I. Love. Sardines. Once you get over the fact that they smell *strong* to say the least, you’ll realize they are actually quite a mild fish. Sardines are amazing! They are portable (and convenient), they are a great source of protein, Omega-3 fats, and many micronutrients that we often miss out on.
When you consume sardines, you’re getting your daily requirements of fish oil (EPA + DHA), 25% of your daily calcium, plus additional iron, B-vitamins, Vitamin D, and selenium. On sardine days, I skip my fish oil supplement because I know I’m getting the equivalent from real food.
I know, I know, it’s a hard sell. I’m here to advocate for the sardine industry and say JUST TRY THEM. I’ll do my best to convince you in the next 300 words or so…
Sardines Are A Nutritional Powerhouse
Wild Caught Sardines are one of the healthiest foods you can consume, and they fit into almost any diet. Paleo, Keto, Pescatarian, Mediterranean, Anti-Inflammatory, it all works! One can of sardines is around 200 calories, 11g fat, 18g protein and costs $2-$4.
They make a great on-the-go snack (if you pack a toothbrush). The nutrients in sardines are highly bioavailable; meaning your body is able to quickly absorb and use them. For women, I always recommend adding sardines since they are such a great source of calcium without the caveats of dairy products. They are even safe for pregnancy since they are a low-food-chain fish that doesn’t accumulate heavy metals.
A Note About Sustainability
Harvesting of sardines can be restricted from certain areas depending on the population. There are current restrictions in place prohibiting fishing of sardines from Pacific waters. Small fish like sardines go through various periods of “boom and bust” due to factors like weather and ocean temperature. Human consumption of sardines (especially in the U.S.) makes up only a small percentage of fishing pressure. Sardines are used as bait fish and animal feed for larger more in-demand fish like tuna and salmon.
Relying on sardines as a primary source of healthy marine fats is a more sustainable choice than large and/or predatory fish. For the least impact, pick sardines with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo.
How to Shop for Sardines
Wild Caught Sardines are a minimally processed food sold as a convenience item. You can find them at any grocery store. There are a few RED FLAGS and things to look for that make some options better than others.
First, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying Wild-Caught Sardines. This is common, as sardines are not farmed fish, but it should still say it on the label (and in the ingredient list).
Second, be very aware of what the sardines are packed in. I prefer sardines in oil, as they have more flavor, tend to be less “dry”, and have a much better flavor. However, ensure that they are in OLIVE OIL and not Soybean Oil or other toxic seed oils. This just RUINS a good thing. When you introduce vegetable and seed oils into your diet, you disrupt the omega balance (Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio) and promote inflammation.
Lastly, consider the form. Most sardine “newbies” do best with skinless, boneless filets. They won’t have any of the scales or crunchy bones and taste very mild, almost like chicken. While these are lower in calcium, they will still have high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids.
If you’re simply going for health and can stomach them, try whole sardines! They come cleaned without heads (thank goodness!) but will have the skin, scales, and bones. These parts are what contain the most calcium and Vitamin D. If you want healthy bones, EAT THE BONES. They are really delicate and you can hardly notice them.
Get Kate’s Sardine Recipes Here!
The Best Prices on Canned Sardines
I order my sardines in bulk from Thrive Market. I’m able to get superior quality sardines for less than $2 a can! My favorite brands are Crowne Prince, Season, Bela, and Henry&Lisa’s. You can also find them on Amazon, and at most grocery stores.
Dress up your sardines by adding them to toast or mixing them with a little primal mayo and eating with seed-based crackers. Here’s a FREE Sardine Recipe Guide for a few more creative twists!
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