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Sardines - a Superfood?

I’ll admit I used to turn up my nose at tinned sardines and would never consider buying them. With a few exceptions, I always thought of tinned foods as cheap and lacking in nutrients – yes, I was a total food snob about them! Fast forward a few years (or more) and I’ve become a little obsessed with these fish! And it’s not just all about the nutrition benefits either.

Practical Benefits

They're Cheap

One tin of 120g sardines (one serving) cost 40p at the time of writing! For any complete protein (ie. One that contains all the essential amino acids, or protein building blocks) – that is a serious bargain. Even more so when you take on board all the nutritional benefits.

Long Shelf Life

With a shelf life of a few years, these are definitely a practical food. In fact, they’ll be the first foods thrown into my backpack in the event of an apocalypse…..a ring pull just makes it extra convenient!

Already Cooked

Like other tinned fish, sardines are pre-cooked and so are perfect to have on hand for a quick and easy meal. Come back for some recipe and food suggestions you might want to try.

Nutritional benefits

Now for the stuff I get really excited about!

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

As an oily fish, this is the obvious nutritional benefit. Unlike tinned tuna, the sardines retain their healthy fats.
Like other oily fish, sardines are a great source of the omega 3 fatty acids. Specifically - the long chain omega 3 fatty acids– EPA and DHA, which can help to control inflammation in the body, support heart health and are important for brain development. More on these benefits another time…

As sardines are relatively low down on the food chain (they only eat plankton) they are relatively low in mercury, which is one of the concerns about larger oily fish species, and why current recommendations limit us to 3 portions each week. The low mercury content makes sardines a great choice for pregnant women and anyone with detoxification issues.

100g of drained sardines contains 2.5g of omega 3 fatty acids. Although daily recommended intakes vary individually, this is 115% of an average recommended daily intake.*

Tip: Go for olive oil, water or tomato sauce over sunflower or vegetable oils, to keep a healthy fatty acid balance.

Vitamin D

Many of us don’t get enough vitamin D from our diets or the sun, and so finding good food sources is really important. Vitamin D isn’t just important for healthy bones. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to a number of health conditions including depression, fatigue, muscle pain, and it is an important nutrient to support a healthy immune system and cardiovascular health.

100g of drained sardines contains 3.6 mcg of vitamin D – that’s 72% of your daily recommended intake*

Vitamin B12

One serving of sardines is packed with this important B vitamin – giving you over 150% of your daily recommended intake. Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in a process called methylation, which is needed for energy production, neurotransmitter production (the chemical messengers in the nervous system), cardiovascular health and detoxification.

100g of sardines provides 15mcg of vitamin B12, which is 600% of the recommended intake*

Sardines are also good sources of other B vitamins, including vitamin B2, B3, B5 and biotin.

Calcium and Phosporus

Edible bones in sardines make them a great source of calcium.

100g or sardines provides 500mg of calcium, which is 63% of an average adult recommended daily intake.

Calcium is important for healthy bones, as is phosphorus, which is also found in large quantities in tinned sardines. 1

100g provides 520mg of phosphorus, which is 74% of the recommended daily intake*


Another mineral that sardines provide in abundance is selenium. This is a powerful antioxidant to help combat free radicals, and is crucial for effective thyroid function.

100g of sardines provided 49mcg of selenium, which is 89% of the recommended daily intake.*

Who could benefit from adding SARDINES to their diet?

With such good levels of key nutrients, many of us could do well to add tinned sardines into our diet, but in particular I recommend them if you:

  • Are pregnant. As I mentioned, the mercury levels are comparatively low in comparison to other oily fish, and the DHA omega 3 fatty acid is important for foetal brain development.
  • Are concerned with detoxification issues. Again, this is due to the low mercury content in comparison to other oily fish.
  • Experience affective mood disorders, such as depression. Deficiencies in omega 3 fatty acids, low vitamin D levels and methylation issues have all been linked to depression.
  • Want to reduce inflammation in your body.
  • Are looking for a cheap, nutrient dense food that can add some variety to your diet.

Buy some tins and come back for some easy recipe and food suggestions!

*Recommended daily intakes are sourced from a 100g tin of sardines in olive oil, drained. (Nutritics, 2018). Please note that recommended daily intakes are an average and individual needs may significantly differ.

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