Sardines need a PR overhaul. I often recommend them to my clients as an economical, sustainable form of omega-3 fats. It doesn’t go down well, with most preferring glamorous salmon. As a smaller fish, sardines tend to have less heavy metal and toxin accumulation than salmon, and gram for gram they have higher levels of iron, zinc and B12. And if you eat the bones, you also get a hearty dose of calcium.
The benefits of omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fats form part of the cell membranes of every cell in our body, and so can influence the function of many different systems. They are particularly abundant in the cells of the eye, heart and brain. Humans can’t make omega-3 fatty acids, so we either have to include omega-3 rich foods as part of our diet, or take a supplement such as a good-quality fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids allow more flexibility in our cell membranes which means the cells can communicate more efficiently. They reduce inflammation, play a role in the immune system, and improve the synthesis of chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin that affect our mood and mental wellbeing. Overall, an important nutrient!
Sardines can be purchased fresh, frozen or canned. If you go for canned, look for fish that are canned in 100% olive oil or spring water. They have quite a strong taste and smell – I don’t recommend nuking them in the office kitchen unless you have understanding workmates. I challenge you to include sardines as part of a balanced diet – here are 5 ideas to get you started:
- Simple sardines on toast (or salad)
Nothing could be easier than whacking a can of sardines on top of some toasted sourdough (or a crisp green salad) and topping with a hefty squeeze of lemon juice and a good sprinkling of salt. If you want to get fancy, you can mash the sardines first with some gently heated garlic and chilli and top with chopped parsley.
This fabulous recipe uses the whole fresh fish – bones and all – and the accompanying blog post describes how to choose and clean fresh sardines. These would be delicious with a simple green salad, and so quick to make.
Family-friendly and suitable to make in advance, these fishcakes are a great way to introduce kids to sardines.
I absolutely love Dr Rupy Aujla and if you haven’t checked out his podcast, its definitely worth a listen. This is a simple, quick recipe using fresh sardine fillets combined with Asian flavours – you could have this on the table fifteen minutes after walking in the door.
This recipe calls for canned sardines in tomato sauce – but if you can’t get them, use plain sardines and add a tablespoon of tomato paste and a teaspoon of sugar to the pasta sauce recipe.
Do you feel inspired to invite sardines into your life? They really are versatile, economical and bursting with nutrition.