The health benefits of sardines include prevention of heart diseases, certain types of cancers, and age-related macular degeneration. They also help to strengthen bones, boost the immune system, improve insulin resistance, and rejuvenate the skin.
Table of Contents
- Nutritional Value of Sardines
- Health Benefits of Sardines
- How to Buy & Store Sardines?
- Side Effects of 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 as 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 can easily 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 the Mediterranean Sea. According to a report, in the past, they were the single largest component of fish harvesting done around the world.
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 century and early 20th century. The concept of canned fish became an instant hit in the United States. People actually found it as one of the best ways to store food.
Nutritional Value of Sardines
Canned sardines contain energy, protein, lipid or fat, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Vitamins in sardines 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 help in the prevention of many diseases and promote overall health.
Health Benefits of Sardines
The presence of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients, in these fish, without having a high-fat content makes them very useful for our body. Below are some of the most important benefits.
Prevention of Heart Diseases
Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful in preventing heart diseases. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid and DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid break down bad LDL cholesterol in the body and 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 help in controlling blood pressure as well.
Reduction in Blood Clots
Blood clots in the arteries can be dangerous for the cardiovascular system. Regular intake of omega-3 fats, which are found in fish like sardines, is good for the heart because it helps in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, thereby preventing stroke and atherosclerosis.
Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition which is usually seen among people aged 50 or more. Macular and retinal degeneration over the years results in loss of vision. Recent studies have shown that taking fish, particularly like sardines, resulted in a reduced risk of developing AMD. On the other hand, taking regular or saturated fat can increase the risk of developing AMD.
Cancer research has shown that the intake of calcium and vitamin D can be very helpful in preventing certain types of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Sardines are one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin D.
Sardines are a good source of calcium, and regular calcium helps in strengthening bones. A good amount of calcium, coupled with exercise can strengthen bones and prevent diseases such as osteoporosis, in the future.
Healthy Immune System
The essential fats found in sardines play an essential role at the cellular level in skin cells. It not only decreases skin inflammation, but it will also make the skin more beautiful.
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. Some studies have shown that insulin resistance can be reduced by consuming sardines. The protein found in them has shown itself to be effective in reducing insulin resistance, compared to casein protein.
Rich in Proteins
Sardines are good suppliers of proteins. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are essential building blocks of life. These proteins that we eat are broken down into amino acids, which are used by our body to build muscles and play essential roles.
How to Buy & Store Sardines?
Sardines are available in many varieties and are cheap compared to some of the 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 for the expiry date on the can.
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.
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 sautéed 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 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 kidneys have to flush out excess amounts of uric acid. Purines should also be avoided in case of gout attacks.
Higher Levels of Mercury: Sardines contain a low amount of mercury naturally. However, in recent times, due to mercury-filled pollutants being released into the atmosphere and their way into the oceanic waters, the microorganisms in the ocean and fishes such as sardines invariably absorb the mercury and 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 constriction of the muscles of the intestine, increased heart rate, headache, asthma, bronchi, constriction of blood vessels, and an increase of hypertension. In most cases, a very high ingestion of the above-mentioned compounds can result in these symptoms.