Packed like Sardines
By Alyssa Adler
Sardines are small fish that are packed with flavor and nutrients. Sardines are actually not a species, but rather different types of tiny fish. Sardines swim in shallow water in large schools, mostly in European countries (Food and Nutrition). These fish feed from straining plankton in the sea where they swim, marking them low on the aquatic food chain. That means that sardines are low in mercury and heavy metal contaminates compared to other fish.
Fun Fact: A person can get 33% of their daily calcium from only 3 ounces of sardines! That is more calcium per serving than milk!
Sardines have so much calcium because of their edible bones. Sardines also contain ample amounts of protein and vitamin D, which helps with bone health and reduces risks for osteoporosis (AICR). Additionally, sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and offer protection for cancer and heart disease (AICR). Sardines can either be canned in omega-3 fat, known as fish oil, or canned in soybean oil. Soybean oil contains omega-6 fatty acids, which are an essential fat, but Americans typically have enough omega-6 in their diet, so it’s better to look for the ones packed in fish oil.
During the summertime sardines are often sold fresh in markets. All year round sardines can be found canned, smoked or salted. Sardines are canned, as whole sardines or filets, either with or without the skin and bones. Sardine skin and bones are edible, but they can be bought either depending on preference. Sardines are usually canned in water, oil, or sauce (tomato or mustard).
It is important to be careful with the amount of sodium in canned sardines, as salt may be used for preservative purposes. Look for sardines that are canned in fish oil, water, olive oil, or tomato sauce (AICR). Canned sardines usually have a long shelf life, however once a can is opened it can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Sardines can be eaten as a snack, or added to a meal. Grill or broil fresh sardines from the local market in the summer, or spread canned sardines with some mustard on crackers or toast. Or, eat sardines plain or add them to salads, sandwiches, or sauces!
Alyssa Adler is a Boston University Graduate from Long Island, New York. She was CFYL’s 2016 summer web intern after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. She has since gone on to earn her Masters degree, and is now a Clinical Nutritionist at Mt. Sinai’s St. Luke’s hospital here in New York City. Alyssa has a food blog called Red Delicious and Nutritious which focuses on healthy eating and living and how decadent foods can be made wholesome and delicious. A woman after our own heart!