10 Wonderful Benefits of Sardines

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

The health benefits of sardines may include the prevention of heart diseases and age-related macular degeneration. They may also help strengthen bones, boost the immune system, improve insulin resistance, and rejuvenate the skin.

What are Sardines?

Sardines are small, oily fish that belong to the family called Clupeidae. They are also known by the name pilchards in some places. They generally come in the form of canned fish and are commonly known as canned sardines. Although they are regarded as a single species, there are actually 21 types of fish that fall under the category of sardine.

The most popular species of sardines include Sardina, Sardinops, sardinella, and dussumieria. These fish are found mostly in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. According to a report, in the past, they were the most harvested fish around the world. [1]

Sardines were one of the easiest fish to obtain and they were known to man for a few millennia. However, they rose to popularity during the early 18th century in Europe after the introduction of the canned version. The craze of eating these fish slowly crept to America as well, where they became very popular by the late 19th and early 20th century. The concept of canned fish became an instant hit in the United States. People actually found it to be one of the best ways to store food.

Fresh sardines with halved lemons and coriander leaf surrounded with ginger, red chilies, and garlic on a wooden table

Sardines Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sardines Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone
Serving Size :
Water [g]59.61
Energy 208
Energy [kJ]871
Protein [g]24.62
Total lipid (fat) [g]11.45
Ash [g]3.38
Calcium, Ca [mg]382
Iron, Fe [mg]2.92
Magnesium, Mg [mg]39
Phosphorus, P [mg]490
Potassium, K [mg]397
Sodium, Na [mg]307
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.31
Copper, Cu [mg]0.19
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.11
Selenium, Se [µg]52.7
Thiamin [mg]0.08
Riboflavin [mg]0.23
Niacin [mg]5.25
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.64
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.17
Folate, total [µg]10
Folate, food [µg]10
Folate, DFE [µg]10
Choline, total [mg]75
Vitamin B-12 [µg]8.94
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]32
Retinol [µg]32
Vitamin A, IU [IU]108
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]2.04
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]193
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]4.8
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) [µg]4.8
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]2.6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.53
14:0 [g]0.19
16:0 [g]0.99
18:0 [g]0.34
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]3.87
16:1 [g]0.22
18:1 [g]2.15
20:1 [g]0.42
22:1 [g]1.08
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]5.15
18:2 [g]3.54
18:3 [g]0.5
18:4 [g]0.13
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.47
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.51
Cholesterol [mg]142
Tryptophan [g]0.28
Threonine [g]1.08
Isoleucine [g]1.13
Leucine [g]2
Lysine [g]2.26
Methionine [g]0.73
Cystine [g]0.26
Phenylalanine [g]0.96
Tyrosine [g]0.83
Valine [g]1.27
Arginine [g]1.47
Histidine [g]0.73
Alanine [g]1.49
Aspartic acid [g]2.52
Glutamic acid [g]3.67
Glycine [g]1.18
Proline [g]0.87
Serine [g]1
Sources include : USDA [2]
According to USDA, fish oil made from sardines contains energy and fats. Vitamins may include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. The fatty acids found in them include total saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and cholesterol. These fatty acids, vitamins, and trace mineral elements may help in the prevention of many diseases and promote overall health.

Health Benefits of Sardines

The presence of macro and micro-nutrients, in these fish, without having a high-fat content makes them very useful for our body. Below are some of its most important benefits.

May Prevent of Heart Diseases

Sardines can be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which might be helpful in preventing heart diseases. Research by the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota has shown that omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) break down bad or LDL cholesterol in the body and thus help in preventing heart diseases.

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 may help in controlling blood pressure as well.

Might Reduce in Blood Clots

Blood clots in the arteries can be dangerous for the cardiovascular system. Regular intake of omega-3 fats found in fish like sardines might be good for the heart because it may help in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, thereby preventing stroke and atherosclerosis.

Possible Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration

A fact sheet released by the National Eye Institute (NEI) says that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that is usually seen among people aged 50 or more. Macular and retinal degeneration over the years results in loss of vision. Both NEI and the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that usage of fish like sardines may result in a reduced risk of developing AMD.

May Contain Anti-cancer Properties

A cancer research report published by Dr. Powel Brown and Dr. Corey Speers in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has shown that the intake of calcium and vitamin D might be very helpful in preventing certain types of cancers like breast cancer. Sardines are one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin D. However, more research and clinical trials are required.

Strong Bones

Sardines can be a good source of calcium, and regular calcium may help in strengthening bones. A good amount of calcium, coupled with exercise might strengthen bones and prevent diseases such as osteoporosis.

May Help in Maintaining a Healthy Immune System

Consuming sardines may help in building up the immune system. Research by The Journal of Nutrition suggests that sardine fish oil may improve the immune system by increasing the count of immune cells.

Skin Care

The fats found in sardines may play an essential role at the cellular level in skin cells. The book “Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin and Radiant Health at Every Age” by Dr. Nicholas Perricone says that sardines (cold water fish) may help in giving you radiant skin.

May Help with Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is one of the major factors to look for in diabetes. In cases where there is insulin resistance, the insulin produced in the body is utilized less efficiently. This, in turn, means that there is more glucose in the blood than there usually should be. According to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, sardine protein consumption may have a beneficial effect on fructose-induced metabolic syndrome on variables such as hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, and oxidative and inflammatory status.

May Have Antioxidant Properties

Sardines contain selenium, which may be helpful in neutralizing free radicals and protecting organs from damage.

How to Buy & Store Sardines?

Sardines are available in many varieties and are cheap compared to some other fishes. They are best when consumed fresh. Canned ones come in a variety of flavors, such as mustard flavor, seasoned with sauce, with or without salt, and other versions, and should be stored in a cool place. Depending on the taste, people make their own choice. Please do check the expiry date on the can.

Sardine Recipes

Sardines can be baked or cooked quite easily and can be served as a main dish, a side dish, and can even be added to salads.

  • Fresh sardines can be prepared by applying a mixture of your favorite spices such as pepper, salt, garlic, lemon juice, condiments, and flavoring agents to the fresh sardines, which can then be grilled or barbecued.
  • Sardine and vegetable salad is yet another simple Greek recipe. Take sardines and sauté them in olive oil for a few minutes. Cut small pieces of tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta and add them to the sautéd sardines. Add lemon, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle parsley on the salad.

Side Effects of Sardines

There are certain things to remember while eating these fish.

High Purine Content: Sardines may contain a high amount of purines. Purines are basic structures that form DNA and RNA. These purines break up into uric acid. High levels of uric acid concentrations are known to put a great deal of pressure on kidneys as they have to flush out excess amounts of uric acid. Purines should also be avoided in case of gout attacks.

Higher Levels of Mercury: Sardines may contain a low amount of mercury naturally. However, in recent times, due to mercury-filled pollutants being released into the atmosphere, which eventually makes their way into the ocean, mercury inevitably gets absorbed by the sardine fish. Their consumption may result in poisoning. However, in normal quantities, this should not occur.

Allergic Reactions: Sardines may cause allergic reactions in some people. Research shows that some organic compounds known as vasoactive amines such as tyramine, serotonin, tryptamine, phenylethylamine, and histamine are found in them. These can cause allergic reactions such as the constriction of the intestinal muscles, increased heart rate, headache, asthma, bronchitis, constriction of blood vessels, and hypertension. In most cases, very high ingestion of the above-mentioned compounds may result in these symptoms.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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