Sardines: the other omega-3 fish

Sardines (photo: brian.gratwicke via Flickr)

Omega-3 fatty acids are critically important for health, and supplement sources seem to have taken over the discussion lately.  But before there were omega-3 supplements, people got omega-3 the old fashioned natural way: from food.  Salmon is widely recognized as a good source, but some other fish are also high in omega-3 fats, notably sardines.  A 3 oz serving of drained canned sardines has around 1 gram of omega-3, although this amount will vary.  Salmon, by comparison, could have twice that, while a white fish like haddock has 1/5th the amount in sardines.

Sardines are small silvery fish, related to mackerel (also high in omega-3).  They’re available canned, but in many countries they’re eaten fresh.  Grilling is a popular way to cook fresh sardines.  Canned sardines don’t really need any preparation.  You can just eat them out of the can, although it’s advisable to drain off the oil if you’re watching calories.  They have a distinctly fish-like flavor, unlike white-flesh fish.  But then those white fleshed fish have very little omega-3.

Sardines are typically canned whole, minus the heads, meaning with the bones.  Don’t worry; the bones are so soft you don’t notice them.  This makes sardines relatively high in calcium for a fish.  Plus of course they’re high in protein, with modest calories.

The nutrition is great, but how do they taste?  They taste like fish.  So do tuna and salmon.  If you like those, you’ll probably like sardines.  You can eat them straight, on a sandwich, on toast or on bruschetta — grilled bread slices, spread with a tomato/basil/olive oil mixture and topped with a sardine filet.  They can be added to a salad plate, or used in a spread for appetizers.  Fresh sardines can be sautéed or grilled for an entree.  There are many other ways to include them in your diet.  If you’re looking for more omega-3 from food, sardines are certainly worth a try.

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