Sardines are among the important brain foods you might want to incorporate into your diet. Although they are small in size, they are nutritionally rich.

Although sardines come in small size, they havesuch a rich nutritional profile. Feeding on them, you get as much benefit as you would get from bigger fish. Hence, they are known as essential brain foods. They are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but have many other health benefits you can reap. Besides, they are a versatile food that can be enjoyed in several ways. Still, you may wonder, are sardines safe for me? Should I include them in my diet? This article addresses these questions and explores the nutritional profile of sardines.

Why sardines are better than most big fish

Admittedly, big fish like tilapia, Nile perch, and tuna are nutritionally rich and form a robust way of boosting the body with nutrients and taking care of the brain. However, small fish like anchovies, mackerel, and sardines have an advantage over them. This is because the small size of sardines means they majorly feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton. With such a feeding pattern, the risk of mercury contamination is reduced. On the other hand, big fish like tuna have an increased risk of contamination by mercury. The Food and Drug Administration limits the weekly recommended amount of tuna people can eat for this risk.  Moreover, even though sardines are small in size, they boast of the big fish’s health benefits. Therefore, a person benefits his health while still taking care of it by eating sardines over the large fish.

Where can sardines be found?

Sardines have a unique name, thanks to the Sardinia Island in Italy, in which sardines were highly abundant. Sardines were therefore named after the island and have retained the name up to date. Today, sardines are majorly found in the Mediterranean, Pacific, and Atlantic seas. After harvesting them, they are packed and canned; hence, most sardines are found canned, although there are uncanned ones. The major explanation behind canning them is their short shelf life. Sardines take a short time to go bad but canning them in olive oil, or water preserves them, extending their lives.

Nutritional benefits linked to sardine consumption

As mentioned previously, despite their small size, sardines are equally beneficial as their bigger counterparts. They boast of a rich nutritional profile, one you certainly will benefit from. They include;

i.                    They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily known for their role in aiding with brain development and lowering a person’s risk of suffering from cognitive decline. With enough omega-3 in the body, Dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases stand a low chance of developing and affecting one’s brain functionality. Moreover, omega-3 is closely linked to a lowered risk of some lifestyle diseases, including heart disease. By lowering blood pressure and improving blood clotting, the risk of heart disease is slightly reduced.

ii.                 They are a wonderful vitamin source

If you that only fruits and vegetables boast of vitamins, then you are mistaken. Sardines are a rich source of vitamins, basically offering vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is critical for energy provision and for the cardiovascular system. In fact, without it, a person may feel emaciated due to delayed energy processing. Besides, sardines provide the body with enough vitamin D, which the body requires for strong bone formation and increased bone mass and composition.

iii.               They provide enough calcium

Calcium is an important mineral the body needs. It is mostly in milk, but people who are allergic or intolerant to milk and other dairy products may suffer from calcium deficiency. Therefore, sardines become a good alternative to meet your calcium needs. Women need calcium for fetal development during pregnancy, and sardines may be the cheap alternative they need. Sardines ensure good health and the development of the fetus.

iv.               Sardines are rich in other minerals

The small sardines do not boast of calcium, omega-3s, and vitamins only but have many other beneficial minerals. For instance, they have potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, three minerals for healthy blood functionality. Besides, potassium helps balance the body’s osmotic pressure, lowering the risk of high blood pressure. They also have iron, a mineral that aids in the manufacture of hemoglobin and the transfer of blood to the rest of the body parts. Enough iron in the body ensures vasodilation and vasoconstriction take place relaxed, lowering the risk of high blood pressure. In addition, sardines also boast zinc and niacin.

v.                  Sardines are rich in proteins

Amino acids are the building block of proteins that form the foundation of cells. In addition, proteins are key for the bones and muscles to keep strong, besides a smooth and glowy skin that proteins assure you of. By taking sardines, you are meeting the body’s protein needs. Enough proteins also ensure the immune system is taken care of, providing protection against most illnesses. Moreover, the transport of blood and oxygen to all parts of the body would never be possible without enough protein supply.

Selecting sardines

Selecting your sardines well means you will enjoy good quality food. If you buy the canned sardines, there is so little for you to do to ensure they are in good shape. Sardines come packed in soybean or olive oil and water. Olive oil-canned sardines are basically better than soybean oil-canned sardines. However, if you are watching your fat intake and are trying to limit it, the water-canned canned sardines may be the best option to stick with. Still, you might decide to source fresh sardines, and these, too, are fairly good. To ensure quality, examine whether they have shiny eyes, smell fresh, their skin glow, and are firmly textured.


Sardines are called essential brain foods for their many health benefits. They are rich in proteins, vitamins, omega-3s, niacin, phosphorus, and many other minerals. Therefore, they help with immune system protection and blood function. Their small size is an advantage since they do not put man at the risk of mercury contamination. Read this article to understand more about sardines.

Marie Salbuvik

Dietician MS, Lund University, Sweden Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.