This little fish has big health benefits

Today I want to talk about sardines. Yes–sardines.

In America, this salty fish isn’t very popular. Except perhaps as a pizza topping for the more adventurous eaters.

But in other countries–especially in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and throughout Scandinavia and the Baltic–sardines are a vital part of a healthy diet. You can buy them around the world in tins or cans, where they are literally “packed like sardines.”

I suggest trying to add them to your cooking, as my grandmothers did. They sautéed finely chopped sardines with olive oil, garlic, and onions as a base for tomato sauce. And they swore it was the secret to the sauce.

Indeed, sardines hold many secret benefits. Just 3.2 ounces of sardines packed in water provide the following daily dietary allowances:

  • 16 percent of vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • 30 percent of vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • 338 percent of vitamin B12
  • 35 percent of calcium
  • 16 percent of choline
  • 19 percent of copper
  • 24 percent of iodine
  • 61 percent of omega-3s
  • 64 percent of phosphorus
  • 45 percent of protein
  • 87 percent of selenium
  • 44 percent of vitamin D

It’s hard to find another whole food source as rich in nutrients per ounce as sardines.

First, there’s calcium.

As I told you last week, you should always get your calcium from food sources. Never from a supplement. But calcium can be difficult to get from the diet. So include some sardines on the menu. Between the meat and the little tiny bones, sardines are one of the best sources of dietary calcium on earth, or in the sea

Next, let’s look at the iodine in sardines.

It used to be most Americans got plenty of iodine from iodized salt. But today, many people are deficient because they try to follow the government’s ridiculous guidelines to restrict salt. So go ahead and add sardines to your diet and you’ll be on your way to reversing this trend. (Any food from the sea goes a long way to providing iodine requirements.)

Selenium is another important mineral best obtained from food. Selenium–along with copper and phosphorus–help support a healthy, regular heartbeat and rhythm. Phosphorus plays a duel role, as it also helps prevent dementia and cognitive decline.

Now let’s move onto the healthy B vitamins in sardines…

This important family of eight vitamins helps lower homocysteine, which damages arteries and contributes to atherosclerosis. Plus, as you can see, sardines contain a lot of B12 , which helps you sleep. This observation places new meaning on the Italian phrase of “sleeping with the fishes.”

When you think of all the B vitamins–known as “neurovitamins” in Europe–you can see how this little fish could earn its reputation as a “Brain Food.”

Speaking of brain health, let’s now home-in on the omega-3s found in sardines…

Many experts consider omega-3s one of the keys to the Mediterranean Diet. They balance cholesterol and triglyceride levels in healthy ways without poisoning your metabolism the way cholesterol-lowering statin “blockers” do. They also have anti-inflammatory effects, prevent excessive blood clotting, and help your arteries to relax. Altogether, these actions help you maintain normal blood pressure and a healthy heart and blood vessels.

Of course, omega-3 fatty acids like DHA found in sardines also play a key role in brain health and cognitive function. DHA may help improve cognitive performance relating to memory, speed of performing mental tasks, and learning.

In one study, researchers gave fish oil rich in omega-3s to lab animals. They measured the animals’ age-related dysfunction in the brain. They found the animals who received the fish oil delayed age-related brain dysfunction. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce body fat mass and increase lean muscle mass.

The omega-3s and vitamin D in sardines support prostate health. They reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, help prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells, and interfere with tumor growth and spread. Vitamin D in the form of calcitriol is hormonally active and inhibits damage caused by prostaglandins, as well as suppresses inflammation. (I’ll tell you more about the role vitamin D plays in preventing prostate cancer in the upcoming August issue of my Insiders’ Guide newsletter.)

Of course, sardines also contain protein, which you need to maintain healthy muscle and connective tissues, especially as you get older. One study found half of older men don’t get enough protein because they follow the faulty, outdated government guidelines to cut back on meat consumption.

So don’t wrinkle your nose anymore at sardines. Give them a try…in your tomato sauce, like my grandmothers’…in salads…or even on the grill!

At many good stores, you can find sardines in BPA-free cans. Or better yet, buy them fresh at the local fish market or grocer.