Are Sardines Really Healthy?

Canned sardines

Sardines aren’t the tastiest foods you can consume, so it’s either you like it or you don’t. If you’re not a fan, though, you might want to consider giving sardines another chance as they are apparently good for your health!

They are loaded with essential nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and B12. They are convenient and budget-friendly, too!

From reducing inflammation and blood clots to promoting healthy bones, and reducing your risk of heart disease and vision loss, sardines prove to be worth giving a try!

Find out how adding sardines to your diet can give you healthier eyes and immune system, lowered cancer risk, and more in this health guide! We’ve also added some yummy ideas on how you can enjoy them in your regular nutrition.

What are Sardines?

Sardines are small, oily fish that belong to the Clupeidae family, along with herrings, shads, and menhadens. They are also sometimes called “pilchards”.

Sardines, which are abundant in Mediterranean, Atlantic and Pacific seas, are commonly canned since they are highly perishable.

Eating canned sardines became a popular thing in Europe during the 18th century. And this craze gradually found its way to America by the late 19th and early 20th century.

If not preserved in cans, fresh sardines can be pickled, smoked or grilled.

Unlike other fish, sardines are low in contaminants and heavy metals like mercury because they are at the bottom of the food chain. Also, they are feeding on plankton, making them one of the safest fish to eat!

Sardines: Nutritional Value

Not only are sardines safe for consumption but are incredibly rich in important nutrients, too! Their impressive nutritional content offers amazing health perks, which you may find interesting, especially if you have health and fitness goals. Take a look:


Sardines are loaded with essential vitamins like B-12. This vitamin helps to prevent anemia and major birth defects, osteoporosis, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Sardines are also a rich source of vitamin D, which was found helpful in preventing and treating chronic pain, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neuromuscular diseases.


Aside from vitamins, sardines are chock full of minerals, too!

Some of the important minerals that they have are selenium, which acts as a powerful antioxidant; phosphorus that helps build strong teeth and bones; and calcium, which is essential for bone health.

Sardines are also a good source of niacin, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish are well-known for their rich omega-3 content, and sardines are super dense in this essential fatty acid. Omega-3s were found to help promote heart health, fight anxiety and depression, reduce symptoms of ADHD in children, and even prevent the risk of cancer.


Your body needs large amounts of protein, an important building block of bones, blood, muscles, and skin.

Tagged as a “macronutrient”, protein plays a crucial role in the making of hormones, enzymes, and other body chemicals. It also helps to build and repair tissues, regulate acid concentrations, and maintain fluid balance!

What are the Health Benefits of Sardines?

Fresh sardines in basket

The powerful nutritional value of these fish makes them beneficial for your health. Take a look at what sardines can do for you:

Sardines help prevent heart disease

With their rich omega-3 content, it’s no longer surprising why sardines are good for your heart. Several studies found proof that omega-3 fatty acids helpful prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol.

Omega-3 fatty acids were also discovered to prevent inflammation of the blood vessels, decrease arterial plaque that clogs blood vessels, and lower triglyceride levels, significantly cutting the risk of coronary heart disease.

Sardines reduce blood clots

Omega-3 fatty acids also help to prevent the risk of blood clots, which can be potentially dangerous if left untreated. Adding sardines to your diet can prevent blood clots from occurring, reducing your risk of atherosclerosis and stroke.

Sardines promote eye health

Sardines are also a good source of vitamin D, an essential nutrient found to be helpful in the promotion of eye health.

Researchers discovered that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining a good blood supply for the retinas. Also, other studies found evidence that vitamin D can prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) too! 

AMD is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the world, especially among people aged 50 and older. Experts recommend eating fish like sardines to lower the risk of acquiring AMD.

Sardines strengthen bones

A rich source of calcium, sardines also help to give you healthy bones! Coupled with regular exercise and quality sleep, a decent amount of calcium can reduce your risk of diseases such as osteoporosis.

Sardines enhance your immune system

Want to give your immune system a boost? Add sardines to your diet! A study found that laboratory rats fed with fish oil had a significantly higher content of immune cells compared with those fed with tocopherol-stripped lard.

Sardines prevent free radical damage

Sardines contain significant amounts of selenium, an essential mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant.

With its antioxidant properties, selenium fights free radical damage or oxidative stress, preventing inflammatory conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and even cancer.

This important trace element is also necessary for the creation and conversion of glutathione, which is often referred to as the “master antioxidant”.

What's more, selenium was also found to decrease the toxicity of heavy metals in the body like mercury and cadmium.

Sardines prevent the risk of cancer

Probably one of the most prized sardine health benefits is its ability to reduce the risk of cancer. The antioxidant properties of sardines that help combat free radical damage, contribute to a lowered cancer risk.

One cancer research has also discovered that calcium and vitamin D can aid in preventing the development of certain cancers like colorectal cancer. Sardines are apparently a rich source of both essential nutrients.

Sardines regulate blood sugar levels

Aside from vital nutrients, sardines are packed with protein and healthy fats, too! Combining high-fat, high-protein foods like sardines with low-glycemic carbohydrates such as green leafy veggies and quinoa helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady.

A study also found that sardine protein with or without high fructose prevented and reversed insulin resistance and oxidative damage. The findings suggest that this sardine diet may benefit those with metabolic syndrome.

Sardines promote weight loss

Got weight loss goals? You might want to consider incorporating sardines into your meal plans! One research showed evidence that including fish like sardines in your diet can promote weight loss.

The same study discovered that adding seafood to a “nutritionally balanced energy-restricted diet” can boost weight loss further.

How to Choose Sardines

If you’re buying canned sardines, go for the ones that are in olive oil. This is a great option if you specifically want to cut your fat intake.

If you are cutting back on salt and calories, choose quality canned sardines that have no salt. It’s best to always check the label first.

It’s also advised to purchase canned sardines that are far from being expired. Meantime, if you’re after fresh sardines, it’s essential to put your senses at work! Take note of these:


Fresh sardines have a natural, pleasant smell. If it has a strong, pungent odor, it’s more likely that the fish has already gone bad.


Check the eyes of the sardines, too. Fresh sardines have clear, bulging eyes. Cloudiness in the eyes of the fish may be a sign of rotting.


When inspecting the gills of the fish, pay attention to its color. If not reddish, it must be bright pink. Also, the gills must be slightly wet, not dry and slimy.


Fresh sardines have smooth skin. You’ll also know they’re fresh when you poke on their flesh and it returns to its original form. The flesh of the fish must also be firm. Loose scales or cracked skin may be a sign of staleness.

How to Add Sardines to Your Diet

Sardines dish

Sardines are so versatile that you can easily add them to any recipe. They can be a great addition to your salads, casserole, pasta dishes, and even the main course!

There are plenty of sardine recipes you can try – just remember to use the canned ones that have been properly rinsed under cold water. If you’re planning to use fresh sardines in your cooking, make sure they have been gutted first and then rinsed well.

What are the Potential Risks of Eating Sardines

People with gout or kidney problems are highly advised to avoid sardine consumption. Sardines have high purine content that can trigger flares.

Canned sardines also contain significant amounts of salt and calories. If you are cutting back on salt and calories, make sure that you check the label of the canned sardines first.


Love them or hate them, sardines are chock full of good-for-you nutrients and amazing health perks! They are truly worth considering adding to your meal plans, especially if you want to boost your wellness.

From keeping your eyes, heart, and bones healthy, to reducing your risk of diabetes and cancer, sardines prove to be a decent addition to a nutritious diet!

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  • dennis caeton


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