Any time of day could be a good time to eat sardines. They are a good source of calcium and protein and, according to a report from Oregon State University, they contain oils that might help prevent heart attack, depression, atherosclerosis and cancer. The American Diabetes Association calls them a "superfood" because they contain omega-3 fatty acids and have low levels of mercury compared to other fish. There is no reason why you shouldn't eat them before you go to sleep unless you try it and find that they don't agree with you. MayoClinic.com recommends eating a snack a few hours before bedtime to help you sleep. So go ahead: Enjoy your late-night sardines. You could even eat them twice a week to optimize their nutritional benefits.
Sardines are a small, long, thin, silver fish. They are also called baby pilchards. You can find them fresh or canned, preserved in oil, pickled and salted, or preserved in tomato sauce. They are often preserved because fresh sardines do not travel well.
Sardines are a good source of vitamins B-2, B-6, B-12, D and niacin, as well as protein, calcium, selenium, iron, zinc, copper and iodine. They are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential to health, but the body cannot produce them; we must eat food to obtain them. Omega-3s are important for the brain to function well. Deficiency in omega-3s can lead to fatigue, memory and heart problems, mood swings, dry skin, and poor circulation. Additionally, eating sardines might be better for the environment than eating overfished varieties, such as salmon.
Eating sardines right before bed could cause indigestion. Eating sardines in lieu of other nutritious foods that should be part of a well-balanced diet, such as fruits, vegetable and whole grains, would lead to vitamin deficiencies. While there is no research to date about overdosing on sardines, if you have a strong, relentless urge for late-night sardines that comes on suddenly or feels unusual, it would be wise to consult with your doctor.
Buy fresh sardines whole and grill them, head and all, for a traditional Mediterranean-inspired snack. Cut off their heads, skin and gut them and chop them finely for a rich addition to pasta sauce. Or simply drizzle them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake until the flesh is cooked through. Keep sardines on hand by buying them canned. Add the canned version to pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Don't remove the fish's soft bones, which are a good source of calcium. You could also eat sardines straight out of the can with a fork a couple of hours before you turn in for the night.
- A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition; Sardine; David A. Bender; 2005
- MedlinePlus: Calcium in Diet
- Oregon State University Extension; OSU Research Helps Land New Markets for Oregon's Sardines; Peg Herring; August 2004
- MayoClinic.com; Will a Bedtime Snack Help Me Feel Better?; Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D.; April 2011
- "Diabetes Forecast"; 5 Superfoods You Should Eat but Probably Don't; Tracey Neithercott; May 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- BBC: Sardine Recipes