What Are the Health Benefits of Sardines?

Fresh sardines on plate next to a plate of lemon wedges.

Sardines provide plenty of essential nutrients, earning them a place in a "Diabetes Forecast" list of five superfoods you should be eating. These nutritional powerhouses may have a bit of a bad reputation due to their strong taste and smell, but if you get past this, you'll be able to reap the potential health benefits of these small fish. One way to do this is to include sardines in pasta sauces and stews, where they will add to the flavor without being overpowering.


Each 3.75-ounce can of sardines packed in oil provides you with 191 calories, 22.7 grams of protein and 10.5 grams of fat, including only 1.4 grams of saturated fat. This is 16 percent of the daily value for fat, 7 percent of the DV for saturated fat and 45 percent of the DV for protein.


Sardines provide 12 percent of the DV for riboflavin, 24 percent of the DV for niacin, 137 percent of the DV for vitamin B-12 and 45 percent of the DV for vitamin D in each 3.85-ounce can. Riboflavin may help prevent cataracts and migraines, and niacin may lower your risk for Alzheimer's disease and improve arthritis symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that getting sufficient amounts of vitamin B-12 may help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer, and consuming enough vitamin D may make you less likely to develop arthritis or cancer.


These little fish are also filled with minerals. Each can of sardines contains 35 percent of the DV for calcium, 15 percent of the DV for iron, 45 percent of the DV for phosphorus and 10 percent of the DV for potassium. You need calcium for strong bones and proper nerve and muscle function, iron is important for forming red blood cells and carrying oxygen where the body needs it. Phosphorus plays a role in forming DNA and storing energy. Potassium can help counteract the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium, potentially lowering your risk for heart disease.

Omega-3 Fats

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you get an average of 500 milligrams of a combination of EPA and DHA each day. These essential omega-3 fats may decrease your heart disease risk. Just 3 ounces of sardines provides 835 milligrams of omega-3 fats, meeting your needs for the day and then some.


As with all fish, sardines may be contaminated with mercury, to some extent. However, sardines are among those fish that typically contain the lowest amounts of mercury, making them safe enough that even pregnant women can eat up to 12 ounces per week, according to the American Pregnancy Association.