Fishy Diet Advice: The Health Benefits of Sardines

By: 
True You
October 21, 2021

There are plenty of fishy nutritional claims out there, but how good is it for you to actually eat fish? Specifically, are sardines good for you? Some might think a fish is a fish, but do these salty little snacks packed in oil actually do more nutritional harm or good?

Introducing the Sardine

When people think of fatty, oily fish, salmon might come to mind, or even herring. It turns out that the sardine, the herring’s smaller cousin, is a great source of the nutrients people often look for in fish. Packed with a wide range of nutrients that help with heart health, brain function, your immune system, and even thyroid function, sardines are some of the healthiest seafood you can eat.

Though named for the island of Sardinia where they were once fished heavily, sardines are found in many areas of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. These high-protein fish packed with healthy fats have been eaten for centuries, and their benefits are still prized by dietitians today. 

The Mediterranean diet gets a lot of attention in current dietary and nutritional circles, and sardines are an important component of many dishes in Mediterranean cuisine. As an excellent source of many nutrients, sardines can provide you with high levels of many different vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats including:

  • vitamin b12
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • selenium
  • magnesium
  • omega 3 fatty acid
  • niacin
  • iodine 

How Often Should You Eat Sardines?

For many people, eating fish regularly is considered a healthy dietary practice. Sadly, due to the high mercury levels in most fish, it may be wiser to space out your fish intake to two or three days a week. Additionally, for some people, the high sodium levels or the fat content of sardines packed in olive oil may make daily consumption inadvisable. 

Health Benefits of Sardines

There can be debate about whether the sardine is a superfood, but the health benefits are undeniable. Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, sardines are also rich in a host of other nutrients such as calcium, protein, various vitamins, and selenium. 

Sitting lower in the food chain than other fatty fish we eat, tiny fish like sardines and anchovies have the benefit of containing lower levels of contaminants such as mercury or other heavy metals that can become a concern in larger fish like tilapia, salmon, or mackerel. 

When it comes to bone health, sardines pack a punch, with a can of sardines giving you more than half of your daily recommended dose of calcium. In addition to being an excellent source of calcium, sardines are also packed with nutrients that are essential to bone health. Phosphorus, vitamin D, and magnesium are all part of the larger set of nutrients it takes to keep your bones healthy.

Should People Avoid Sardines?

As is the case with all healthy foods, there are reasons some people should avoid eating sardines. Pregnant women, somewhat predictably, fall in this category. The chances of contaminants, and mercury levels in particular, in fish can present a threat during pregnancy, and as a result sardines should be avoided. 

Despite being nutritious, the high levels of purines in sardines can represent a problem for people who are prone to gout. High levels of purines can result in elevated levels of uric acid for people with gout, and eating fish like sardines can prompt an attack of joint pain. 

Along a similar line, those who struggle with kidney stones should avoid sardines due to the elevated levels of uric acid. The high levels of sodium in pickled sardines can put more calcium into your urine, which can make you more prone to kidney stones. 

The high sodium levels in sardines can be a challenge for people with high blood pressure. The sodium in sardines can contribute to an increase in blood volume as your body processes the salt, which can place you at higher risk for heart disease. 

If you fall in any of these categories, but are still looking to enjoy the wellness benefits brought about by eating fish, fish oil supplements can often be a good source of the nutrients you are looking for. While these supplements may not be as nutritious or as tasty as fresh sardines, the benefit of avoiding possible negative consequences.

Is it Healthy to Eat Sardines Every Day?

There are few hard and fast rules in nutrition about what people should or should not eat every day. Whether you should consume sardines daily depends on your tolerance for sodium and  health conditions like high blood pressure or gout. 

Even if you don’t have gout, it may be good to balance your proteins and only consume sardines occasionally. The potential exposure to mercury and heavy metals in fish can be a concern, and the high sodium intake may not be good for some people. 

Sardines and Weight Loss

Everyone’s weight loss goals are unique, and the diets that work for us are unique as well. That said, there are some commonalities and basic rules that work when you are trying to lose weight. 

One of these general rules is that maintaining a high protein diet with fewer carbs and processed foods, and pairing it with exercise, is a reliable route to dropping the pounds. To do this well, though, you need to do more than just cut the calories. Especially if you are exercising, you need to fuel your body well with the vitamins and minerals necessary to rebuild tissues worn down during a workout and to build the lean muscle mass that can help your body become even more efficient at burning fat. 

The silvery sardine is no silver bullet in weight loss, but they are an excellent protein source to include in your diet. With no carbs and relatively few calories, sardines already make a compelling case as a protein source. What really sets them apart is the presence of omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients. Omega 3 fatty acids in particular have been linked to metabolic changes such as appetite suppression and inflammation, both of which can play a role in weight management and disease progression. 

One of the other benefits of sardines is deceptively simple, and that is how they are packaged. Portion control is one of the first lines of defense in the battle to curbing caloric intake, especially here in America. For people not used to the practice, packaging and portioning your food can be tiresome. Since sardines already come in a small tidy package, there is a built-in check to make sure you aren’t getting carried away with “just one more bite.”

There is no single food, and no single path that everyone can follow to freedom from the problems brought by excess body weight. Going through the work of losing weight can be a long and arduous process, and it is even harder alone. This is especially true for people who are further along in their journey with weight loss. If it feels as though you have tried everything, it can be hard to keep going even in the face of dire medical complications from obesity. 

At True You Weight Loss, we know the dangers and challenges of trying to lose large amounts of excess body weight. We also know what it takes to guide someone toward the right path, procedure, or process that will help them the most. This might mean weight loss injections, medical nutrition therapy, a procedure like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) or even a gastric revision.

Whatever the path is ahead of you in managing your weight, if you are interested in learning more about True You Weight Loss, request a consultation today. 

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