sardines

Are Sardines Paleo?

One of my most vivid memories of elementary school is of sitting in one of our incredibly cramped, 20-person classrooms and eating lunch with friends. They’d be munching on zebra cakes and I would, with an excited smile, pop the lid off my little bin of sardines.

Apparently the smell of fish was less favorable to the 8-year-olds than the sweet aroma of those zebra cakes, because more often than not, I’d look up from my sardines to find myself sitting all alone.

What are Sardines?

I think part of the problem was that no one really knew what a sardine was—a small, whole fish also known as a pilchard. Belonging to the herring family, sardines are rather tiny, oily fish that you can buy fresh or in a can.

Because people tend not to eat whole animals anymore, the sardines were probably a bit off-putting to my classmates. Yet how I loved them so!

Are Sardines Healthy?

The truth of the matter is that sardines are a very resilient fish, and their size is a big factor in whether or not they are toxic.

Sardines are quite small, which means that they tend not to absorb the same amount of toxins as larger fish. In fact, the Environmental Defense Fund lists sardines as some of the least-toxic fish you can eat.

Their mercury content is low, and these little fish are packed with not only a huge helping of omega-3s but also more than 100% of your daily recommended serving of vitamin B12! Vitamin B12 is responsible for keeping nerves and blood cells healthy, and it’s also extremely important for making DNA, so getting a whole bunch of it certainly isn’t a bad thing!

In addition, sardines are packed with vitamin D, which is one of the easiest nutrients to become deficient in nowadays—with people spending so much time inside, getting this vital nutrient from the sun is becoming harder and harder. Thankfully, sardines are one of the best foods for boosting your vitamin D.

Because sardines are low in toxicity and mercury, packed with nutrients, and cheap to boot, it seems like they may be a good addition to a Paleo lifestyle.

What do other Paleo gurus say?

Mark Sisson says: “As for those species that offer both high omega-3s and low toxin risk, here are some budget-friendly samplings: light tuna, anchovies, sardines, Atlantic herring, and Atlantic mackerel. These species are generally wild caught. Because they’re tiny and low on the food chain, tiny fish [like sardines] will be largely free of the heavy metals other, larger fish tend to accumulate.”

Sébastien Noël says: “The next time you’re passing through the canned fish aisle, look a shelf above the cans of salmon, and consider the sardines as well. They’re convenient as a quick snack to throw into your purse or car, and…they provide a lot [of] nutrition.”

Are Sardines Paleo?

Definitely!

Sardines are a great source of many vitamins and minerals with very little toxicity. They’re small and cheap, and while you can eat them out of a can, be sure to choose wholesome varieties—sardines in water or olive oil are better than sardines in, say, mustard or soybean oil. Be sure to check ingredient labels, and enjoy your little fish! It’s okay, you can eat the bones too.

Issue No. 38

Spotlight on Sardines

Sardines photoI visited Japan for the first time in 2014, and one of the things I was blown away by the food.

The sushi was way better than I even expected, and I generally ate tons of great food for less than I expected.

But one of my favorite discoveries – and stick with me here – was sardines.

I know!! Who would have thought?

Fuji (a town near Mount Fuji) is famous for its young sardines, also known as “Shirasu.” You can buy them fresh or dried (we went for fresh), and they’re absolutely delicious.

As it turns out, I’d spent my whole life being afraid that I’d hate this little fish, only to find out just how great they are.

What is a Sardine?

There are actually many fish that are known as “sardines,” but they’re all so closely related genetically that they’re usually just considered to be the same fish. These include many small types of herring that are caught at night, when they rise to the surface of the water to eat plankton.

It is said that Napoleon was responsible for the sardines’ rise in popularity, and although sardines fell out of popularity for a short time, they are making a comeback now as more people realize their impressive health benefits.

Are Sardines Healthy?

Oh yes, let me count the ways:

  1. Sardines are packed with calcitriol, a form of vitamin D that regulates cell cycles. Because the disruption of proper cell cycles is what causes cancer, keeping these cycles the way they’re supposed to be is one of the most effective forms of cancer prevention.
  2. Sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Since our diets often contain far too many omega-6s, these healthy omega-3s help our bodies to balance out and reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease.
  3. The most prevalent nutrient in sardines, vitamin B12, clocks in at a whopping 337% of what you need every day! B12 reduces homocysteine, an element that builds up and plays an important role in the degeneration of bone through osteoporosis. So with all this vitamin B12, sardines do their part to support bone health.
  4. Like most other seafood, sardines are generally full of a variety of vitamins and minerals, too numerous to list here.
  5. The protein in sardines provides us with necessary amino acids that build and regenerate our bodies. These amino acids transport oxygen through the body and repair tissue. Don’t forget that amino acids are also responsible for building antibodies, so the huge dose of protein in these little fish also strengthens the immune system.

Many people are afraid to try sardines, mostly because they seem just about as “weird” as anchovies, for no real reason. Sardines have a rich, flavorful taste without a fishy aftertaste, and there’s really nothing unusual about them at all.

But for those of you who have yet to actually sink your teeth into these tiny fish, there are many options.

How to Choose Sardines

If you can’t make it to Mount Fuji, here are a few tips.

  1. Finding actual, whole sardines could be a bit of quest, as they are usually sold only in cans. However, some stores have sardines at the seafood counter, and they are glad to remove the bones for you. You can ask them to remove the large bones and leave the little bones, as cooking the sardines softens them and you don’t even know they’re there.
  2. You also have a lot of options for buying canned sardines. Some of the most common options are sardines in water, soy oil, canola oil, tomato sauce, and olive oil.
  • When selecting canned sardines, make sure to read the labels for information about what they’re packed in. Be sure to avoid those packed in soy oil, canola oil, or tomato sauce with a lot of sugar in it.
  • Generally, buying sardines packed in water is the best bet—you can always spice them up with some homemade Paleo mayo or put them into your next culinary creation.
  • Remember that while sardines are a great snack just by themselves, they can also be used in a variety of dishes and as a salad topper. Try dumping your sardines into a bowl and mashing in some avocado—it makes a great veggie dip!

Issue No. 35

Sardine Boats

Sardinesimage have excellent health benefits and are tasty as well. I know, when I first heard about sardines, I was hesitant to try them. But time and time again, I read about the anti-inflammatory properties of sardines, as well as, the high omega-3, which is great from everything to skin health to preventing cancer. Honestly, if you like canned tuna fish (but maybe find it a little dry), this oily fish is a great alternative.

Some things about buying sardines:

  1. Make sure that they are skinless and boneless. There are still a few tiny, tiny bones, but they just make the fish a little crunchy. The ones that still have the skin and full bones still scare me a little bit (especially to eat!).
  2. Buy sardines that are packed in oil. The ones that I usually buy are in olive oil. Yes, they are an oily fish, but the ones packed in water just don’t taste as good.

So, this really isn’t a cooking recipe as a great snack or breakfast idea. Often times, I have a little basil plant in the house, and a trim off a basil leaf and fill it with sardines…. so simple, but so delicious. Sometimes I put hot sauce or tomato with the sardine filling, or mix the sardines with some Paleo mayo to create a “sardine salad” with the basil. Really the sky is the limit with this little snack gem.

 

Ingredients

1 package of sardines (boneless, skinless and packed in oil)

1/4 cup of Paleo Mayo (we will have a recipe soon on the site)

1 tomato, sliced (any type will do. Each type has a slightly different texture and taste, so experiment with different types)

8-10 basil leaves

 

Instructions

Mix Paleo Mayo with sardines in a bowl. Place a little bit of the “sardine salad” into each basil leaf.

Place tomato slice on the top.

Enjoy

 

Print Recipe
Sardine Boats
Super easy recipe combining basil leaves with sardines.
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 package sardines boneless, skinless and packed in a Paleo-approved oil
  • 1/4 cup Paleo Mayo recipe to be posted soon
  • 1 sliced tomato any type of tomato - each has a different flavor and texture
  • 8-10 basil leaves
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 package sardines boneless, skinless and packed in a Paleo-approved oil
  • 1/4 cup Paleo Mayo recipe to be posted soon
  • 1 sliced tomato any type of tomato - each has a different flavor and texture
  • 8-10 basil leaves
Instructions
  1. Mix Paleo Mayo with sardines in a bowl.
  2. Place a little bit of the "sardine salad" into each basil leaf.
  3. Place tomato slice on the top.
  4. Enjoy!
Share this Recipe

Why You Should Try Sardines Today.

Sardines
Health Benefits of Sardines

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!