What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Sardines and Can You Eat Them Every Day? (2024)

  • Nutrition
    • Sardines nutritional content
  • Benefits
    • Benefits of sardines in your diet
  • Heart Health
    • Sardines and heart health
  • Diabetes
    • Sardines and diabetes
  • Eat Daily
    • Can you eat sardines every day?
  • Cook to Reduce Risks
    • Cooking sardines to reduce risks
  • Mercury
    • Fish during pregnancy — what about mercury?
  • Comments
  • More

Sardines nutritional content

What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Sardines and Can You Eat Them Every Day? (1)

Sardines are small, ocean-dwelling fish. Health benefits of sardines include lower blood pressure and reduced risks of diabetes, but they are unsuitable for daily consumption, especially for certain groups.

Sardines are small, ocean-dwelling fish. They're highly perishable and are usually sold canned. Like all fish, they're a good source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. But oily fish like sardines and salmon are especially valuable for health because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is beneficial for heart health. Sardines are rich in nutrition; including them in your meals is a healthy move.

This fish provides several useful nutrients. A 100-gram portion of sardines canned in oil contains:

Protein: 24.6 grams

Energy: 208 calories

Total fats (lipids): 11.4 grams

Carbohydrate: none

Fiber: none

Choline: 75 milligrams

Calcium: 382 milligrams

Iron: 2.9 milligrams

Phosphorus: 490 milligrams

Magnesium 39 milligrams

Potassium 397 milligrams

Sodium 307 milligrams

Selenium 52.7 micrograms

Vitamin B12: 8.94 micrograms

Vitamin D: 193 International units

Saturated fatty acids: 1.53 grams

Monounsaturated fatty acids: 3.87 grams

Polyunsaturated fatty acids: 5.15 grams

Cholesterol: 142 milligrams

Benefits of sardines in your diet

Sardines are a protein food. This group includes meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes, and soy products. Most protein in American diets comes from red meat. About three-quarters of Americans eat enough or excessive amounts of meat, eggs, and poultry. These foods often contain significant amounts of saturated fats and are eaten with other foods (sandwiches, casseroles, or pasta) that aren't nutrient dense.

Eating sardines (and other fish) can help you get adequate protein while lowering your intake of saturated fats and sodium, which are harmful to long-term health. Reducing saturated fat intake is essential for adults to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Oily fish such as sardines, herring, salmon, trout, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)]. These nutrients are essential for protecting the heart. Omega-3 fatty acids are valuable during pregnancy as they help develop the baby's nervous system. Oily fish are also good sources of vitamin D.

Canned sardines have another advantage — you can eat the bones. This provides calcium and phosphorus needed to keep bones strong.

Sardines reduce inflammation in the body. Consuming this fish three times a week reduces C-reactive protein levels. This protein is an indicator of inflammation.

Sardines and heart health

Sardines provide significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). These fatty acids protect both your heart and your brain from disease. They do this by reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure harms many organs, but the chief dangers are to the heart and brain. People with high blood pressure are at risk of stroke, heart attacks, and heart failure.

Apart from lowering blood pressure, omega-3 fatty acids are known to:

  • Lower the blood levels of triglycerides
  • Prevent blood clots
  • Improve the blood flow
  • Maintain heart rhythm

Sardines and other oily fish are the best natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You should have about 500 milligrams of omega-3 acids a day. Eating 140 grams of sardines a week will provide this amount.

Sardines and diabetes

Consumption of sardines and other small fish like saury and mackerel is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids increase insulin receptors and enhance insulin responsiveness. Sardines have significant amounts of the amino acid taurine, which improves the liver's insulin sensitivity and stimulates glucose uptake by liver and muscle cells. A daily intake of 80 grams of sardines reduces the occurrence of T2DM by 20%.

Can you eat sardines every day?

You should eat at least one portion (140 grams or 4½ ounces) of fish every week, and sardines are a good choice because of their plentiful nutrients. But oily fish generally collect higher levels of contaminants than other types of seafood. This makes them unsuitable for daily consumption, especially for certain people. These people should not eat more than two portions of sardines a week:

  • Girls
  • Women who may be pregnant later (have not been through menopause)
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

Frequent contaminants in sardines include mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), dioxins, and chlorinated pesticides. These chemicals and toxins persist in the human body for months or years. Women with high levels of these substances in their bodies may pass them on to a baby in her womb or while breastfeeding. Babies exposed to these substances may suffer various types of harm. These contaminants can harm adults, too.

Fish in your diet are valuable for their nutritional content. But you should eat them carefully to reduce your risk from contaminants. Men, boys, and post-menopausal women can have four portions of sardines or other oily fish a week.

QUESTION According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Cooking sardines to reduce risks

You can reduce some risks of these fish while cooking them. Since contaminants like PCBs and pesticides collect in the fat, skinning the fish and removing as much fat as possible reduces the amount of contaminants. Bake, grill, or broil the fish on a rack so the fat drips off. Discard the drippings — don't use them for sauces.

Mercury can't be reduced during cooking because it is present in the muscle tissue (the meat or fillet).

Fish during pregnancy — what about mercury?

Mercury is a significant danger when eating seafood. Mercury exists in nature, and industrial activities also contaminate the environment. This toxic metal collects in the ocean and other water bodies. Fish consume the mercury which accumulates in their body. Eating seafood can put you at risk for mercury ingestion. Mercury is particularly dangerous during pregnancy since it crosses the placenta and reaches babies.

Long-lived fish that live near the bottom and eat other fish have the highest levels of mercury. Sardines eat mainly plankton and do not have high levels of mercury. The US Environmental Protection Agency places sardines among their "Best choices" for eating during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. You should have two servings (4 ounces or 120 grams) of sardines a week during pregnancy.

Fish provide crucial nutrients for a growing baby's brain, such as choline, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, iron, and iodine. Oily fish like sardines are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fish also provide other nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium. It is safe to eat them during pregnancy in the quantities suggested.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/24/2022



British Heart Foundation: "The oily fish with blood pressure powers."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Mercury."

Food Reviews International: "Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes through Sardines Consumption: An Integrative Review."

Heart UK: "Why are Omega 3 fats good for health?"

National Health Service: "Fish and shellfish."

US Department of Agriculture: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025," "Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone."

What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Sardines and Can You Eat Them Every Day? (2024)
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