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Eating sardines provides you with a variety of nutritional benefits, including protein, vitamins and minerals. The name sardine refers to a variety of small, soft-boned, saltwater fish including sprat, pilchard and herring. These fish are only available fresh for a very limited time during the summer months. Most commonly, they're canned whole and packed in oil. You can also find them smoked, dried or canned in water or tomato sauce.
Calories and Protein
Sardines provide a low-calorie source of protein to help boost your amino acid intake. A 1-ounce serving of these small fish gives you 59 calories and 7 grams protein. Your body cannot store amino acids, the building blocks of protein, the same way it stores carbohydrates and fats. So, you must get protein from your daily diet to maintain your bodily fluids, muscles and bones. Eating low-calorie sources of protein helps you meet your daily amino acid needs, without putting you over your daily caloric needs.
Sardines also have a small amount of fat. From a 1-ounce portion of sardines, you'll get 3.25 grams of fat. Of this total fat, 2.5 grams come from healthy forms of fat called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Diets containing these healthy fats may help lower your cholesterol level, according to the American Heart Association. Certain polyunsaturated fatty acids in sardines, called omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for proper brain function and may help prevent inflammation and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Good Source of Minerals
Because sardines are eaten whole, including the soft bones and skin, they are a good source of calcium. You'll get 108 milligrams of calcium from a 1-ounce serving of sardines, which is 11 percent of the daily value for calcium. Your body relies on calcium to maintain healthy bones and teeth, as well as proper blood clotting and blood pressure. You'll also get 14 percent of the daily value for phosphorus and 21 percent of the daily value for selenium from sardines. Phosphorus is essential for strong bones and teeth, as it helps maintain muscle and nerve function and also plays a role in energy metabolism. Selenium functions as an antioxidant in the body, and helps prevent damage from harmful free radicals.
Along with minerals, eating sardines provides you with significant amounts of two essential vitamins. You'll get 55 International Units of vitamin D from 1 ounce of sardines, which is 14 percent of the daily value for the nutrient. It helps regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption you need to maintain healthy bones and teeth. You'll also get 2.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 from sardines, which is more than 100 percent of the daily value. Vitamin B12 plays a part in keeping your nervous system healthy, producing red blood cells and synthesizing DNA.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Fish, Sardine, Atlantic, Canned in Oil, Drained Solids With Bone
- Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst
- MedlinePlus: Dietary Proteins
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used; Jean A. T. Pennington and Judith Spungen Douglass
- Viktorija Kuprijanova/iStock/Getty Images