sardines

Photo by Ben Wicks from Unsplash

As a registered dietitian, you might be expecting me to say kale or something, but not this time. I do buy plenty of fruits and vegetables on my weekly grocery trip, but there’s one food that I never forget to put in my cart because of the high-quality nutrition it provides — sardines. While they’re not as popular or glamorous as salmon, canned sardines are an excellent choice to include in your diet on a regular basis.

Why eat more sardines?

Current dietary guidelines suggest eating eight to 12 ounces of seafood per week for optimal health. However, close to 90 percent of Americans do not reach this target.

There could be a variety of explanations for this, such as the standard American diet not prioritizing healthy foods, the affordability of seafood, and the lack of nutrition education on the importance of consuming seafood. Sardines are a great choice if you’re someone who wants to add more seafood into their diet in a practical and healthy way. Obviously, the fishy smell and taste aren’t for everyone, but the health benefits are worth giving it a try if you haven’t already.

One can of sardines can provide approximately:

  • 170 calories
  • 10 grams of fat
  • 18 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of carbs
  • 40% of daily vitamin D
  • 80% of daily selenium
  • 20% of daily calcium (Thanks to the bones in sardines, which are so soft you can barely notice them!)
grilled sardines
Photo by Alex Teixeira from Unsplash

Additionally, sardines notably provide around 1,800 milligrams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids to support brain health and cognition. Given that they are also rich in selenium, they stimulate selenoprotein synthesis. Selenoproteins are critical for preventing oxidative stress and maintaining optimal brain function. They also provide iron, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, vitamin E, B12, and more.

Aside from the convincing nutritional benefits, sardines are also much easier on your pockets. A big barrier people face when trying to eat healthier is cost, especially when it comes to making seafood a regular part of their diet. Luckily, sardines are usually $1 to $2 per can, sometimes even less. Given that they come in cans, sardines make for a highly practical food to crack open for breakfast, take to work for lunch, or whip up as part of a quick dinner.

Lastly, if you’re someone who is concerned about the mercury content of fish like tuna, sardines are a phenomenal low mercury option. They are pretty low on the food chain and are small in size, meaning they don’t accumulate as much mercury as larger fish like red snapper and swordfish. Eating sardines is a good way to get the important omega-3s while keeping unwanted pollutants out of your diet.

Bottom Line

Eating a variety of seafood weekly is a key part of better health, but many Americans don’t do this either because of having a lower diet quality or dealing with socioeconomic barriers. Different kinds of seafood provide beneficial nutrients, but sardines stand out because they provide more bang for your buck. As a dietitian, sardines are part of my weekly diet, and I’m always making sure to restock them before I even get a chance to run out. They are affordable, easy to throw into meals, and have a highly impressive nutritional profile.

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About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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1 Comment

  1. D. Edward Jenkins says:

    I used to love Tampa but no more. Lots of traffic and the few good restaurants are packed with long wait times. Also, there is a severe doctor shortage.