Sardine facts and health benefits

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Sardine facts and health benefits

Sardine Quick Facts
Name: Sardine
Scientific Name: Sardina pilchardus
Origin Mediterranean island of Sardinia
Colors Silvery
Shapes Small, elongated fishes about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) long
Flesh colors Dark flesh
Taste Strong fishy taste
Calories 310 Kcal./cup
Major nutrients Vitamin B-12 (555.00%)
Selenium (142.73%)
Phosphorus (104.29%)
Isoleucine (101.08%)
Lysine (100.69%)
Health benefits Brain Health, Healthy Growth and Body Development, Helpful in Weight Loss, Joint Support, Reduces inflammation and risk of disease, Defends Against Mood Disorders Including Anxiety & Depression, Insulin Resistance, Strengthens Bones, Prevention of Heart Diseases, Immunity, Blood Clots, Skin Health, Anti-Cancer Properties, Sore throats, Reduced Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Sardines are small, oily fish that belong to the family called Clupeidae. They are also known by the name pilchards in some places. It is named after an Italian island “Sardinia”, where it was possibly first found abundantly. These fish are found mostly in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. According to a report, in the past, sardines were the single largest component of fish harvesting done around the world. They generally come as canned fish and they are commonly known as canned sardines. Although sardines are regarded as a single species, there are actually 21 types of fish that can easily fall under the category of sardines. They are commercially fished for foods and variety of uses, including animal feed, sardine oil used in manufacture paint, varnish and linoleum. Some of the most popular species of sardines include sardina, sardinops, sardinella, and dussumieria.

Physical Appearance

Sardine is small, flat, silvery, elongated fishes which are covered with large, reflective, silvery scales. It has single short dorsal fin, no lateral line, and no scales on the head. They range in length from about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) and live in dense schools, migrating along the coast and feeding on plankton, of which they consume vast quantities. In the middle of their belly, they have a set of specialized scales, known as scutes, which are jagged and point backwards. Having very small teeth or no teeth at all, sardines eat plankton, which they filter from the water through their gills. They are small in size, little oily and are soft boned.


The exact origin of sardines is unknown but they are believed to have existed in abundance along the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, from where the fish derived its name. Though sardines have always been existing credit for their discovery goes to Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave it immense popularity. It was he who started the idea of producing canned sardines. With an excess of nutrients and supplements present in sardines, they become famous seafood in different parts of the world. Spain, France, Portugal and Norway are the major producers of this fish, rich in oil. However, the largest percentage of the world’s sardines come from Morocco, a leading exporter and supplier of these salt water fish. Sardines, unlike other fish, are less contaminated with mercury and other chemicals, which is another point in its popularity.

Nutritional value

Apart from their strong fishy taste, sardine is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 149 gram of sardine offers 13.32 µg of Vitamin B-12, 78.5 µg of Selenium, 730 mg of Phosphorus, 36.68 g of Protein, 569 mg of Calcium, 4.35 mg of Iron, 7.815 mg of Vitamin B3, 17.06 g of Total Fat, 7.2 µg of Vitamin D, 0.277 mg of Copper and 457 mg of Sodium. Moreover many Amino acids  0.411 g of Tryptophan, 1.608 g of Threonine, 1.69 g of Isoleucine, 2.981 g of Leucine, 3.367 g of Lysine, 1.086 g of Methionine, 0.393 g of Cystine,1.432 g of Phenylalanine and 1.238 g of Tyrosine are also found in 149 gram of sardine.

Sardine Types

There are several varieties of Sardine, all members of the Herring Family, and each variety is probable to be known by a number of local names. Larger fish may be sold fresh but many millions are canned every year, packed in water, oil, mustard sauce and tomato sauce, with and without hot chilies. Morocco is the largest producer of canned sardines in the world, providing 41% of the world’s exports. Unfortunately, in my opinion, those canned just about anywhere else are better.

1. Spanish Sardine  

Spanish SardineSpanish Sardine is thought to be S. aurita. It lives all along both Atlantic coasts, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in both tropical and temperate zones. Maderensis is an East Atlantic and Mediterranean fish. Both species can grow to over 12 inches long. These fish are doing reasonably well and do not have an at-risk rating, though the Madeiran may be over-fished. 

2. California Sardine

California SardineCalifornia is privileged in having a good supply of these sardines sold fresh, but they are also found along both Pacific coasts, in the Indian Ocean and on the Atlantic side of South Africa. They are about 7 inches long and weigh about 2 ounces each.

3. Brisling Sardine

Brisling SardineThis fish is not technically a Sardine, thought closely related. European Sprats, canned in the same style as Sardines, are called “Brisling Sardines” to differentiate them from the heavily smoked canned fish widely known as “Sprats”.   The Sprat genus now has its own page.

4. Canned Sardines

Canned SardinesThere are several varieties of Sardine, all members of the Herring Family, and each variety is likely to be known by a number of local names. Larger fish may be sold fresh but many millions are canned every year, packed in water, oil, mustard sauce and tomato sauce, with and without hot chilis.

Morocco is the largest producer of canned sardines in the world, providing 41% of the world’s exports. Moroccan sardines are often harsh, and prefer those canned just about anywhere else. Though the flavor is not always bad, Moroccan sardines are often still covered with scales and can range from crumbly to mushy.

5. Philippine Dried Sardine

Philippine Dried SardineMany small and tiny fish are salted and dried in the Philippines and are generally called Daing, but sardines are important enough to have their own name, Tuyo. It is often simply fried whole until almost crisp and served with a vinegar dip. Accompanied with rice it is a very popular breakfast.  

Health Benefits of Sardines

The presence of good amount of macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients in sardines without having a high fat content makes them very useful for our body. Below are some of the most important benefits of sardines.

1. Reduced Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition which is commonly seen among people age 50 or more Macular and retinal degeneration over the years results in loss of vision. Recent research has shown that taking fish, mainly fish like sardines, lead to the reduced risk of developing AMD. On the other hand, taking regular fat or saturated fat can increase the risk of developing AMD. Everything in moderation! 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.(1), (2)

2. Sore throats

Sore throats may range from a mild situation to a major condition. Regular consumption of sardines with a hot cup of milk helps to calm down the uneasiness on the throat and also brings down the swelling.

3. Anti-Cancer Properties

Cancer research has shown that the intake of calcium and vitamin D can be very helpful in preventing certain types of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Sardines are one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin D. So including sardine in your regular diet help to fulfill your calcium and vitamin D requirement.(3)

4. Skin Health

Skin is always a best friend of people. No one can refuse to have a healthy and glowing skin layer without any signs of damage. Therefore, many people don’t hesitate to pour a huge amount of money on costly beauty products. However, these goods sometimes do not meet people’s expectation as they may go together with some adverse effects. Instead, people can select some natural ingredients to improve their skin condition. Among many foods which nature has offered us, sardines are popular. Not only can sardines reduce inflammatory levels, it can also make you look younger and more beautiful.(4)

5. Blood Clots

When it comes to benefits of sardines, many people refer to its good influence on blood clots. It is undeniable that blood clots are really dangerous factor. Facts have shown that they can seriously trigger improper function of heart system. By providing the body with omega-3 fats, people can efficiently prevent blood clot formation. Thus, the chance of high blood pressure or cholesterol levels will also smaller. Amusingly, sardines are packed with a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.(5)

6. Immunity

The massive benefits of sardines make them an ideal method to foster immune system. In fact, immunity plays an important role in the body system. Its function is to seek for and fight against the attack of any foreigners. Thus, any damage to immunity will completely affect people’s health. Scientific research has concluded that oil extracted from sardines can increase the number of immune cells, which makes it a promising food for immunity.(6)

7. Prevention of Heart Diseases

Sardines are wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids which is quite helpful for preventing heart diseases. The omega-3 fatty acids found in them play a major role in controlling heart diseases. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid and DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid break down bad LDL cholesterol in the body and help in preventing heart diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to break down arterial plaque, which blocks arteries and increases blood pressure. By clearing the plaque, these fatty acids help in controlling blood pressure as well.(7), (8)

8. Strengthens Bones

As mentioned previously, sardines are a good source of calcium, and regular calcium helps in strengthening bones. Good amount of calcium, together with exercise can strengthen bones and prevent diseases like osteoporosis, in the future.(8)

9. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is one of the major factors to look for in diabetes. In cases where there is insulin resistance, the insulin produced in the body is utilized less efficiently. This, in turn, means that there is more glucose in the blood than there usually should be. Some researches have shown that insulin resistance can be reduced by consuming sardines. The protein found in sardines has shown itself to be effective in decreasing insulin resistance, compared to casein protein.(9)

10. Defends Against Mood Disorders Including Anxiety & Depression

As we have discussed before sardine is a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids, sardines nutrition can help to prevent mood disorders including anxiety and depression.

Many recent researches have focused on omega-3s impact on mental health, mostly EPA, 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 critical for the function of the central nervous system and your overall mood.(10), (11)

11. Reduces inflammation and risk of disease

Sardines are an excellent source of EPA and DHA, which are two fatty acids that studies show the body, uses to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases. If you want to “spice up” the anti-inflammatory defense, add a little bit of turmeric when you are preparing your sardines.

12. Joint Support

Joint damage starts when your body is exposed to inflammation, as happens during conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout and other forms of joint pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids are helpful, but come with several drawbacks as well. The best option is “Sardines”. Frequent consumption of sardines can save you from joint pain and inflammation by suppressing the formation of inflammatory mediators and suppressing the damage inflicted by free radicals.

13. Helpful in Weight Loss

Adult sardine, pilchards, helps you to lose some fat. This fish increases metabolism rate of your body and burns fat at a faster rate. In addition to an effective fitness program, a healthy food would help you achieve your weight/fat loss goals. If you’re planning to lose weight/fat, then include sardines into that plan.

14. Healthy Growth and Body Development

Sardines are a perfect blend of all the essential amino acids, which in turn are essential for the protein synthesis in our bodies. Amino acid is good for our cells, connective tissues and muscles. They also contribute in improving the distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Most prominently, almost all of your immune system is made up of proteins, which acts as a barricade against the foreign invaders.

15. Brain Health

Increased oxidative stress is the key pathology in a variety of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and autism. Although all antioxidant in sardines play their role in saving brain from oxidative damage, but Omega-3 fatty acids deserve special mention here. Results from countless clinical studies have shown that eating fish and fish oils, containing omega-3 fatty acid saves from brain from oxidative stress. In fact, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is a known adjuvant in the therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism.

How to Eat

  • Simply drizzle the fillets with olive oil and bake or grill them.
  • Sauté sweet red peppers and garlic add canned sardines and serve them over pasta.
  • Toast whole-grain bread, spread it with spinach pesto or coarse-grained mustard, and then top it with sundried tomatoes and sardines.
  • Mix together sardines, shredded spinach, scallions and white beans, then top them with olive oil vinaigrette.
  • Use sardines as a flavoring, by mashing them into a paste and mixing them into vegetables or stews.
  • Sardines can be eaten in combination with chopped onion, fennel, or olives.
  • Fresh sardines are often grilled, pickled, or smoked.
  • Make a sauce with extra virgin olive oil, pressed garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Serve over sardines.
  • Try pickled sardines instead of canned – they’re delicious!
  • Throw some canned sardines into your salad for additional flavoring.
  • Crackers with canned sardines make a great snack!
  • Lightly pan fry sardines in olive oil.
  • Pair sardines with some mayonnaise and a dash of hot sauce.
  • Chopped up, sardines can be added to pastas, stir-fry, ceviche, or omelets, or rolled into sardine patties.
  • Slice up sardines to top a homemade pizza.
  • Canned sardines are good in sauces and salads.
  • They can be mashed and served on crackers or as a sandwich filling.

Other Facts

  • Norway, Spain, Portugal, and France are the leading share holder of the canned sardines’ production.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte is known as a pioneer in canning sardine.
  • A can of sardines may have as much calcium as two glasses of milk.
  • Sardines are often canned because they are highly perishable.
  • Oil extracted from Sardines is also used in various purposes like making of oil paints, varnish and linoleum.
  • They are short-lived and fast growing and grow 0.60 mm per day and reach 23 cm in length within two years.
  • Each female produce many thousands of eggs from which only one female and one male larva needs to reach maturity to keep the population stable.
  • They are a small pelagic schooling fish with a life span of up to 14 years, but the majority of sardines are less than 6 years old.

How to Buy Sardines

  • Fresh sardines are sold in whole, steak or fillet forms. They are also available in frozen, canned, dried and smoked versions.
  • Whenever available, always buy sardines from a fish market to ensure their freshness. Check that they smell fresh, have a firm flesh, clear bright eyes and a gleaming skin.
  • While buying canned sardines, look for the ones packed in water, mustard or tomato sauce compared to those dipped in oil.
  • Sardines packed in water, taste and smell less fishy as opposed to those in other liquids.

Sardines Storage Tips

  • After you have bought fresh sardines from the market, rinse them under water and place them in a single layer in a sealed container. Cover them with damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator.
  • Fresh sardines are perishable and hence, normal refrigerator temperatures are not adequate for its storage. Temperatures between 28 and 32 F are required.
  • Though fresh sardines, when stored properly, last for 4-5 days, it is best to use them within a day or two.
  • Canned sardines should be stored in a cool and dry place, preferably the kitchen cupboard. They generally last for longer durations there. Check the expiry date and consume beforehand.
  • Turn the can occasionally to ensure that all parts of the fish are exposed to the oil or liquid in which they are packed. This way, the fish stays moistened and fresh.
  • Unused sardines from opened cans should be stored in the refrigerator.


 Canned Sardines

To open a can of sardines, set the can on a solid flat surface and hold the can with one hand. Using the other hand, lift the pull-ring to a vertical position, making sure that the “nose” of the ring has punctured the lid. If the lid failed to perforate, take a pointed object and push it through the score line at the nose of the ring before proceeding. Pull the ring upwards until the can is halfway opened, and then pull backwards until the can is fully opened. To remove the lid completely, bend it back and forth several times and pull.

If packed in oil, rinse canned sardines before use.

Fresh or Frozen Sardines

With their fatty flesh, sardines are delicious baked, grilled, broiled, sautéed or in a sauce.

To prepare a whole sardine for use, place in a bowl of cold water and gently rub off the scales with your fingertips. Slice open the belly, removes the intestines with your fingers and thoroughly wash the entire fish.


Preheat oven to 425ÌŠF. Place fresh sardines in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, or top with your choice of sauce. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through.


Rinse sardines and blot dry. Lightly coat with seasoned cornstarch or flour. Heat a small amount of oil of cooking spray in a large nonstick skillet. Sauté each side for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Use a flexible spatula to gently turn the fish – they are fragile.

Grilling or Broiling

Before grilling or broiling, lightly toss sardines in desired seasonings. Grill over medium heat on a lightly oiled grill or using a small fish grilling basket for 4 to 5 minutes until done, turning once. Serve with lemon or a fresh tomato salsa.


This cooking method, also known as serviche or cebiche, involves cooking by contact with the acid of citrus juice instead of heat. Using the freshest fish, cut cleaned fish into bite size pieces, cover in a spiced acidic marinade, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. The “cooked” flesh will become opaque. Serve in chilled goblets or bowls with lettuce spears or tortillas.

Word of Caution

Besides having many health benefits, sardines also contain side effects for patients with certain diseases. Here’s the explanation.

First, if you have gout, eating sardines is not suggested because it can be dangerous. Sardines have high purine content. Substances that constitute the basic structure of DNA and RNA that can break down and turn into uric acid. Meanwhile, high levels of uric acid can cause stress on the kidneys so that the kidneys have an additional duty to clean up the remnants of the excess of uric acid. From some of these, the consumption of sardines is not recommended for patients with gout.

Secondly, the consumption of sardines is not recommended for pregnant women because of sardine fish considered vulnerable to pollution-free pollution such as mercury. Consuming sardines or other foodstuffs exposed to harmful pollutants will cause disturbance for pregnant women and the unborn baby.

Thirdly, under certain conditions, sardines can cause allergies because of its organic matter content. Allergies caused also varied, ranging from a narrowing of the intestinal muscles, dizziness and headaches, asthma, thinning of the arteries, high blood tension, increasing the heart rate, bronchus, and others. This allergy attacks consumers who have allergies to animal protein. It is also closely linked to other substances contained in the sardine sodium in a high enough dose. Excessive consumption of the sodium can increase the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and kidney problems.

Sardine Facts

Sardine is a small, oily, soft boned fish found mostly in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. It is named after an Italian island “Sardinia”, where it was perhaps first found abundantly, sardines belong to the Clutpeidae family. According to a report, in the past, sardines were the single largest component of fish harvesting done around the world. Sardines are small, silvery, elongated fishes with a single short dorsal fin, no lateral line, and no scales on the head. They range in length from about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) and live in dense schools, migrating along the coast and feeding on plankton, of which they consume vast quantities. They are commercially fished for foods and variety of uses, including animal feed, sardine oil used in manufacture paint, varnish and linoleum.

Name Sardine
Scientific Name Sardina pilchardus
Native Mediterranean island of Sardinia
Common Names Brislings, Pilchards, or Silds
Name in Other Languages Albanian: Sardele
Arabic: Simk alssaradin  (سمك السردين)
Armenian: Sardinadzuk (սարդինաձուկ)
Azerbaijani: Sardine
Afrikaans: Sardine
Bengali: Sāmudri pōnāmāchabiśēṣa (সামুদ্রি পোনামাছবিশেষ)
Basque: Sardina
Belarusian: Sardzinija (Сардзінія)
Bosnian: Sardina
Bulgarian: Cardina (Cардина)
Catalan: Sardine
Chinese: Shādīngyú (沙丁鱼)
Chichewa: Sadini
Croatian: Sardina
Czech: Sardinka
Cebuano: Sardine
Danish: Sardin
Dutch: Sardine
Estonian: Sardiin
Esperanto: Pilĉardo
Finnish: Sardiini
Filipino: Sardinas
French: Sardine
Galician: Sardiña
German: Sardine
Greek: Sardélla (σαρδέλλα)
Georgian: Sardine
Gujarati: Hēriṅganē maḷatī ēka nānī (હેરિંગને મળતી એક નાની)
Haitian Creole: Sardine
Hebrew: טְרִית
Hausa: Kifin gwangwani
Hindi: Saaradain (सारडाइन)
Hmong: Sardine
Hungarian: Szardínia
Icelandic: Sardínu
Irish: Sairdín
Italian: Sardine
Igbo: Sadin
Indonesian: Sarden
Javanese: Sardine
Japanese: Iwashi (イワシ)
Kannada: Sārḍīniya (ಸಾರ್ಡೀನಿಯ)
Kazakh: Cardïna (Cардина)
Khmer: Trei sa di n (ត្រី​សា​ឌី​ន)
Korean: Jeong-eoli (정어리)
Latvian: Sardīne
Lithuanian: Sardine
Lao: Sardine
Latin: Sardinis
Malayalam: Sārḍain (സാർഡൈൻ)
Marathi: Khādya mhaṇūna upayukta asā ēka lahāna māsā (खाद्य म्हणून उपयुक्त असा एक लहान मासा)
Mongolian: Cardin zagas (Cардин загас)
Myanmar (Burmese): Ngarr sayttar (ငါးသေတ္တာ)
Macedonian: Cardina (Cардина)
Maltese: Sardine
Malagasy: Sardine
Malay: Sardin
Maori: Harariu
Nepali: Sārḍina māchā (सार्डिन माछा)
Norwegian: Sardine
Persian: ماهی ساردین
Polish: Sardynka
Portuguese: Sardinha
Romanian: Sardea
Russian: Cardina (Cардина)
Serbian: Cardina (Cардина)
Slovak: Sardinka
Slovenian: Sardine
Spanish: Sardina
Swedish: Sardine
Sesotho: Saratintsí
Somali: Sardiyos
Swahili: Dagaa
Sinhala: Sārḍin (සාර්ඩින්)
Tajik: Cardin (Cардин)
Tamil: Mikka maṇikkal (மிக்க மணிக்கல்)
Telugu: Sardine
Thai: Plā sār̒ dīn (ปลาซาร์ดีน)
Turkish: Sardalya
Ukrainian: Cardyna (Cардина)
Urdu: سارڈائن
Uzbek: Sardina
Vietnamese: Loại cá mồi
Welsh: Sardîns
Yiddish: Sardin (סאַרדין)
Yoruba: Sadini
Zulu: Nesardiyu
Growing Climate Sardines are found in shallow coastal temperate and subtropical oceans worldwide.
Fish Size & Shape Small, elongated fishes about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) long
Fish Color Silvery
Flesh Color Dark flesh
Taste Strong fishy taste
Predators Large variety of marine birds, fishes, and mammals
Feed on Almost exclusively on zooplankton, “animal plankton”
  • Spanish Sardine  
  • California Sardine
  • Brisling Sardine
  • Canned Sardines
  • Philippine Sardines
Lifespan 14 years, but the majority of sardines are less than 6 years old
Health benefits
  • Brain Health
  • Healthy Growth and Body Development
  • Helpful in Weight Loss
  • Joint Support
  • Reduces inflammation and risk of disease
  • Defends Against Mood Disorders Including Anxiety & Depression
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Strengthens Bones
  • Prevention of Heart Diseases
  • Immunity, Blood Clots
  • Skin Health
  • Anti-Cancer Properties
  • Sore throats
  • Reduced Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Major Nutrition Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamine) 13.32 µg (555.00%)
Selenium, Se 78.5 µg (142.73%)
Phosphorus, P 730 mg (104.29%)
Isoleucine 1.69 g (101.08%)
Lysine 3.367 g (100.69%)
Tryptophan 0.411 g (93.41%)
Threonine 1.608 g (91.36%)
Valine 1.889 g (89.44%)
Histidine 1.08 g (87.66%)
Leucine 2.981 g (80.65%)
Protein 36.68 g (73.36%)
Calcium, Ca 569 mg (56.90%)
Iron, Fe 4.35 mg (54.38%)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 7.815 mg (48.84%)
Total Fat (lipid) 17.06 g (48.74%)
Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol) 7.2 µg (48.00%)
Copper, Cu 0.277 mg (30.78%)
Sodium, Na 457 mg (30.47%)
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.338 mg (26.00%)
Choline 111.8 mg (20.33%)
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 3.04 mg (20.27%)
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.249 mg (19.15%)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 0.957 mg (19.14%)
Zinc, Zn 1.95 mg (17.73%)
Magnesium, Mg 58 mg (13.81%)
Potassium, K 592 mg (12.60%)
Calories in 1 cup (149 g) 310 K cal






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