All the Reasons to Start Loving Sardines, of All Fish

It's time the United States stopped hating on sardines. I'm not sure why, but it seems like they got a bad, bad, bad reputation. Why ever so? In my opinion, they're not fishy in the slightest. On the contrary, they're mild and effortless. You don't even have to cook them! And just wait until you learn about all those health benefits. By the end of this article, you'll be reaching for that can that's been lying in the pantry for years. 

Why we love them

canned sardines

If it's the canning that stops you from eating sardines, you can get them fresh in certain areas. The reason they're usually canned is only that they spoil so easily. Canned as they may be, sardines contain the least amount of mercury and other heavy metals of all edible fish. That's because they feed exclusively on plankton. They reproduce quickly, are sustainably caught, and are low on the food chain - all three traits make fishing them almost harmless to the environment. 

Besides, what's not to like about fish you don't even have to cook? If you get them fresh, sure - you can grill them, steam them, or fry them. But if you get them canned, you can eat them as they are (it's not as hardcore as you think, I promise), add them to salads or sandwiches, or enjoy them on top of crackers, pizza, or pasta. You can also easily mash them into a paste to add to any recipe you desire. 

Sardine Recipes

Here's a nice trick: you can broil sardines in the oven, and you don't even need to remove them from the can. Open the can, don't drain it, add herbs to your liking, and broil them for 1 minute in a pre-heated oven. Voila!

Looking for more complex recipes?

Start your day with fisherman's eggs- click here for the recipe
Here's a recipe for the lucky ones who have fresh sardines- click here for the recipe

But if all of this isn't enough to convince you, take a look at that beautiful nutritional profile. 

Nutritional profile

seasoned sardines

Cardiovascular health
Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. This high content of the anti-inflammatory compound contributes to heart health, decreases triglycerides in your blood while increasing good cholesterol, and keeps your arteries clean. 
Bone health
Sardines are particularly high in vitamins B-12 and D.  Just 1 cup of sardines will give you 3 times the daily value of B-12. This vitamin, along with vitamin D, contributes to both cardiovascular and bone health.
Since they're eaten with the bones, sardines also offer high quantities of calcium- about 1/3 of the daily value in one serving. The combination of calcium and vitamin D is a bone-strength booster, as vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium better. This is why sardines are sometimes recommended for pregnant women and older adults.
Another nutrient worth mentioning is phosphorous, which neutralizes acids that could harm your bones.
Sardines are also impressively high in protein and iron. When shopping for canned ones, choose them canned in water or olive oil and avoid soybean oil, for this may affect the natural omega-3 efficiency. Other minerals and vitamins you can get from sardines are niacin, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

Sardines or anchovies?

anchovy on toast
Personally, I prefer sardines. They're significantly less salty. The two are often confused because they're both small and usually canned. Sardines are processed in heat before canning, whereas anchovies are only cured in salt. They're also way smaller.
Anchovies are slightly higher in iron, zinc, niacin, and protein. Just 3.5 oz of this tiny fish will provide you with your daily value of niacin and selenium. Selenium plays a role in reducing oxidative stress and maintaining heart health.
Sardines are higher in vitamins B12 and D, while anchovies offer more protein, iron, zinc, and niacin.
But if you have high blood pressure, kidney problems, or gout - avoid both. Canned anchovies may affect you negatively due to their high sodium content. You should prefer them fresh or avoid them entirely. Sardines contain purines, a substance that creates uric acid that can build up and cause kidney and gout issues but only for those susceptible. If your health is in top shape, please enjoy your helping of sardines carefree. 
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4
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