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Sardines are small, saltwater fish commonly sold in cans in the United States. The famed sardine fishing in California's Cannery Row during the first half of the 20th century fed soldiers and foreign workers during the Depression. The species' numbers decreased dramatically and restrictions prevented large-scale commercial fishing of sardines until the past few decades when the numbers began to climb once again. Today, the fish is experiencing a resurgence in restaurants and among health food proponents.
The sardine is a rich source of nutrients. One can of sardines contains 351 mg of calcium, 2.7 mg of iron, 451 mg of phosphorus, 365 mg of potassium, 49 mcg of selenium and 178 IU of vitamin D. The fish is low in calories relative to the abundant nutrition it contains; one can provides 191 calories.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Source
A can of sardines contains 840 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. A dose of approximately 500 mg daily confers beneficial effects. According to the American Heart Association, consuming sardines reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The fish's omega-3 fatty acid content reduces blood cholesterol levels, lowers risk for atherosclerosis and decreases blood pressure.
Low Toxin Levels
In recent years, large fatty fish species have acquired a negative reputation because of their high mercury levels. Sardines are considered a fatty fish because they contain omega-3 fatty acids and the associated health benefits similar to tuna and salmon. However, sardines are small and do not accumulate as many toxins. They also mature at a younger age compared with larger fish, which means they have less time to acquire stores of heavy metals and other toxins.
High Protein Content
The FDA recommends consuming approximately 50 g of protein per day. A one-can serving of sardines provides an estimated 23 g of protein, almost half of the required amount. While most Americans do not have a shortage of protein in their diets, healthy sources of protein are less common. Many animal-sourced proteins contain high levels of saturated fats, which burdens the cardiovascular and digestive systems. Sardines are a healthy protein option because of their healthy impact on the cardiovascular and digestive system. Protein is important for sustaining energy levels and balancing blood sugar.
Based in Richmond, Va., Tara Carson has written articles for editorial and corporate online and print publications for more than 10 years. She has experience as an adjunct professor of nutrition at Northwest Christian University and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and nutrition from Virginia Commonwealth University.