SARDINES – AN EXCELLENT FOOD
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© June 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
ALERT! As of February 6, 2017, we do not recommend Chicken Of The Sea or Bumblebee brands of sardines. They seem overcooked and somewhat toxic.
The humble sardine is an important special food for nutritional balancing. This article explains why, and which ones I recommend.
They are healthful for the following reasons:
1. A very yang fish. Sardines are more yang because they are very small.
More yang foods are best today because the bodies are all too yin. Eating yang foods helps balance the body. Eating yin food - such as fruit, nuts, seeds and raw food - makes the bodies much less healthy, no matter what nutritional benefits the food or supplement offers.
This is also the reason to avoid:
- most herbs
- all fruit except a few dried botija olives per week
most juices except 10-12 ounces of carrot juice or a little wheat grass juice twice a week.
- “green superfoods” except for kelp capsules
- all coconut products (a sub-tropical fruit)
- fermented foods except a little miso, a little cheese, and a little yogurt or kefir if you like. These are not required or important foods for nutritional balancing.
- most nutritional supplements.
- most medical drugs
- all homeopathy
2. Very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Everyone needs more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets due to the use of processed vegetable oils in foods, and feeding livestock on corn, rather than pasture land.
Sardines are a wonderful source of high-quality omega-3 fatty acids. To read more about this topic, please read Omega-3 Fatty Acids on this site.
3. High in vitamin D3 and vitamin E. Everyone over about the age of 6 or 7 needs more vitamin D. The sun is not providing enough, even for those who like to sunbathe, and even in those who live in sunny, Southern climates.
Sardines are a rich source of this very essential vitamin. To read more, please read Vitamin D on this site.
Sardines are also a good source of the other fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E. Vitamin K comes mostly from vegetables.
4. Low in mercury. The small size of the sardine means that it has less opportunity to pick up and accumulate mercury. Skinless and boneless sardines are even lower in mercury, with up to 50% less mercury than regular sardines because apparently the mercury concentrates in the sardine’s spinal cord that is removed in the boneless ones.
However, the spine supplies excellent calcium and the spinal cord supplies excellent nervous tissue. The skin also provides an excellent form of selenium. The extra mercury is less important at this time (Feb. 2017). Therefore, we recommend sardines with skin and bones at this time.
All larger fish, even salmon, concentrate mercury up to a million times more than the lowly sardine. We do not agree with some health authorities who recommend some of the larger fish under any circumstances.
They are nutritious, but they are too high in mercury. The mercury shows up quickly on hair mineral tests if one eats just one serving of salmon per week, for example. To read more, please read Mercury on this website.
5. High in protein. Sardines provide a wonderful, complete and balanced protein that is well utilized by human beings.
6. High in calcium and selenium. This has been mentioned above, and is very important, as there are few such excellent sources of these forms of minerals. The sardine is much better than dairy products, for example, for calcium.
7. A good source of many minerals. Sardines offer many minerals, among them calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, iodine, zinc, and others.
8. Very high in coenzyme Q-10. Co Q-10 is an excellent nutrient of which most people do not get enough. It is required for energy production in the cells, and is especially important for the health of the heart and the brain. Sardines are among the richest food source of coenzyme Q-10.
9. Healthful organ meat and nerve tissue. When sardines are processed, the heads are removed, but the organs remain, and are fairly clean – unlike organ meat of land-based animals. If one eats larger fish and other animal foods, these are removed or they are filthy with toxic metals.
10. Wild caught and cooked quickly. To the best of our knowledge, sardines are still caught with nets in the ocean. This means they eat what they like, swim where they wish, and are a lot healthier and cleaner than most fish sold today. They are then cooked very quickly, which helps preserve them.
Most fish today are farm-raised. A few fish farms are quite health-conscious. Most are disgusting and the fish are thoroughly unhealthy, as a result. The fish often lie almost motionless surrounded by their own urine and feces until they are “harvested”.
I would never eat any farmed fish, no matter how attractive it looks. They can dress them up with chemicals, and this is standard in the industry.
11. A developmental food. Development, as the word is used on this website, is a particular process that some human beings go through that enhances brainpower and the immune response. Sardines are one of the few foods on planet earth that contribute to this process. To read more about this amazing topic, please read Introduction To Development on this website.
Other developmental foods are plenty of cooked vegetables with each meal, lamb, chicken, and organic blue corn chips. For details, read Food And Development.
12. 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. We find no problems with the aluminum or steel cans in which they are packed. The canned sardines are actually better preserved and therefore fresher than most “fresh” fish that are transported sometimes thousands of miles before they are cooked.
Today, sardines are cooked quickly after being caught, sometimes right on the boat.
13. High in RNA and DNA. Sardines are rich in nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA. This can help rebuild and nourish our bodies.
It makes the sardine a rather heavy food, so that some people don’t like them as much as some fish. However, it is a benefit for most people today, especially fast oxidizers.
Adults need 3 to 4 cans weekly of the 3.75 ounce cans of sardines. These are the standard sized cans. If the cans are smaller, have a little more. If larger, have fewer.
Do not have more than 3-4 cans weekly unless the sardines are boneless. This is because even sardines contain a little mercury, and too much is not good. Boneless sardines have less mercury, so it is possible to eat more safely. However, it is best to vary your proteins.
This will supply enough omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, and this is a major concern.
Warning. If you eat this many cans of sardines, do not take additional supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. You can easily overdo on omega-3 and vitamin D, and this is not desirable.
Do not be misled by the fact that nutrition books or the label says that a can of sardines only contains about 200 IU of vitamin D, whereas we recommend taking 5000 iu daily of a fish oil vitamin D supplement.
According to a 2016 medical study, https://open.bu.edu/handle/2144/16849, the vitamin D label on the sardine can is not accurate. Sardines actually contain much more vitamin D than the label suggests.
This study found the following:
* The average vitamin D3 content of the sardines packed in olive oil was 2555.6 iu. Of this amount, 20.9% of the vitamin D went into the olive oil in which they were packed. This leaves 2044.48 iu of vitamin D in each can of sardines - just in the sardine, not the olive oil.
* The average vitamin D3 content of sardines packed in water was 1993.7 iu. Of this amount, 14.2% of the vitamin D went into the water. This leaves 1710.6 iu of vitamin D in just the sardines, not the water.
Even with these amounts, if one eats three or four cans weekly, the amount of vitamin D3 one receives level does not add up to our recommended 5000 iu daily. However, we find that three to four cans of sardines provide sufficient vitamin D for most people. Occasionally, we need to recommend a little extra vitamin D, but this is rare.
It is possible that the vitamin D3 found in the sardines is better absorbed or better utilized than the vitamin D3 in a store-bought capsule. This is very possible because the food probably assists absorption of the vitamin D3 and/or might help preserve the vitamin D3.
Another conclusion from this study is that if you want the most vitamin D3, don’t throw away the oil or water in which the sardines are packed. Pour it over your vegetables or eat it in some other way. This is not required, however.
Most brands are good. In the USA, a brand called Seasons is very good. The pinkish can of sardines from Trader Joe’s is also very good. Both of these are packed in olive oil, which provides more vitamin D than those packed in water.
Stay away from Bar Harbor Sardines. They are not sardines! Also, as noted above, do not buy Chicken Of The Sea or Bumblebee brands of sardines. These are overcooked and somewhat toxic. Sardines should not be mushy.
Buy ones packed in oil, water or mustard. Oil seems to be best, however. Those packed in tomato sauce or hot sauce are more yin and more irritating to the body.
Smoked sardines are fine, and are a little more yang, which is good. Smoking adds some minerals.
Sardines with the bones and skin offer more minerals and nervous system tissue. However, they are a little higher in mercury. This is okay unless you want to consume more than 4 cans per week. Then eat only the sardines without bones to keep the mercury level acceptable.
3. Children. Children under the age of about six usually do not need extra omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. They may have some sardines, however, if they like.
From age six to eight, most children need about ½ a can of sardines per week to provide extra omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
From age nine to 12, most children need about 1 can of sardines a week.
From age 13-15, most children need about 2 cans of sardines per week.
From age 14 and up, most teens can eat 3 cans per week.
This is better than taking omega-3 and vitamin D pills because sardines offer so many other benefits.
The answer is that most sardines in the can are quite fresh because they cooked quickly when caught. Fish tend to spoil quickly. So a can of sardines is actually far better than buying pretty-looking fish that have traveled sometimes thousands of miles before cooking.
The nutrients are still present in the canned ones. Be sure the sardines you buy have not passed their expiration date. The fresher the better.
Sardine cans are all coated on the inside so the sardines do not come into contact with the aluminum or steel can.
Perfectly fresh sardines are impossible to find in America. Some Oriental markets sell dried sardines, and these are okay, but not as good, in fact.
For those who want to watch their weight, sardines are also superb. They will fill you up, and keep you full for hours.
Sardines taste a little fishy. The smoked ones and those in oil are less so. It is wise to learn to ignore the taste because this is one food that is extremely healthful. See below for toppings you can add to disguise the taste.
Sardines make an excellent, high-protein, meal. You can eat a can of them all alone. This is called a mono meal.
Otherwise, combine them only with cooked vegetables - with only these two kinds of foods at the meal. Combining them with tortillas, bread, corn chips, or other grain at the meal is not nearly as good a food combination and will impair digestion.
Sardines have a slightly fishy taste. Make sure they are as fresh as possible by looking at the expiration date on the can. Here are ways to make them that taste better if you don’t like their flavor:
1. Spice them up with sea salt, garlic powder, a little cayenne powder, ginger, oregano, thyme, rosemary or dill.
2. Put some of your favorite mustard on them. Most mustard is a decent product, provided it is not loaded with sugar and too much vinegar.
3. Mash them with a fork, add mayonnaise and some chopped celery and/or onions to make sardine salad. This is a little yin, but if it will help you eat sardines, it is not too bad. Many people cannot taste the difference between this and tuna salad.
4. You could add mashed sardines to your favorite dip such as a bean dip. This is also more yin, but is okay now and then.
5. Mix them with cooked vegetables such as cooked onions, which add sweetness and a strong flavor.