June and July are known for the sardine run on the Kwazulu- Natal coastline. Once the word gets out there is frenzy as crowds gather to witness the event. When it comes to sardines you are one of two kinds of people (also known as pilchards): You love them and eat them regularly or you can’t stand them!
Sardines are often called one of the healthiest fish to eat as they are high in nutrients and they are certainly one of the most budget friendly fish to consume.
They have a strong smell and a stronger taste. They may be weird and scary for some because they have bones and skin and you don’t want to try them. There are however so many great reasons why you should try this healthy fish.. you may be surprised at how tasty they are!
The Benefits of Sardines
Sardines are a tiny fish with a very big nutrient profile! In fact, very few other foods pack the same amount of nutrients per 30g. Liver can comes pretty close, but it is often more dreaded than the humble sardine!
6 reasons you should learn to love them
Source of Omega-3
Omega-3s benefit the body in many ways and are well-studied for their importance in the body. Sardines provide both EPA and DHA fats, which are beneficial for the brain, heart and to reduce inflammation.
Most people consume large amounts of high Omega-6 oils like vegetable oil and margarine. This may create imbalance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats in the body and lead to a variety of problems. DHA and EPA are the most easily usable forms of Omega 3 for the body and consuming these from foods like sardines and other fatty fish can help correct this ratio.
Various studies show the importance of consuming enough Omega-3 to keep cholesterol levels in healthy ranges, to support heart health, to support the brain and for optimal fertility and hormone balance.
Source of Selenium
Selenium and iodine are synergistic and occur together in most naturally occurring sources, including sardines. In fact, one can of sardines contains almost the entire RDA (recommended daily allowance) of selenium and a smaller amount of iodine. This may help the body obtain a proper balance of selenium and iodine.
Bioavailable Calcium & Phosphorus
Sardines (even canned ones) are great because they are one of the few animal foods that we still consume all of, including the bones and skin. While this makes some people squeamish, these “odd bits” of the fish have important vitamins and minerals, including a great dose of calcium from the bones. One can contains about 1/3 of the recommended daily amount of calcium in a highly absorbable form.
More are having reactions to dairy. Cconsuming fish with bones is one of the ways to get enough calcium without consuming dairy.
Phosphorus is an important mineral for bone and tooth health as well and can be difficult to find in food sources. Sardines are one of the best natural food sources, which is why they are often recommended for healthy skin, teeth and bones.
Vitamin D Boost
The vast majority of us are Vitamin D deficient. One can of sardines contains almost half of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D.
High in Protein
Sardines are a great protein choice. These tiny fish are considered a very “efficient food” since they contain a very high amount of vitamins, protein and Omega-3 for the amount of calories they contain.
Low in Mercury and Other Metals
Heavy metal contamination is an understandable concern with consuming fish. Especially in the wake of recent contamination, many people are concerned about eating fish. Thankfully, sardines are considered one of the safest fish to consume due to their small size.
Sardines eat plankton and are at the bottom of the ocean food chain. This means that they contain much less mercury and other heavy metals than larger fish such as tuna.
Ways to Eat Sardines (Without Gagging)
So, you have some sardines. You know they are healthy. Yet, that can stares back at you like a menacing foe! The most common way to consume them is on salted crackers. If you avoid grains like I do, or just aren’t a fan of the refined flour, there are many other delicious ways to eat them. They are a little bit of an acquired taste, but you can learn to love them. Promise!
If you’re having challenging time learning to actually *like* them, try these ideas:
On healthier crackers with a little bit of cheese
Straight out of the can with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
On a Caesar salad with homemade/ lite dressing
In place of tuna in “tuna salad” with Trim/ low fat mayo, mustard and pickles
With cottage cheese and hot sauce
Scrambled into eggs and topped with hollandaise sauce
Mashed into half of an avocado with a squeeze of fresh lemon
Mix canned sardines with some chopped red onions and olives
One of these should become a favourite! Take a deep breath, grab a Fork and give them a try.
Ajita Ratanjee is a Registered Dietitian that consults clients for various lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure at her clinic in Pretoria East. Lifestyle diseases are her special field of interest. She completed her BDietetics degree and graduated from The University of Pretoria in 1999. Her career has progressed from working at Steve Biko Hospital doing ICU rounds with various specialists and running the clinics, assisting in control of special diets food service management at the hospital to the launch of Easy Health Wellness in 2014 where she assists many clients to live a healthy life and make positive lifestyle choices. Ajita has over 20 years’ experience and successes in helping clients lose weight, control Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol. Her strategy is to keep nutrition messages simple & easy to understand & maintain. She focuses on using food and real food portions to ensure clients can maintain their healthy lifestyle choices.
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