While sardines may not be the first type of fish you think of when you want seafood, you may want to give them a try. These plentiful fish are an excellent source of nutrients, including essential omega-3 fats, so next time you're looking for a low-fat source of protein, open up a can.
Each 3-ounce serving of canned sardines contains 177 calories, 21 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat, only 1.3 grams of which is unhealthy saturated fat. Sardines are one of the best sources of omega-3 fats, providing 835 milligrams per serving, which is more than the 500 milligrams per day recommended by the American Dietetic Association. Omega-3 fats protect you from heart disease and may also have other health benefits, including lowering your risk for rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.
Just one serving of canned sardines provides you with 7.6 micrograms of vitamin B-12, or 127 percent of the DV; 164 international units of vitamin D, or 41 percent of the daily value; 4.5 milligrams of niacin, or 22.5 percent of the DV; and 0.2 milligrams of riboflavin, or 12 percent of the DV. Vitamin B-12 helps form DNA and red blood cells, as well as keeping your brain working properly. You need vitamin D to absorb calcium and for healthy immune function, niacin helps you turn your food into energy and improve your circulation and riboflavin is important for forming red blood cells and nervous system function.
Sardines are also a great way to meet your daily mineral needs. A serving gives you 325 milligrams of calcium, or 33 percent of the DV; 2.5 milligrams of iron, or 14 percent of the DV; and 417 milligrams of phosphorus, or 42 percent of the DV. The calcium in sardines helps keep your bones strong and your muscles working properly, the iron is important for forming red blood cells to carry oxygen where your body needs it and the phosphorus is necessary for the functioning of your heart, nerves, muscles and kidneys.
While canned sardines are a good way to get your vitamins and minerals, they can be a bit high in sodium, with 430 milligrams per serving. This is 19 percent of the recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for healthy people. However, you don't have to worry about mercury, since sardines are one of the types of fish with the least mercury contamination. This means you can safely eat up to 12 ounces of sardines each week.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.