss, boosts eye health, and enhances fetal development.

A pan of fresh anchovies

Fresh anchovies ready to be eaten Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Skin Care

Adding anchovies as a regular part of your diet can help maintain a smooth complexion as well as prevent breakouts and wrinkles associated with premature aging. They can also help protect against sunburn, thereby lowering the risk of skin cancer.

Weight Loss

Anchovies are a type of saltwater fish that have significant amounts of protein and a low-calorie count, which makes them ideal for people trying to lose weight. A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition based on dietary fish being a major component of a weight-loss diet revealed that increased levels of protein in fishes help you feel satiated, which, in turn, prevents overeating. Additionally, it suppresses the production of ghrelin (the hunger hormone). Thus, fishes like anchovies provide you with ample nutrition and health benefits, without pouring in any extra calories!

Improve Bone Health

The vitamins and minerals found in anchovies provide many health benefits, including helping to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis and other bone conditions. The calcium and vitamin A, found in anchovies positively affect bone growth, which makes these tiny fish quite beneficial in fighting bone degradation. Calcium is also integral in the protection of teeth from weakening and keeping them strong.

Tissue and Cell Repair

Protein-rich anchovies have long been known to benefit the functioning and efficiency of cell metabolism and connective tissue repair and regrowth. High protein foods also help promote weight loss, maintain blood sugar levels, as well as build bones, muscles, cartilage, and tissues. Overall, they can be a major boost to your body’s ability to heal itself.

Eye Health

Anchovies are rich in vitamin-A, which boosts eye health. A research report published in the International Journal of Opthalmology and Eye Science revealed that anchovy sauce, which is predominantly consumed in Pan-Asian cuisine, has a potential protective effect against progression and severity of glaucoma. It prevents macular degeneration, as well as cataracts, so eat some anchovies and protect your eyes!

Rich In Iron

Anchovies rich in iron enhances oxygen supply and increases the blood circulation in the body.

Good Source Of Selenium

The abundant selenium present in anchovies helps activate various enzymes involved in numerous physiological processes. These include blood vessel function and thyroid hormone production.

Rich In Niacin & Vitamin B12

The ample amount of vitamin B12 and niacin present in anchovies help maintain a healthy nervous system function. These vitamins also help prevent depression, fatigue, confusion, nerve damage and the weak sense of touch.

Other Benefits

Other benefits of anchovies include:

Highly Sustainable

Unlike salmon, tilapia, and catfish, anchovies are not farm-raised. Anchovies are directly caught in the wild, which keeps them away from the dangerous chemicals exposed to other farm fishes. This, in turn, makes anchovies highly sustainable.


Omega-3 fatty acids in anchovies possess potent anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent various chronic inflammatory diseases.

Improves Digestion

Anchovies, a rich source of potassium, help in better skeletal muscle contraction and digestion.

Prevent Toxicity

One of the major dangers of eating too much fish is the high level of mercury and other environmental toxins that can often be found in their bodies. Smaller fish have far fewer toxins, particularly due to their short lifespan, and therefore add far fewer toxins to your body than larger fish, while still providing many of the same nutritional benefits!

Select and Store

Here are a few tips to remember while buying and storing anchovies:

  • Anchovies are available in fresh, tinned or canned, salted, oiled, and paste forms.
  • Always select fresh anchovies over preserved ones. Although, salt-preserved or canned anchovies are easily available.
  • Use the entire anchovies after opening the sealed container.
  • In case you don’t intend to use the entire container, wash off the salt, place it in an olive oil jar, seal and refrigerate again. The fish can now last for 5 days.

Note: Anchovy paste has less flavor and nutrients compared to the fresh and processed ones but can be used in sauces, jams, pickles, spreads, and more.

How to use anchovies?

Here are a few ways to use this fish:

  • Anchovies can be eaten raw as an aphrodisiac. However, raw anchovies may cause parasitic infections.
  • Freeze or cook your anchovies before eating them.
  • They are used in Asian sides and dishes like Javanese sambal, Vietnamese nuac mom, and Thai nam pla.
  • They can be used to make sauces, jams, pickles, and spreads, as well as be added to noodles, soups, curries, etc.
  • Anchovies can also be grilled, steamed, fried, and fermented to prepare various dishes.

Side effects

The side effects of anchovies are as follows:

  • Anisakiasis: This herring worm disease, is a parasitic infection caused by raw anchovies. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps.
  • High blood pressure: Canned anchovies have a high level of sodium and excess intake may elevate blood pressure causing heart attack, or stroke.
  • Neurotoxin: Domoic acid which gets accumulated in the gut of anchovies is a dangerous neurotoxin. Thus, intake of whole anchovies may cause amnesic shellfish poisoning.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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