I learned early on in elementary school that bringing sardines in for lunch was…not the most popular choice. The fish have a very distinct smell, but they certainly are tasty! Before you give up on these little guys because of their pungent aroma, take a minute to learn more about why these snacks of the sea are so great.
There are actually many fish known as “sardines,” but they’re all so closely related genetically that they’re usually just considered to be the same fish. It’s said that Napoleon was responsible for the sardines’ rise in popularity—who knew?
Why Eat Sardines?
- Sardines are packed with calcitriol, a form of vitamin D that regulates cell cycles. Because cancer is caused by cells functioning incorrectly, keeping these cycles regulated is a very effective form of cancer prevention.
- The protein in sardines gives us necessary amino acids that build and regenerate our bodies. These amino acids repair tissue by grabbing into oxygen and carrying it around efficiently.
- The most prevalent nutrient in sardines, vitamin B12, clocks in at a whopping 337% of what you need every day! B12 reduces homocysteine, which is known to degenerate bone through osteoporosis. Thanks to their homocysteine-smashing properties, sardines support bone health.
- Sardines are one of the absolute best places to get omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy omega-3s help reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease by fighting oxidation.
Anchovies, sardines—tiny fish get a bad rap sometimes. But sardines have a rich, flavorful taste without a fishy aftertaste, so there’s really nothing unusual about them at all. When you’re ready to take the plunge and become addicted to delicious sardines (it’s easier than you might think!), there are a few things to keep in mind.
How to Choose Sardines
- If you want whole, uncanned sardines, some stores have them at the seafood counter. You can ask them to remove the large bones for you, but you can leave the little bones; cooking the sardines softens them, and you won’t even know there’s still a few bones floating around.
- You can buy canned sardines in water, soy oil, canola oil, tomato sauce, and olive oil—make sure to read the labels. It’s best to avoid those packed in soy oil, canola oil, or tomato sauce (which is filled with sugar). Water is always a solid choice; you can spice up your fish with some homemade Paleo mayo or get creative.
Remember that while sardines are a great snack, that’s just one of their many uses. Try mashing your sardines with avocadoes for a great veggie dip. Be adventurous!