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Diet & Nutrition, Health

13 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sardines

Written by Sonny Arvado
Reviewed by Jessica Coghill
Jessica Coghill is an integrative functional medicine-based nutritionist. She is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) and has a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition.

Fact Checked. Our dedicated editorial team tirelessly evaluates every article we publish to ensure the information is factual, up-to-date and free of bias.

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Whether you’re on a tight budget or eating in a rush, you’ve probably opened a can of sardines to tide you over with an affordable and quick meal. Referring to a species of small silvery fish, sardines are commonly found in canned form lining grocery shelves in all parts of the world.

Sardines are also prepared in a variety of ways; they are packed in water, oils, or tomato sauce for added flavor. You can eat them straight out of the can, paired with rice, or as a topping to spice up your favorite pasta.

But given the ubiquity and accessibility of sardines in everyday life, these fish probably do not inspire dishes in those must-try, best-tasting foods lists. With their sheer size or lack thereof, it’s easy to assume that there isn’t much to gain from eating a sardine or two. Do sardines benefit you in any way at all?

13 Surprising Health Benefits of Sardines

Contrary to popular belief, sardines’ health benefits are plentiful and significant. Consider making sardines a regular part of your diet with these 13 surprising health benefits of sardines you’d probably wish you’d known earlier.

1. Rich in Protein

A can of sardines (approximately 3.75 oz.) provides 24.6 grams of protein. Among others, it also rich in calcium with 382 grams.[1]

Following the US recommended daily protein allowance of 0.8g per kg of weight, this already makes up 1/3 of the protein requirement of an average male adult weighing 190lbs. Now that’s big for just a small can of sardines.[2]


2. Prevention of Heart Disease

Sardines are an excellent source of marine Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, a major player in reducing the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent blockages caused by narrow veins and arteries or blood clots by keeping all parts of the heart flowing smoothly.

This involves breaking down bad cholesterol, opening up blood vessels, reducing blood pressure, and regulating one’s heart rate.[3]

3. Reduces Inflammation and Strengthens Immunity

While Omega-3 is usually linked to heart health, another study shows that DHA and EPA have different strengths in reducing inflammation in the body. The former has a wider scope of anti-inflammatory effects, while the latter more effectively balances pro- and anti-inflammatory proteins in the body.[4]

With inflammation at the root of most diseases, stocking up on more sardines sounds like an excellent investment for your health. Another health benefit of sardines is in boosting immunity, as a study has also confirmed the role of Omega-3 fatty acids in triggering cells to heal themselves.

There is also a proven correlation between increased fish intake and a lower incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases.[5]

If you want to “spice up” the anti-inflammatory defense, add a little bit of turmeric and black pepper when you are preparing your sardines. The combination is critical: the piperine in black pepper inhibits your liver to make sure your body maximizes all the curcumin in the turmeric.[6]


Plus, you can’t deny the two make for an authentic Indian flavor, too.

4. Vitamins and Minerals

Do you want to know if sardines are really good for you? Check the label.

Sardines are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals essential for long-term growth and development, such as vitamins B1, B3, and Phosphorus.[7]

5. Maintains Bone Health

Developing strong bones early on prevents you from worrying about your absent-minded clumsiness getting the best of you. Accidents happen, and you can’t be too sure not to get injured out there.

Sardines are also a great source of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are essential for consistently strong and healthy bones and teeth.

6. Combats Anxiety and Depression

Good food is never a bad thing, but there is proof that adding some sardines to your diet is a habit that can brighten up your day. The secret once again lies in its Omega-3 fatty acid content.

New findings indicate that there is a strong correlation between Omega-3 fatty acids and the improvement of depression. [8]

7. Antioxidant Properties

Sardines contain selenium, a trace mineral found in many proteins. While it is lesser known, Selenium helps ‘future-proof’ the body by protecting it against organ damage and infection.


This is done through selenium vital role in forming selenoproteins which have antioxidant properties. These proteins can protect cells against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals that cause irreparable damage to cells and DNA, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.[9]

8. Helps Prevent Diabetes

A study has shown that another health benefit of adding sardines to your diet is a reduced risk of diabetes. Starting from 27% of participants classified as high-risk for type 2 diabetes, this number reduced to only 8% by the end of the study.[10]

A key success factor would be the role that a high-protein sardine diet plays in reducing insulin resistance, superior to other diets in the market. Nothing like yummy and healthy food alternatives to motivate you toward a healthier lifestyle. [11]

9. Helps Curb Appetite

Another aspect that a sardine diet excels at is controlling blood sugar levels. Not only is this health benefit of sardines relevant for diabetics, but also for anyone focusing on curbing their cravings.

Sardines help curb appetite by preventing food cravings and unnecessary snacking. Simply put, the high protein and fat content help promote weight loss because they slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood. This leaves you feeling fuller for longer, giving you no reason to look for another bag of chips minutes after your last meal.

10. Better Sleep 

The health benefits of sardines can even affect your sleep. Ever wished for a healthy midnight snack? Sardines might be the answer. Thanks to sardines’ Omega-3 fatty acids, more serotonin is released into your system. This allows you to have more quality sleep.[12]


Combine that with sardines’ health benefits in reducing cravings and you might just have the solution to sustainably cut down on midnight snacking.

11. Great for Your Skin

The fountain of youth is found in fish! Another health benefit of sardines is their role in maintaining skin health.

Studies have shown that the addition of Omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines is effective in treating skin diseases as common as acne to more specialized diseases such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and skin ulcers.[13]

Sardines also contain choline, a key element for dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE). DMAE is an active ingredient in facial care products for its ability to reduce inflammation and firm up skin. Research shows that the application of DMAE facial gel has helped in reducing fine lines and wrinkles with lasting effects on aging skin. [14]

12. Reduces the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that results in loss of vision. For age-related cases, this is usually seen in adults over the age of 50.

Recent studies have shown that consuming fatty fish, such as sardines, results in a reduced risk of developing AMD. [15]


13. Promotes Healthy Brain Function

A health benefit of sardines’ healthy fats is being good “brain food.”

DHA in particular has been linked as a key building block for brain development and has shown potential for improving mental health conditions. [16]


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

13 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sardines

Sardines is rich in protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. It is also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

It helps in the prevention of heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, and even anxiety and depression.

Sardines are a good source of nutrients that help you maintain strong bones, get better sleep, improve brain function, and maintain healthy skin.

Its high protein content also makes it a great way to curb snacking and lower the incidence of diabetes.

Final Thoughts

It’s the small things that pack a big punch. Sardines health benefits are already a wide variety of things you want for your health. Don’t underestimate sardines. They’re plentiful and affordable, plus they come packed with nutrients and are low in calories, too.

Stop wondering if sardines are good for you. Fit into a healthy meal in minutes and feel the health benefits of sardines for yourself.

Featured photo credit: Alyssa li via unsplash.com


[1]U.S. Department of Agriculture: FNDDS Survey
[2]Mayo Clinic Health System: Are You Getting Too Much Protein?
[3]National Library of Medicine: Omega-3 fatty acids in coronary heart disease: Recent updates and future perspectives
[4]Atherosclerosis: EPA and DHA differentially modulate monocyte inflammatory response in subjects with chronic inflammation in part via plasma specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators
[5]National Library of Medicine: Dietary Fish, Fish Nutrients, and Immune Function: A Review
[6]NutritionFacts.org: Turmeric with Black Pepper: What It’s Good for and How to Take It
[7]National Institute on Aging: Vitamins and Minerals for Older Adults
[8]Nature.com: Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis
[9]National Library of Medicine: Selenium: its role as antioxidant in human health
[10]Clinical Nutrition: Type 2 diabetes preventive effects with a 12-months sardine-enriched diet in elderly population with prediabetes: An interventional, randomized and controlled trial
[11]National Library of Medicine: A High Protein Diet Is More Effective in Improving Insulin Resistance and Glycemic Variability Compared to a Mediterranean Diet-A Cross-Over Controlled Inpatient Dietary Study
[12]Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology: Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior
[13]National Library of Medicine: The Potential Uses of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Dermatology: A Review
[14]SpringerLink: The role of dimethylaminoethanol in cosmetic dermatology
[15]ScienceDirect: Potential mechanisms of macular degeneration protection by fatty fish consumption
[16]National Library of Medicine: The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders
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