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Are canned sardines healthy?

Are canned sardines healthy?

Sardines, love them or hate them, are gaining popularity on TikTok as a trendy snack. Despite their reputation in the US, these small, nutrient-rich fish are a staple in European and Asian cuisine, with Portugal and Spain considering tinned fish a delicacy.

Often misunderstood, sardines, whether eaten alone or as a pasta or rice topping, are both underrated and delicious. Are they healthy? We explore their nutritional value, potential risks, and recommend the healthiest types.

Canned sardines nutrition

The nutritional content of canned sardines depends on factors like type, processing, packing, added ingredients, and brand. A standard serving is one can, approximately 3 ounces (85 grams). Sardines, with small and digestible bones, can be consumed whole.

Besides providing protein and healthy fats, they are abundant in vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus, and selenium. Additionally, sardines offer potassium, iron, zinc, and choline.

Are sardines a good source of protein?

Sardines serve as a great protein source, providing over 20 grams in a single can. For healthy adults, the recommended daily protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This translates to approximately 54 grams for a 150-pound adult. Additionally, canned sardines are cost-effective, starting at roughly $3 per can, with a long shelf life even when unopened.

Are sardines good for weight loss?

With a serving size of approximately half a cup drained, providing 200 calories or less, sardines offer a low-calorie protein source. The abundant protein content aids in sustaining satiety, promoting the development of lean muscle mass, and contributing to weight loss.

Sardines also play a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels and enhancing metabolism. Although being an oily fish often canned in oil, the fat present in canned sardines carries proven health benefits.

Health benefits of canned sardines

Fish is a key component of a healthy diet, and sardines are recognized as one of the healthiest seafood options. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), a beneficial type of polyunsaturated fat, sardines offer numerous health advantages.

A single can delivers two grams of omega-3s, among the highest levels found in any fish, as highlighted by the Cleveland Clinic. The fatty acids and nutrients in sardines contribute to heart, brain, skin, and immune health.

Canned sardines for heart health

Sardines, rich in omega-3s, promote heart health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Scientific studies confirm that omega-3s lower blood triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, and prevent platelet aggregation.

Additionally, omega-3-rich foods enhance good HDL cholesterol and decrease bad LDL cholesterol. Elevated omega-3 levels in the blood are linked to a lower risk of heart failure and fatal coronary disease.

Canned sardines for bone health

Sardines, along with their bones, offer a significant calcium source, supplying approximately 50% of your daily calcium requirements in just one can. Calcium is crucial for promoting bone growth and development. Additionally, the presence of vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus in sardines further supports the formation of robust bones.

Canned sardines for brain health

Sardines offer remarkable benefits for brain health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the nutrients in sardines, including omega-3s, iron, and choline, support the brain development of children during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Studies indicate that omega-3s are connected to memory, well-being, and cerebral blood flow.

DHA, a prominent omega-3 fatty acid comprising 40% of brain fatty acids, shows evidence of reducing cognitive decline. Additionally, omega-3s are linked to improved mental health, with studies suggesting potential benefits for depression and anxiety.

Canned sardines for skin

Sardines contribute essential nutrients crucial for maintaining healthy skin. Omega-3s, found in abundance in sardines, show evidence of combating inflammation in the body. These fatty acids hold promise for addressing skin conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and other inflammatory issues.

Additionally, the inclusion of canned sardines and similar fatty fish in the Mediterranean diet has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and skin-enhancing effects.

Risks associated with canned sardines

Sardines are generally safe for consumption, except for individuals with fish allergies or sensitivities, as noted by experts. Always consult with your doctor if you have concerns.

Most fish, including sardines, may contain trace amounts of mercury absorbed from water. High levels of mercury can be toxic for adults and pose risks for pregnant women and young children. Fortunately, sardines have low mercury levels and are labeled a “best choice” by the FDA, making them safe for pregnant women and children.

One consideration with canned sardines is their sodium content, which can be high in some varieties. This is a concern for individuals with kidney disease, high blood pressure, or a history of stroke, as advised by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day for adults.

Is it safe to eat canned sardines every day?

Incorporating fish such as sardines into your diet is essential for overall health, but like any food, moderation is crucial. The FDA suggests consuming two to three servings of sardines per week. Diversifying your seafood choices rather than sticking to the same type each week is a wise approach.

Are canned sardines better for you than canned tuna?

According to experts, opting for canned sardines is typically a healthier decision compared to choosing canned tuna. Despite both being rich in protein, sardines are more nutrient-dense, boasting a higher total omega-3 (DHA and EPA) content than tuna.

Sardines have lower mercury levels than tuna, with a mean concentration of 0.013 parts per million, as per the FDA. In comparison, canned light tuna has 0.12 parts per million, and albacore tuna has 0.35 parts per million. Some tuna varieties, like bigeye, have even higher mercury levels. If the skin and bones in canned sardines are a concern, boneless and skinless options are also available.

What are the healthiest type of canned sardines?

Canned sardines come in various types, such as those packed in water, olive oil, vegetable oil, or tomato sauce. While all offer health benefits, opt for sardines in extra virgin olive oil or a blend with natural ingredients like preserved lemon.

Extra virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, adds an extra dose of omega-3, although the oil is usually drained before eating. Experts advise choosing BPA-free cans and opting for wild-caught sardines for lower fat content, better flavor, and a broader range of nutrients.

Enjoy sardines directly from the can or incorporate them into salads and pasta for a satisfying and nutritious meal.