4 Surprising Side Effects of Eating Sardines – Don’t Eat This

You either love them or hate them – but there’s no denying that sardines pack plenty of flavor and nutrition into every little fish. These little silverfish come canned in water, oil, mustard sauce, hot sauce, and many other flavours. Sardines are fully packaged, unlike canned tuna or salmon, as each fish is less than 25cm tall and can be eaten with skin, bones, and everything.

Don’t let its appearance fool you – if you enjoy other “fishy” fish like salmon or herring, you’ll probably love the taste of sardines. They’re great spread over crackers, stacked on toast, slathered into a salad, or stuffed with peppers. And these are just a few of the many ways to enjoy it!

Sardines also bring a lot of nutrients to the table at a low price. One can (3.75 ounces) of sardines contains 22 grams of protein and can be found for $1.50 or less per can.

These little fish pack a lot of flavor and are a versatile and budget-friendly addition to your grocery cart, but how healthy are they? Here are four ways that eating sardines can affect your health.

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Sardines naturally contain two essential nutrients to help keep your bones strong as you age. Since sardine bones are so small and soft, they are left in fish, which is good news for your bones. Sardines with bones are a great non-dairy source of calcium, which is essential for bone health. Anya Rosen, MS, RD, LD, INFCP, CPTa virtual functional medicine practitioner based in New York City.

A can of sardines contains 27% of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium – more than a glass of milk! Like us, most of the calcium in sardines is stored in their bones.

But calcium isn’t the only way sardines help keep your bones strong and healthy — they’re also a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that your body needs to absorb calcium. If you are deficient in vitamin D, the calcium you eat will not be able to do its job of protecting the strength and integrity of your bones.

Oily fish like salmon, mackerel, swordfish, and sardines are excellent natural sources of vitamin D. A can of sardines contains 22% of your daily needs.

Related: The No. 1 Supplement for Strong Bones After 50, Says a Dietitian

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Sardines are a convenient way to sneak in the omega-3 fatty acids, as each contains one gram of heart-protecting polyunsaturated fats. “A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has many potential benefits, including lowering blood cholesterol, lower levels of inflammation, and a reduced risk of heart disease,” Bethany Keith MS, RDN, LD, CNSCa registered dietitian with Sizzling Nutrition.

In 2021 JAMA Internal Medicine For a review, researchers analyzed data from nearly 200,000 adults (with or without heart disease). They found that eating at least two servings (175 grams) of oily fish per week significantly reduced the risk of major heart disease in healthy adults and death in those who already had heart disease.

canned sardines and fork
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“Eating large amounts of sardines may contribute to flare-ups among gout patients, and some types of canned sardines can be high in sodium,” Emma Ling, Ph.D., RDNnational spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Gout is a particularly painful form of arthritis. The flare-ups can be felt as sharp pain, burning, and tenderness in joints such as the big toe, ankle, or knee. One of the causes of a gout attack is eating a diet rich in purines – a natural substance that breaks down into uric acid in the body. Gout attacks occur when uric acid crystals build up in the joints, causing severe inflammation and pain.

Sardines, anchovies, mussels, trout, and red meat are all rich in purines. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat sardines, but you may need to be careful about how much you eat and the rest of your diet as well. If you have gout, talk to your doctor or dietitian as you may need to limit your intake of sardines or adjust your general eating pattern to suit them, suggests Ling.

Grilled sardines on a plate with lemon slices
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Besides calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and protein, sardines are an excellent source of vitamin B12. A can of sardines contains 343% of the daily value of vitamin B12.

Deficiency of this water-soluble vitamin is often seen in the elderly, those with pernicious anemia (a disease that prevents the stomach from absorbing vitamin B12), people with various infectious diseases, and vegetarians or vegans. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath and low energy.

While the vitamin B12 in sardines won’t give you an instant energy boost like caffeine, including it and other B12 sources and high-quality protein in your diet will help you feel more energized on a regular basis.

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