Are sardines good for you or bad for you? Here you’ll discover the health benefits and side effects of sardines and how this tiny fish can lead to big weight loss.
Eating fish is generally thought to be good for your health and for losing weight. But sardines are unique and contain certain ingredients that could have potential negative health risks.
Yet sardines are also loaded with ingredients that are beneficial for weight management and the human body. The question is if the sardines will end up leading to weight loss and if the health risks are worth it.
So be sure to keep reading to discover how eating fish like sardines can help you either lose or gain weight… and if the possible health risks you should know before eating.
Are Sardines Good for You?
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.
You can eat sardines fresh but they’re most commonly found canned. This is because they are so perishable. But 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.
Sardines Are High in Omega-3s
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 like fish oil 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
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Sardines Are High in Protein & Nutrients
Sardines are an excellent source of protein and can make an ideal healthy snack for those looking to boost their daily protein intake.
A can of sardines contains about 25 grams of protein. This is about the maximum amount of protein most can absorb in one sitting.10
Sardines are also naturally low in calories and carbohydrates. Which makes it a great choice for a light yet protein packed meal.
Sardines also have these vital essential nutrients…
- vitamin D
These ingredients have numerous health benefits on bone health, lowering heart disease, boosting mood, and raising energy levels.
Sardines only have around 400 mg of sodium in them, which is rather low for canned food. But if you have high blood pressure then it’ll be a good to only eat fresh sardines or find a low sodium canned brand.
Sardines Make You Gain Weight or Lose Weight
Eating sardines will not make you gain weight but will help you lose weight for a few reasons.
First of all, sardines are low calorie and contain zero sugar or refined carbohydrates. These are a few of the biggest causes of weight gain and belly fat build-up.11
Second, sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats help your body burn body fat. This meta-analysis found omega-3 fatty acids helped the participants losing abdominal fat.12
They have power anti-inflammatory properties 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.13
Your body needs protein to build lean muscle mass. Muscle leads to increased fat burning as well as toning the physique. Calcium and vitamin D can also lead to weight and fat loss.14
Protein helps increase satiety and the feelings of being full.15 This keeps your hunger at bay so you don’t eat more than you should. Plus eating a high protein diet can lower belly fat.16
Vitamin B12 is an important for healthy weight management. It can boost your metabolism and increase energy by helping to break down foods so you can absorb their nutrients.17
And finally, sardines are very low in calories with a can typically having under 200 calories. Putting your body into a caloric deficit is an essential part of losing weight and fat.
It’s important to keep your daily caloric intake regulated so your body weight doesn’t go up. Eating more belly fat burning foods like sardines to keep your waistline slim.
Sardines in Tomato Sauce Good for Weight Loss
One of the most popular ways to consume sardines is in tomato sauce. Sardines pair well with tomato sauce and are a popular dish in Italy.
But is combining sardines with tomato sauce good for you?
Tomato sauce is generally considered to be on the healthier side. When made healthier it should only contain tomatoes, onion, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and some lemon juice.
But you have to make sure you check the nutritional profile on the tomato sauce. Some food manufacturers add sugar or excessive salt to the tomato sauce which would make it not healthy.
Tomato sauce is very acid with a pH above 6. So if you have a sensitive stomach or have acid reflux then it could worsen these issues.
Sardines are high in purines which can worsen gout. Tomato sauce can also trigger a gout flare up.18 So if you’re dealing with gout issues then this may not be the best meal choice.
But overall consuming sardines with sugar-free low-sodium tomato sauce is generally considered to be a healthy meal. Tomatoes do contain lycopene which is a healthy plant phytochemical that fights inflammation.
What Happens When You Eat Sardines Every Day
Is it bad to eat sardines every day? While sardines are good for you they may not be the best to eat every day…
Since sardines are at the bottom of the food chain they’re much more sustainable fish than most others.19 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 like arsenic.20 Canned sardines are a safe fish to eat since they contain significantly less mercury than other fish like tuna.
Since sardines are low in calories, low in carbs, high in protein, high in omega-3s and other nutrients… then you should start losing weight.
But this is also going to depend on what you’re eating the rest of the time too. Since sardines contain no sugar or carbs it’ll help maintain healthy blood sugar and keep your energy levels high.
Canned Sardines Health Risks
But if you have kidney stone or gout problems then you should also limit your consumption of sardines. They naturally contain higher levels of purines.21
This can metabolize into uric acid in your body. High uric acid has been linked 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.22
Canned sardines can also be tainted with microplastics from enviromental pollution.23 These microplastics will then make their way into your body after eating.
How many sardines a week should you eat?
While some are fine eating them every day others would be best limiting them to 2-4 times per week. I personally eat them a few times a week since they’re an inexpensive and tasty high protein meal especially paired with eggs.
You can technically live off sardines but it’s always considered best to follow a balanced and varied diet. If you like canned sardines also try
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 as long you don’t have any gout or kidney stone issues. It’s a lot healthier food choice than you’ll find on most store shelves.
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.24 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 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 that 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 extra virgin olive oil. Cheaper canned sardines usually come in soybean oil which can cause inflammation.
Extra virgin olive oil is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and doesn’t have any of the negatives linked 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. Canned sardines can make a healthy on-the-go snack.
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.25
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.
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.
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 and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.