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Sardines: Superfood of the Sea
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Sardines: Superfood of the Sea

Whenever I talk to friends, family, or clients about how to get the optimum amount of calcium in their diets without resorting to dairy, I always mention sardines. And without fail, I get the same look from everyone. It's that twisted up "I just smelled rotten eggs" look, and it always precedes the same question:

How the heck do you make a dish with sardines?

Sardines have a lot of bad P.R. to overcome. They're most well known for their pungent odor, along with the concept of being uncomfortably crammed together in a tight space. But you'll be missing out on an astonishing superfood if you let those associations prevent you from adding them to your diet.

Sardines contain:

  • Vitamin D, vitamin B2, niacin, and around 150% of your recommended daily value of vitamin B12
  • Phosphorus, potassium, and calcium
  • Protein and Omega-3 fatty acids

Plus, since sardines aren't predators, they're less likely to be contaminated with mercury and other toxic chemicals that are cropping up in more and more of our seafood.

So, sardines are an absolute powerhouse when it comes to health and wellness. But that doesn't answer the question: How on earth do you add them to your diet?

I have a friend who swears sardines are absolutely delicious right out of the can with a little fresh onion, though she admits that the smell may be a bit much to handle at first. If you're turned off by the smell of sardines, or by the idea of eating close-to-raw fish, consider a few of the following options for adding sardines to your daily diet.

  • Salad toppings: We've all heard of a chicken Caesar salad or a house salad with grilled salmon. If you'd like a little variety in your proteins, toss in some grilled sardines. In addition to the delicious flavor they add, you'll be able to reap the benefits of sardines' vitamin-and-nutrient punch.

  • Snack attack: Grilled sardines make a fantastic topping for homemade pizza, adding back in the calcium you lose by removing the cheese while also providing protein and an ample supply of Omega-3s.

  • Sardine spread: Throw sardines and chickpeas together in a food processor to create your own nutrient-rich hummus, or try this super-easy recipe for a delicious, all-natural sardine spread.

Two things to keep in mind when you're buying or cooking with sardines:

First, try to get fresh sardines if you can. If you're unable to find them, the next-best option is canned sardines packed in water. You'll see grocery shelves lined with cans of sardines packed in all kinds of oils, as well as tomato sauces (for pasta dishes). Avoid these. They're full of unnecessary fat, calories, and sodium.

Secondly, if you spend any time online checking out sardine recipes, you'll notice many of them call for breading and frying the sardines. Don't. Breading and frying anything compromises its healthfulness. Sardines are incredibly healthy, and lightly grilling them helps maintain their vitamin-and-nutrient value.