Named after the Italian island of Sardinia, Napoleon popularized sardines by making them the first fish ever to be canned. Although still usually found in those flat metal cans, this humble little fish is surprisingly nutritious. Sardines are a prime source of vitamin B12 and contain high levels of tryptophan. They are also a great source of selenium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium and phosphorus. Added to that, being that they’re so close to the bottom of the food chain, sardines contain lower levels of toxins (such as mercury and PCBs) than many other types of fish.
Here are six important health benefits of sardines.
Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been found to lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12, which promotes cardiovascular health as it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance; homocysteine can damage artery walls, with elevated levels being a risk factor for atherosclerosis.
Bone and Joint Health
Sardines are a superb source of bone-building calcium and contain surprisingly high concentrations of vitamin D, a nutrient not so readily available in the diet. Vitamin D prevents unwanted inflammation and helps bones in their absorption of calcium. Sardines are a great source of phosphorus too, a key mineral in strengthening the bone matrix. Recent studies also show that the omega-3s found in abundance in sardines support joint cartilage and help regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in bone and surrounding tissue.
For many years, researchers have known that vitamin D participates in the regulation of cell activity. Because cell cycles play such a key role in the development of cancer, optimal vitamin D intake may turn out to play a significant role in the prevention of various types of cancer.
Selenium, of which sardines are also a very good source, is a mineral with powerful antioxidant activity, whose dietary intake has been associated with reduced risk of cancer. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines have also been connected to decreased risk for several types of cancer, including colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Regular omega-3 intake has been proven particularly effective against the blood cell or lymph cell-related cancers such as leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Consumption of fatty fish, such as sardines, presents substantial protection against renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer.
The high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids in sardines offer substantial protection against macular degeneration (AMD) of the eye, a condition in which fine vision deteriorates, resulting in central vision loss and is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50. Studies also strongly suggest that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids also reduces the risk of dry eye syndrome, a common cause of ocular complaints.
Skin and Hair
The omega-3s found in seafood lock moisture into skin cells, encouraging the production of strong collagen and elastin fibers, which contribute to more youthful looking skin. Omega-3s have also been known to alleviate skin blemishes and maintain good hair luster. Omega-3s provide nourishment to hair follicles, helping hair grow healthy and preventing hair loss. A rich supply of proteins is also important for hair growth. The high protein content of seafood helps maintain strong, healthy hair.
Packed full of Protein
Sardines are rich in protein, which provides us with amino acids. Our bodies use amino acids to create new proteins, which are the foundations for cells. Proteins form the basis of muscles and connective tissues, antibodies that keep our immune system strong, and deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout our bodies.