Sardines, with their reputation of having a fishy taste, may be off-putting to some people. However, these small, oily fish are packed with nutrients, including healthy fats. When properly prepared, sardines are cost-effective and flavorful. Whether fresh, frozen or canned, they have similar calorie, protein and fat content. Sardines are harvested at a sustainable rate, with their population staying steady despite regular fishing.
Benefits of Eating Sardines
Adults are advised to include at least two servings of seafood per week in their diet. All sardines are high in protein and in omega-3 fatty acids, an unsaturated fat that can help lower your cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends you get the majority of your fat intake -- between 25 and 35 percent of your daily calories -- from unsaturated fats.
Fresh and Frozen Sardines
Fresh and frozen sardines are available year-round. A 100-gram serving -- about 3.5 ounces -- of poached Pacific sardines contains 217 calories per serving. It also has over 24 grams of protein and a little more than 12 grams of fat, the majority of which is unsaturated.
Canned sardines are widely available in grocery stores and may be packed in oil or water. One 100-gram serving of sardines drained of oil has 208 calories per serving. This serving also has almost 24.6 grams of protein and 11.5 grams of fat. As with fresh sardines, the majority of the fat is unsaturated.
Cooking and Serving Sardines
Sardines are easy to cook and prepare. For frozen or fresh sardines, grilling, broiling or pan frying are common cooking methods, as they produce a crisp outer skin that contrasts with the firm, juicy meat. Sprinkle the cooked sardines with sea salt and fresh lemon juice for a simple meal. You can drain canned sardines of their canning liquid, and then serve them with crackers or on top of a salad.
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Proteins Are in the Protein Foods Group?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Fish Watch: Pacific Sardine -- The Seafood
- Fish Watch: Pacific Sardine -- Overview
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Fish, Sardine, Canned in Oil
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats