Your Doctor

Seasonal Nutrition - Sardines

April’s fish of the month is the sardine

Did you know there are more than twenty varieties of sardines around the globe? They all look the same and thankfully for us share the same wonderful nutritional and health benefits. 

Sardines are one of the best and richest sources of natural omega -3 fats around. They are also high in other essential nutrients such as selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D and calcium.

One of the best reasons to regularly consume sardines in place of other fish is because of their sustainability and low contaminant levels. The little sardines are considered a fish at the bottom of the aquatic food chain because they eat plankton, which means they do not carry toxins and heavy metals in the quantities of many other fish like red snapper, tuna, and swordfish. 

Here are some of the ways this nippy little fish can help us stay well:

1. Improves mental health and mood

Probably not a commonly known fact, but the balance of good fats like omega -3 and bad fats like omega-6 are linked to imbalances on mood, anxiety and depression. 

Many recent studies have focused on omega-3s impact on mental health, and are concluding that these essential fats can play a vital role in boosting mood and maintaining healthy brain function, helping you to beat depression. The brain itself is made up of roughly 60% fat, so obtaining the right ratio of fatty acids is crucial for the function of the central nervous system and your overall mood.

Studies have shown that as omega-3 intake declines, depression rates normally climb. Unfortunately, in the last few decades there has been a significant drop in the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that people living in developed western nations consume on average. At the same time, the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet has drastically gone up, since these types of fats are found in most processed foods and refined, hydrogenated oils. The balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fats is crucial for overall health, including brain function. 

2. Good bone health

We need calcium and vitamin D in abundance to ensure our bones are strong and healthy. Thankfully, sardines have both these nutrients in abundance. Calcium helps rebuild bone and can defer conditions like osteoporosis. It is also essential for strong teeth, and muscle tension. 

Alongside plenty of calcium we need vitamin D to help facilitate the absorption of this calcium into our bones. In the UK there has been a rise in vitamin D deficiency, thought to be due to low exposure to natural sunlight. A can of sardines gives us around 40% of our recommended daily amount of vitamin D! 

Deficiency in vitamin D can result in a softening of the bones called osteomalacia or a bone abnormality called rickets, in addition to poor immune system function, mood disorders, and autoimmune diseases.

3. Weight loss

Well, eating sardines doesn’t directly cause weight loss. However, it will leave you feeling fuller for longer hence staving off snacking and mid-afternoon biscuit tin raids due to a rumbling belly! The high protein and (good) fat content keep you satiated longer and they are low in calories. As part of a controlled diet, this can aid gradual and sustainable weight reduction.

4. Reduces inflammation and risk of heart disease

Sardines are one of the best natural sources in the world of essential omega-3 fatty acids, with one can providing roughly 50% of your daily needs. Sardines nutritionally provides two main essential fatty acids. 

The numerous benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are related to their ability to act as an anti-inflammatory, leading them to be effective in the treatment and prevention of many medical conditions. Some of the best reasons to consume foods like sardines that are high in omega-3 are their ability to help defend against: mood disorders, ADHD, various types of cancer, arthritis, infertility, and especially heart disease.

Whether your preferred way to serve sardines up is grilled, steamed, roasted or tinned, give these little fish a go. It’s well worth adding them to your diet for long-term health benefits.