For those seafood-lovers still not converted to eating sardines, you truly are missing the boat.
As an dedicated fan of the tasty, tiny sea dwellers, I make it a point to buy canned sardines every time I hit the grocery store. There are few more perfect foods at the market—cheap, sustainable, healthy, whole, and filling. There are indeed scarce other foods that meet all said criteria as a single item.
Let’s start with sustainable. Compared to big swimmers like tuna, sharks, or cod, sardines are little guys. They eat low on the food chain, meaning they eat less carnivores and thus less energy. They require less resources to get by and repopulate, and they ingest fewer pollutants like mercury (which is found in dangerously high levels in big swimmers like tuna). By eating the little guys, we put less strain on the ocean’s resources are eating a less polluted food. Double bonus.
Which leads into the nutrition of sardines—not only are they low in mercury and other pollutants, they are amazingly high in vital nutrients, including calcium, protein, and essential fatty acids. Since canned sardines are packed intact (minus the head in most cases), they maintain their bones inside, which soften up immensely in packing but still retain calcium content. Especially for those that don’t consume dairy products, calcium supplements, or lots of leafy greens, sardines are a great way to ingest calcium. And several medical experts have verified that their levels of omega-3s, those heart-boosting essential fatty acids, are comparable to any wild salmon or other fresh fatty fish at the market.
Not only are sardines as healthy as the fresh fish at the market, they are vastly cheaper. Buying a serving of fresh wild salmon at the seafood counter can run five to eight dollars a serving—up to thirteen dollars if it’s cooked and prepared. Canned sardines run two to three dollars a can, which can easily stretch for two servings. It’s a steal of a deal for a quality serving of seafood, really.