Health Benefits of Sardines

Health Benefits of Sardines
February 11, 2015 7:33 AM

If you like sardines and want to learn more about their health benefits and anti-oxidant effects, check out this post, which also features information about nutrients contained in sardines and some simple recipes. And as a bonus, the article provides a brief information about history of this popular sea fish, which got its name after an island, where it was first seen:

Named after an Italian island “Sardinia”, where it was perhaps first found abundantly, sardines belong to the Clutpeidae family. It categorized into 21 varieties sold with the name of Sardines and adult sardine know as Pilchards. Sardina, sardinella, sardinops and dussumieriaare are some popular species of this family, which are all known by the similar name Sardine. All of these species have common characteristics, as they are oil-rich, small in size, salt water habitant and have silvery soft bones. Sardines in the USA usually refer to as small herring (fish that lives in groups). Atlantic, Pacifies, Mediterranean Sea are some places where sardines are found in large numbers. Norway, Spain, Portugal, and France are the leading share holder of the canned sardines’ production.

Canned Sardine: A history

Napoleon Bonaparte is known as a pioneer in canning sardine. Although sardine is known to man for a few millennia, but canning became an instant hit all over the Europe in the 18th century. It reached the USA a little late, but it became a fame in the late 19th and early 20th century. People found it the best form of stored food and with the growing concerns of health, people have started to use it as an incredible source of omega -3 fatty acids and vitamins. Sardines, unlike other fish, are less contaminated with mercury and other chemicals, which is another point in its popularity.

Sardine: Fresh and Canned

Olive oil and soybean oil are generally used for canning sardine, but for those who are worried about their fat intakes can also have sardine packed in water. But, do check the expiry in both cases. Canned sardine can be stored in kitchen cabinet, but not in those expose to heat. Once opened, keep the can in a refrigerator and use it before its expiry. If you are purchasing fresh sardine then it should be firm to touch, must have bright eyes, shiny skin and should smell fresh. It stays best if stored at 28-32 F, but refrigerator’s normal temperature (36-40 degree Fahrenheit) would also be good. If not stored properly, they would start to smelling, would dry out and might become slimy.

Sardine - A Small Fish with Rich Nutrient Profile

This small fish carries a heavy load of nutrients in it. It is basically famous for omega -3 fatty acid and vitamin D. Additionally, it is also a good means of B12, selenium, phosphorous, protein, niacin, choline, copper, iodine, calcium, vitamin B3 and other important vitamins. In a crux, it is a MIRACLE FISH. Sardine is a powerhouse of super nutrients and vitamin that you should take in your food.

Here is the nutritional breakdown of sardines.


Each 3.85-ounce of oil packed sardine provides 191 grams calories, 1.4 g of fat and 22.7 grams of protein. This would be 45 percent daily value of proteins, 16 percent fat, and almost 30-35 percent proteins.


3.85 ounce of sardines contain 338 mcg of vitamin B12, which can actually give you 137 percent daily requirements of vitamin B12. According to Linus Paulling Institute, taking sufficient amount of Vitamin B12 lower the chances of heart and cancer.

Same can of 3.85 ounce fish carries 175.09 IU of vitamin D, which ensures that you get 44 percent daily value of vitamin D and consuming this much vitamin D will help you fight against cancer and arthritis.

It contains as much as 12 percent daily value of riboflavin and 24 percent daily value of niacin. Riboflavin helps against cataracts and migraines. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, niacin sets your body system against Alzheimer’s disease and prevents you from arthritis.


This little fish is surprisingly filled with a lot of essential minerals. Each can of sardine contains 35 percent daily value of calcium, 15 percent iron, 10 percent potassium, 45 percent phosphorous. Calcium is important for proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Iron is an important component of red blood cells and these cells carries oxygen to all parts of our body. For DNA formation and storage of energy, phosphorous is important. Potassium counteracts the action of sodium and saves you from hypertension.

Omega-3 Fats

500 milligrams daily intake of EPA and DHA is recommended according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This much EPA and DHA would protect you from heart problems. Only three ounces of sardine provide you with 835 milligrams of omega-3 (including EPA and DHA).

Health Benefits of Sardines

Promote Heart Health

Sardines are extremely rich in both Omega-3 and vitamin B12. A serving (3.85 ounce) of sardine contains 50 % daily value of Omega-3 and vitamin B12. Both these constituents play a vital role in upholding cardiovascular health. Among Omega-3, EPA and DHA help in the regulation of blood triglycerides and cholesterol. To be more precise, EPA and DHA help decrease the concentration of LDL (bad cholesterol) and boost the concentration of HDL (good cholesterol). Once the concentration of cholesterol is regularized, the heart health and blood pressure improve automatically. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-oxidants. Being powerful anti-oxidants, these ingredients scavenge oxygen derived free radicals and their resultant damage. Moreover, these fatty acids prevent the abnormal clotting of blood, which significantly decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Presence of Vitamin B12 makes sardine one the world’s healthiest foods in ranking. Vitamin B12 maintains homocysteine level in blood, as imbalanced homocysteine can damage the wall of arteries. Stronger and healthy arteries lessen the chances of atherosclerosis. Coenzyme Q10, an important constituent of sardine and a natural antioxidant, can help improve heart health as well.

Strengthen the Bones

Vitamin D, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12 are some ingredients in sardines that make it a perfect recipe for stronger bones. No one can deny the importance of calcium in bones health. Additionally, high level of vitamin D in sardines make sure that all the calcium makes its way to your bones. Calcium and B12 contribute in improving osteoporosis status. Whereas, vitamin B12 regulates homocysteine, which might additionally help with osteoporosis. Phosphorous, as an important part of bone mixture, strengthens the bones.

Healthy Growth and Body Development

Sardines are a perfect blend of all the essential amino acids, which in turn are pivotal for the protein synthesis in our bodies. Amino acid are good for our cells, connective tissues and muscles. They also contribute in improving the distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Most importantly, almost all of your immune system is made up of proteins (amino acids basically), which acts as a barricade against the foreign invaders (viruses and bacteria for instance).

Vitality and Energy

Iron plays an important role in oxygen supply in the body through red blood cells. A good iron level helps to maintain a high energy level and this would leads to an active lifestyle. Sardines are helpful in improving iron status in everyone, but more so in females. Females are more likely to lose iron, thanks to their regular menstrual cycle. Eating sardines can be a good addition to your body reserves.


Sardines are naturally rich in potent antioxidant, like omega-3 and CoQ10. In fact, it is one of the few foods that contains abundant CoQ10. This antioxidant not only supports good heart health but also manages hypertension. Researches have proved that this antioxidant reduces the chances of kidney cancer.

You can get as much as 87% of your daily selenium needs from one can of sardines. Selenium is another natural oxidant that saves your body from the damage inflicted by free oxygen radicals. It also contributes in cell division and prevents chromosomes from breakage. Chromosomal destruction becomes more important if it is during the process of reproduction, when a little damage to chromosomes can cause a serious disorder in offspring. It also helps in increasing the count and quality of male sperms and lessens the chances of miscarriages in female.

Helpful in Weight Loss

Adult sardine, pilchards, can help you if you’re trying to lose some fat. This fish increases metabolism rate of your body and burns fat at a faster rate. In addition to an effective fitness program, a healthy food would help you achieve your weight/fat loss goals. If you’re designing your nutrition plan for weight/fat loss, don’t miss any chance of including sardines into that plan.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is observed in people aged 50 and above. It is a condition in which people lose their vision due to Macular and retinal degeneration- two important structures in the back of your eye that help you see clearly. In recent studies, it is observed that fish, particularly sardine, really play a significant role in reducing AMD risk.


Research proves that Vitamin D, in the form of calcitriol, regulates cell activity. Cell cycle is a key factor for cancer development in the body. A regular supply of vitamin D ensures that the cell cycle in your body continues without glitches and the risk of cancer decreases.

Healthy Skin

If you want healthy and beautiful skin then sardine can help you. Essential fats present in sardine work on a cellular level in your skin. There are several ways how sardines might help rejuvenate your skin. First, it’s rich in fats that your body needs. Second, it is rich in antioxidants that save your body from the damage done by oxidants, which usually follow exposure to sunlight. Finally, it saves your skin from inflammation and its related diseases.

Immune system

How come sardines help boost immune status? A valid question indeed! The answer is simple. A fish rich in all kinds of amino acids, iron, vitamins, essential fatty acids and antioxidants definitely build up your immune system. Researches prove that sardine fish oil boosts your immune system by increasing the count of immune cells.

Insulin Resistance

The hallmark of type 2 diabetes is higher resistance to available insulin. In other words, your body secrets insulin, but your systems don’t respond to it the way they should, something known as insulin resistance. Researches have shown that proteins present in sardine reduce insulin resistance more defiantly as compared to casein protein.

Source of Proteins

Proteins and amino acids are basic building blocks of our body and sardine is extremely rich in them. Our body prepares proteins from amino acids. Once the proteins are formed, they make up a variety of your body constituents like bones, connective tissues, body enzymes, and so on. Proteins also form antibodies, which keep your immune system up to date. Additionally, proteins serve as transporters and deliver oxygen and other nutrients to your body tissues.

Brain Health

Increased oxidative stress is the key pathology in a variety of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and autism. Although all antioxidant in sardines play their role in saving brain from oxidative damage, but Omega-3 fatty acids deserve special mention here. Results from countless clinical studies have shown that eating fish and fish oils, containing omega-3 fatty acid saves from brain from oxidative stress. In fact, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is a known adjuvant in the therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, niacin sets your body system against Alzheimer’s disease and prevents you from arthritis.

Joint Support

Joint damage starts when your body is exposed to inflammation, as happens during conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other forms of joint pain. If you or someone around you have ever faced joint damage, you would know how painful these conditions are. Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are helpful, but come with several drawbacks as well. What’s the alternative? If you might ask. The one word answer to your question is “Sardines”. Yes, something as simple as eating sardines can save you from joint pain and inflammation by suppressing the formation of inflammatory mediators and suppressing the damage inflicted by free radicals.

Some Simple Recipes

It’s quite easy to cook sardine as it can be cooked, grilled or baked. Cooked sardine can be served as a main dish, side dish, and can even be mixed in salads. Here are some simple to follow recipes that you can use at home.

  • Grill sardines by applying a mixture of lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, condiments.
  • Make a Greek salad. Slightly cook sardine in olive oil for few minutes, cut it in pieces and add chopped cucumber, olives and tomato in to it. To improve flavor add vinegar, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Sprinkle chopped parsley and enjoy it.
  • Sardines can be eaten in combination with chopped onion, fennel, or olives.
  • Sardine with tomatoes, rosemary, and basil oregano.
  • Make a sauce with extra virgin olive oil, pressed garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. Serve over sardines.
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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
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Published: February 11, 2015 7:33 AM
Next scheduled update: February 11, 2017 7:33 AM
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