Anchovies and sardines are little fish with nutritional strength to improve your health. These fish contain oil that is highly concentrated with healthy fats, primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids called omega-3 fatty acids. Increasing your dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish improves your cardiovascular health and reduces inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis and colitis. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to growth and development and brain function.
Anchovies are the richest fish when it comes to the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies contain 3.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in a 6-ounce serving. Omega-3 fatty acids in anchovies include eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Anchovies also contain monounsaturated fatty acids and another type of polyunsaturated fat called omega-6 fatty acids. Nonetheless, it is the omega-3 fatty acids that make anchovies a healthy treat. Many other foods, such as vegetable oils, contain omega-6 fatty acids, but fewer foods contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Anchovies
Eating anchovies helps you increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. People who eat a higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids are less likely to develop heart disease. Unlike albacore tuna, a fish that contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and mercury, anchovies are among the few fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are also low in mercury and other toxins. Mercury is a heavy metal that can cause nerve damage and birth defects. Anchovies are also a good source of protein.
Sardines contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and low amounts of mercury. Pacific sardines contain 2.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 6-ounce serving. Sardines also contain omega-6 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. Plus, sardines are a good source of protein, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and calcium.
Sardines and Breast Milk
The nutritional composition of breast milk impacts the health of the infant. Nursing mothers who eat sardines are able increase the content of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk. Scientists at the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found that nursing mothers who eat 100 grams of sardines two or three times per week are able to increase concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk, according to research published in the January-February issue of the "Journal of Pediatrics" in 2006. The results demonstrate that regular consumption of sardines and shorter intervals between eating sardines and lactation result in higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk.