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How Healthy are Sardines?

Is eating sardines healthy? Find out what health benefits these tiny little fish in the peel-off can have to offer.You may be surprised.

You’ve seen them in those funny, peel-off cans at the grocery store. Canned sardines are a polarizing food. Some people love them, and some can’t even stand the smell – much less the taste. But are you doing your body good when you load a sardine onto a cracker with a little mustard or barbeque sauce? Are sardines healthy?

The Health Benefits of Sardines: They’re Heart Healthy

Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats that decrease triglycerides and lower the risk of heart disease. The omega-3’s found in sardines have the added benefit of suppressing inflammation – which could reduce the pain and discomfort experienced by people with arthritis. Research is only in its infancy on the health benefits of omega-3’s – and sardines has plenty of them. Plus, sardines are a smaller fish that’s low in mercury and other dangerous contaminants. It’s one of the safer fish you can eat if you’re worried about mercury.

Eating Sardines Keeps Bones Strong

Natural sources of vitamin D, other than the sun, are hard to come by, but a single can of sardines supplies almost seventy percent of a day’s requirement. Vitamin D also helps increase the absorption of calcium to build strong bones. The benefits of getting more vitamin D are just starting to emerge – and most people don’t get enough of it. Eating sardines can help to change that. They’re also a good source of natural calcium.

The Health Benefits of Sardines: Protein Power in a Can

Sardines are an excellent source of protein with almost 23 grams in a single serving. Unlike other animal sources of protein that are high in saturated fat, sardines are a source of healthy, polyunsaturated ones. They’re also an excellent source of B12 which non-red meat and dairy eaters don’t get enough of. Vitamin B12 is critical for building healthy red blood cells and for keeping the brain and peripheral nervous system healthy. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to permanent neurological damage.

Eating Sardines: What’s Not So Good About Them

On the downside, canned sardines are pretty high in salt – with up to 450 milligrams in a single serving. You can also get extra, unhealthy fat if you buy them packed in oil. Sardines usually aren’t packed in oils that contain heart-healthy omega-3’s, but soybean oil, which is higher in omega-6’s. Choose the ones packed in water, mustard, or tomato sauce instead to keep a  meal of sardines healthy and low in calories.

Sardines are also high in purines, which may increase the risk of gout in susceptible individuals. People who have a history of gout should talk to their doctor before eating too many sardines.

The Bottom Line

These polarizing little fish with the powerful odor are one of the healthier seafood choices, although canned sardines can be high in salt. Look for ones packed in water and with as low a sodium content as possible. Enjoy all of the health benefits of eating sardines.

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