Want to know if eating canned sardines is actually good for you? Most of the people in the U.S. think they’re a little gross, but after reading this you may want to give them a try if weight loss is your goal.
If you think eating canned sardines sounds gross then you might be surprised at how good they actually taste. Eating sardines really isn’t that bad once you give them a try and know what to eat them with.
You can eat sardines fresh but they’re most commonly found canned. This is because they are so perishable. Canned sardines are the cheapest “natural multivitamin” you can find.
Canned sardines can look weird with the guts, bones, uncooked appearance, and oily skin. Yet, canned sardines are smoked or cooked and taste delicious. They can also help with weight loss and are packed with healthy vitamins.
Sardines are beginning to make a comeback in popularity. They’re an inexpensive and on-the-go healthy food to get a ton of nutrients in one small can. But the health benefits of sardines overrated? Let’s find out…
Table of Contents
Are Sardines Healthy or Not
Napoleon Bonaparte first popularized the canning of sardines. He needed to feed his hungry troops and the local citizens of the island he presided. Sardines were the first fish to ever be canned. They were also named after the small Italian island of Sardinia where they’re abundant.
Sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins, and vitamin D. The omega-3 fatty acids in sardines can do wonders for your body, and they’re even called the “Queen of Fats.”
Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in your blood (1). They’ll prevent irregular heart rhythms and slow down the growth of plaque in your arteries (2). Eating more fatty fish like sardines will be good for your heart health and immune system (3).
The EPA and DHA found in omega-3 fatty acids are also a very powerful anti-inflammatory (4). Inflammation causes premature aging in your body and more chronic health problems (5). Inflammation has been heavily linked to obesity and belly fat (6).
1 oz. of sardines contains 0.27 g of omega-3s. Eating one can of sardines will be well over 1 g of healthy anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a fantastic nutrient to improve mood and fight depression (7). Inflammation in your brain causes mood disorders such as depression and anxiety (8).
Along with eating sardines try supplementing with anti-inflammatory krill oil like OmegaKrill to maximize your omega-3s to get rid of inflammation. EPA and DHA are both good for weight loss but krill oil contains more EPA which has more health benefits for weight loss (9).
Canned sardines have well over 20 grams of protein. They also have these vital essential nutrients…
- vitamin D
With only a couple hundred calories in a can of sardines, it’ll help you lose more weight too. Sardines only have around 400 mg of sodium in them, which is great for canned food.
Is It Bad to Eat Sardines Every Day
Since sardines are at the bottom of the food chain they’re much more sustainable fish than most others (10). They feed solely on plankton and are abundant in numbers.
Sardines tend to have a shorter lifespan than other fish. 90% of the wild sardines swimming around are less than 6 years old.
These two reasons are why sardines have low levels of mercury and other heavy metals (11). Be sure to limit other fish such as tuna because of higher mercury levels. Canned sardines are safe for you to be eating since they contain significantly less mercury than other fish.
If you have kidney or gout problems then you should also limit your consumption of sardines. They naturally contain higher levels of purines (12). This can metabolize into uric acid in your body. Uric acid can lead to kidney stones or gout if you’re already predisposed. But if you don’t have a history of gout or kidney problems then you should be fine.
Some canned sardines use BPA so it’ll be a good idea to find one that doesn’t use this compound. There is research finding BPA can lead to significant fluctuations in hormones that control weight gain (13). It’s best to limit your exposure to BPA to be on the safe side even though the FDA claims low doses will not harm you.
Is it bad to eat sardines every day?
Canned sardines are loaded with nutrients and great for your body. But it’s probably not the best idea to eat too much of any single food for an extended period of time. One can a day should be fine and even good for you. Try to find a brand without any additives to keep any negatives away.
Are Sardines Good for Weight Loss
There are a few reasons why eating more canned sardines will help you lose weight…
First of all, sardines contain zero sugar or refined carbohydrates. These are the two of the biggest causes of weight gain and belly fat build-up.
They’re also very powerful anti-inflammatory for your body. Inflammation can cause your body to age quicker. It’ll also cause your body to puff out and appear bigger than it is.
Third, sardines are rich in protein and calcium. Both of these powerful nutrients have been found to help you lose weight (15). Your body needs protein to build lean muscle. This study found calcium and vitamin D significantly helped users to lose more body fat (16).
Protein helps increase the feelings of being full (17). This keeps your hunger at bay so you don’t eat more than you should. Plus eating a high protein diet can enhance weight loss and lower belly fat (18).
And finally, a can of sardines is very low in calories. Even though not all calories react the same in your body. It’s important to keep your daily caloric intake regulated so your body weight doesn’t go up. Eat more belly fat burning foods like sardines to keep your waistline slim.
The Sardine Diet
Now there are a lot of health benefits of sardines but going on an all sardine diet isn’t a great idea in the long run. Sure in the short run you’ll be able to drop some pounds but you could also become vitamin deficient if all you’re eating are sardines.
Sardines are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other vitamins that are great for weight loss. Plus they naturally contain zero sugar or carbs which is also going to help if you’re trying to lose weight.
Since sardines are lower on the food chain and consume plankton they’re less likely to contain mercury. With that said it’s going to be healthier for you to go on a sardine diet than it is a tuna diet.
It’s best to complement a sardine only diet with some vegetables too so you’re getting a range of vitamins and minerals. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, and spinach are great choices. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are fantastic too. If you have trouble eating your daily recommended intake of vegetables then taking a greens powder like MetaboGreens is a great alternative.
Tuna Vs. Sardines
Limit your tuna consumption because of high mercury levels (19). Most tuna live for 10 years making them more likely to accumulate toxins. It makes sense the less time the fish is living in the water the less likely they are to build up heavy metals.
If you want to get rid of heavy metals and toxins built up in your body then check out how to detox your body naturally.
It’s much more sustainable on the ocean’s ecosystem to eat lower on the food chain. Sardines are at the bottom and are much more abundant than tuna. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has rated sardines as a “Best Choice” for sustainability. Most tuna has an “avoidance” rating.
Both tuna and sardines are very affordable with near equal prices per canned ounce. Just because food is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s worse than more expensive choices. In fact, sardines have more nutrients per ounce than just about any other food out there.
Most agree smoked sardines smell and taste better than tuna. Try eating them with some tomato sauce, lemon juice or mustard sauce to liven them up even more.
Do Sardines Taste Fishy?
Don’t let the thought of eating canned fish scare you off. You can eat sardines straight out of the can. I do it multiple times per week.
The bones in canned sardines are 100% edible and a great source of calcium. They’re soft and are not a danger to swallow. The calcium in the bones plus the vitamin D in sardines is great for your bone health and they’ll also help you lose weight (20).
Much of the fishy smell is taken away with added ingredients. Olive oil, tomato sauce, mustard sauce, and the smoking process all add a tasty flavor. They’re delicious eating right out of the can but you can also at a little salt and pepper.
Picking The Best Sardines for Weight Loss
If you’re buying fresh sardines there are a couple of things you should look out for.
Try to find sardines have:
- fresh smell
- shiny skin
- bright eyes
- firm body
- no bruising
Also, make sure you’re not buying any old fish with “belly burn.” This is when the guts start coming out of the fish.
When picking out canned sardines try to find one in olive oil than soybean oil. Olive oil has more omega-3 fatty acids and doesn’t have any of the negatives associated with soy.
My favorite is Wild Planet Wild Sardines. They contain no BPA in the can lining, taste delicious, use extra virgin olive oil, and are sustainably caught.
Try packing a can of sardines when you’re out on the go. It’s a fantastic ready-to-go snack you can eat anywhere. And if you’re living on a tight budget then eating more canned sardines is a smart way to save money without giving up nutrients.
Keep a couple of cans in your car too. You can quickly eat a can whenever you’re feeling hungry. It’ll be much better for you than going to McDonald’s.
They’re surprisingly filling too. Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12 that can give you a big energy boost especially in the afternoon. Vitamin B12 can also help to enhance weight loss (21).
- WILD SARDINES IN EVOO, LIGHTLY SMOKED - Wild caught sardines in organic olive oil and lightly smoked for a delicious, full flavor.
- RICH IN NUTRITION & FLAVOR – A nutritional powerhouse, Wild Planet sardines are an essential source of omega 3, protein, calcium, and iron.
- FROM THE NORTH PACIFIC – Feel confident that the sardines you’re enjoying are harvested in the Pacific with sustainable methods, making them healthy for the Earth and your body.
- SUSTAINABLE & NON-GMO – Wild Planet Sardines are 100% sustainably caught via free school purse seine methods, and are Gluten free, non-GMO, OU Kosher Pareve.
- WILDLY GOOD – Wild Planet Foods is dedicated to maintaining the ocean’s natural ecosystem while providing delicious, healthy and sustainable wild seafood.
Are sardines good for you while pregnant?
Smaller oily fish like sardines and anchovies are a much safer choice for pregnant women than tuna. Tuna can contain high amounts of mercury and PCBs that could harm the baby. Sardines contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids that can help with the brain development of the baby (22). Experts recommend only eating sardines 2-3 times a week if pregnant and to ensure they’re properly cooked. The FDA recommends for pregnant women to limit the eating of sardines and other low-mercury fish to 12 oz. per week. It’s always best to seek professional medical advice when pregnant before starting any diet.
The Last Word
Eating canned sardines isn’t just good for you… they’re great for you.
The high amount of nutrients make eating sardines a no-brainer. You’ll get a ton of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, vitamin D, minerals, and B vitamins.
Sardines are also good for your waistline. They contain zero sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. When you eat more sardines your body will love you for it. Your body will fight off inflammation, lose weight, strengthen bones and improve your mood.
It’s easy to get scared off from eating them if you never had them before. But give them a try and you’ll be surprised at how good they taste. You’ll also feel way better after eating a can of sardines than you would cookies or potato chips. Take a can of sardines with you to make sure you have an on-the-go snack that’s good for you.
So now that you know eating sardines are good for you and are good for weight loss it’s time to start eating some. Bon appetit!
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college level. He has over 10 years experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He hopes to be able to bring inspiration & results to people all over the world to live a healthier life through diet & exercise.