Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, reproduction and physiologic processes. Without it, each of these normal everyday functions may suffer. Almost all types of fish provide this important trace mineral. Consuming sardines significantly boosts your iodine intake, helping you meet your intake requirements for the day.
Sardines are fish that originate in oceans worldwide, in subtropical and tropical waters. They can live as long as 14 years of age, but about 90 percent of the population is under 6 years old. Sardines rarely grow longer than 9 inches in length, but the canned sardines you purchase from the grocery store are usually young and not longer than 2 or 3 inches. They are low in calories -- about 90 calories per 5 oz. serving -- full of minerals and provide heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, or MUFAs and PUFAs.
As a healthy adult, you need 150 micrograms of iodine daily. Pregnancy ups your needs to 220 micrograms and lactating increases your requirement to 290 micrograms. While a large 5-ounce serving of sardines provides about 35 micrograms, read the nutrition facts label, since different varieties of sardines may vary slightly in iodine content.
Iodine deficiency is rare in the United States, since many foods provide iodine in the form of iodized salt. Having a deficiency can cause your thyroid gland to swell, causing a lump at the base of your neck called "goiter." Additionally, iodine deficiency can lead to mental retardation, hypothyroidism, or lack of thyroid hormones, as well as an array of other developmental and growth abnormalities. Adding sardines to your diet once in awhile can be a pleasant alternative to other types of fish and help keep your iodine stores at optimal levels.
Ways to Eat Sardines
You can eat canned sardines plain, right out of the can. If you can't get past the texture or flavor, mash them up in a food processor. Add the mixture to your fish dinner or sauce, for added flavor and an additional way to sneak in some iodine. Sardines are a close relative to anchovies and have a similar flavor. Switch up your Caesar salad by enjoying sardines instead of anchovies every so often. Sardines are also delicious when you lightly bread and saute them -- and serve with brown rice.