by Lawrence Wilson, MD

© January 2014, The Center For Development


The humble sardine is emerging as one of the best foods for most of our clients.  Sardines, of course, are very small fish that live in the oceans of the world, particularly the Atlantic Ocean.  They are healthful for the following reasons:


1. Low in mercury.  The small size of the sardine means that it has less opportunity to pick up mercury.  The skinless and boneless sardines are even lower in mercury.  All larger fish, even salmon, can concentrate mercury up to a million times more than the lowly sardine.


2. High in omega-3 fatty acids.  Sardines are a wonderful source of high-quality omega-3 fatty acids.


3. High amounts of vitamin D3.  Sardines are a rich source of this essential vitamin that most people do not get enough of.


4. High in protein.  Sardines provide a complete and balanced protein that is easily utilized by human beings. 


5. Very high in RNA and DNA.  Sardines are rich in purines.  These are nucleic acids that are proteins needed to rebuild body tissues.  For fast oxidizers, in particular, they can balance the oxidation rate.  However, they are good for everyone. 


6. An excellent source of bioavailable calcium.  Buy the sardines that still have the bones and the skin.  Then you will get a fine source of calcium.  There are few others, such as raw dairy products, some cooked vegetables and some nut and seed butters.


7. An excellent form of selenium. The skin, and the whole fish, are high in a very bioavailable form of selenium, an important mineral today for everyone.  There are few sources as good or as tasty.


8. Healthful organ meat and nerve tissue.  Even the spinal cord and organs of the sardine are very healthful in moderation.  If one eats larger fish and other animal foods, these are removed.  However, animals know that a little organ meat is superb for oneÕs health.  Unfortunately, most portions of organ meat today are too contaminated with toxic metals, but a little is fine.


9. Not farm-raised. I believe most sardines are still caught with nets in the ocean.  This means they can eat what they like, swim where they wish, and thus are probably a lot cleaner and healthier than most fish that are today often farm-raised.


10. A developmental food.  Sardines help develop the brain and the entire body in unique ways.  This is due to their content of a special form of selenium, along with their other nutrient properties.  For this reason, I call sardines a developmental food.  This is a very important group of foods.

Developmental foods automatically help a person to be sharper mentally, and actually can increase brainpower.  They also can boost the immune response of the body.  This is a very special benefit of sardines, and one shared by very few other foods on planet earth.

Other special developmental foods are quality eggs and meats, organic blue and yellow corn, mustard, and kelp, a sea vegetable.  Others are all well-cooked vegetables except for the nighshade family of vegetables.  These are potatoes, tomatoes, all peppers and eggplant.

11. Low in cost, and high in convenience.  Sardines are relatively low in cost, much less than other fish.  They are also convenient because they come cooked and easily eaten. 




Sardines make an excellent, high-protein, low-calorie snack or perhaps meal.  For those who want to watch their weight, sardines are also superb.  Sardines have a slightly fishy taste.  So make sure they are as fresh as possible by looking at the expiration date on the can, and here are ways to make them that taste better if you donÕt like their flavor. 


1. Eat them plain from the can if you are in a hurry or donÕt mind the taste.  Some people like the taste very much.

2. Puts some of your favorite mustard on them if you donÕt like the taste.

3. Mash them with a fork, add mayonnaise and some chopped celery and/or onions to make sardine salad, very much like tuna salad.  Most people cannot taste the difference between them.

4. You could add the mashed sardines to your favorite dip such as a bean dip.  Mix the sardines into the dip and just eat.  Put some cayenne pepper with it if you still donÕt like the taste.

5. Make sardine tacos by mashing them or putting them whole inside a corn tortilla or preferably a blue corn tortilla or blue corn taco shell.  Add a few cooked vegetables or perhaps some cilantro and salsa to taste.

6. Mix the mashed sardines with some cooked rice noodles, and perhaps add soy sauce to add flavor.




The answer is that most sardines in the can are quite fresh, though not totally so, of course.  Fresh sardines are hard to find, and the nutrients are still present in the canned ones.  Be sure the sardines you buy have not passed their expiration date. 

The aluminum can is fine, except perhaps if the sardines are packed in tomato sauce.  This is acidic and might leach a little aluminum into the sauce unless the can is coated on the inside, which it usually is.  I suggest buying sardines packed in oil or in spring water.  Then you wonÕt need to worry about the aluminum can.




Some sardines taste a little fishy.  The smaller Norwegian ones may be a little better.  However, it is wise to learn to ignore the taste because this is one food that is extremely healthful for everyone.




1. The brand of sardines does not seem to matter much.  However, an excellent brand of sardines are the Chicken Of The Sea skinless and boneless smoked sardines.  These have up to 50% less mercury in them.  This is apparently because in the sardine, mercury concentrates in the brain and spinal cord of the fish.  The spinal cord and bones are removed to make boneless sardines.  As a result, the mercury content is much lower.


2. Have three to four cans each week. 

This will provide enough omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D for most people, so you wonÕt need a supplement.  I have seen no appreciable mercury or other toxicity at this level of sardine consumption.  By contrast, most all other fish and all shellfish, even wild-caught salmon, are often toxic today and should be totally avoided.



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