What are sardines?

Sardines, also known as pilchards, are small oily fish that belong to the same family as herring and anchovies. They can be bought fresh, frozen or (most commonly) canned.


Nutritional benefits of sardines

Sardines may be small, but they make a great addition to a balanced diet, as they are low in saturated fat and calories, but high in protein. They also offer a good array of vitamins and minerals.

A 100g serving of fresh, cooked sardines:

  • 172 calories
  • 25.4g protein
  • 7.8g fat
  • 496mg potassium
  • 63mg calcium
  • 5ug vitamin D
  • 12mg niacin
  • 10.6ug vitamin B12
  • 65ug selenium
  • 101 ug iodine

Canned sardines are a great alternative to fresh and are available packed in different dressings, such as olive oil, brine and tomato sauce. You can even buy skinless, boneless sardines, but don’t be put off by the skin and bones – these are actually very nutritious, and because the sardines are canned, the skin and bones are often very soft and easily digested. Just be aware that varieties packed in olive oil will be a bit higher in calories and fat.

What are the top 5 health benefits of sardines?

1. They are cardioprotective

Sardines are probably best known for being an oily fish and therefore a good source of omega-3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid that the body must get from food as it cannot make it by itself.
Omega-3 fatty acid is naturally anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective as it has been found to have a beneficial impact against atherosclerosis, blood pressure and thrombosis.

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2. They help support good mental health

Omega-3 fatty acid has also been found to help support good mental health by preventing conditions such as anxiety and depression and helping increase key neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in the brain, including serotonin.

3. Helps with red blood cell formation

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of red blood cells, which in turn help transport oxygen around the body.

4. Helps support bone health

Sardines, especially canned, are a good source of calcium, thanks to the soft bones that can be eaten. Calcium plays a vital role in bone health and sardines can make a great addition to your diet if you are pregnant or don’t consumer dairy products.

5. Helps with weight management

Thanks to their high protein content, sardines help keep you fuller for longer and reduce sugar cravings, which in turn can help with health weight loss or weight management. Protein is the building block for your muscles, so sardines are also a great addition to your diet if you are looking to increase muscle mass.

Healthy sardine recipes

Spaghetti with sardines
Mediterranean sardine salad
Sardines with chickpeas, lemon & parsley
Sardines & tomatoes on toast
Lemon & marjoram sardines with walnut & pepper dressing

This article was published on 5 September 2021.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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