6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

by | Apr 28, 2010

Photo by rockyeda

I’m happy to introduce my friend and fellow sardine lover, Benjy Weinberger. Neither of us were particularly happy about the recent news of the last US sardine cannery closing, so I invited Benjy here to defend the honor of one of my favorite sea creatures.

Benjy Weinberger has been eating food for over 30 years, and has held strong opinions for almost as long.

Read his personal blog: http://jamknife.blogspot.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @benjyw

Yes, We Can! Why We Should Be Eating More Sardines

The whole street rumbles and groans and screams and rattles while the silver rivers of fish pour in out of the boats and the boats rise higher and higher until they are empty. The canneries rumble and rattle and squeak until the last fish is cleaned and cut and cooked and canned.
– John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

A few days ago we were told the last sardine cannery in the US closed its doors for good. A symbol, so the story goes, of how far sardines–once a staple of working-class pantries across the nation–have fallen out of favor with the American palate.

But if you get past the bad “last sardine factory canned” puns, this narrative starts to seem, ahem, fishy. Because, in fact, the sardine is like Bad Company, alive, well and making a comeback.

Fresh sardines are showing up on menus in restaurants from San Francisco to New York. Your local supermarket still offers plenty of canned sardine choices, albeit imported. In Monterey, California, where Steinbeck romanticized the sardine industry in Cannery Row, a group of self-styled “Sardinistas” is working to return the sardine to its rightful place in the American diet. Meanwhile, nearby, small-scale gourmet canning operations have resumed. So it seems the supposed death of the sardine industry has been exaggerated.

So what are sardines, exactly? The term means slightly different things in different countries, but in the US it denotes any of several species of small, oily, silvery fish related to herring.

What all types of sardine have in common is that we should be eating a lot more of them.

6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines

1. They’re good for you.

Sardines pack an awesome nutritional punch. A single serving has around 23 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and potassium, and only 200 calories. And even with canned sardines, all this goodness comes with only around 400 mg of sodium, which is relatively little for a canned product. Plus, they’re often packed in olive oil, itself an important component of a healthy diet.

2. They aren’t bad for you.

Sardines are low on the oceanic food chain, and therefore contain low amounts of mercury, PCBs and the other toxins that accumulate in longer-living marine predators such as salmon and tuna. This makes them a particularly good choice for children and pregnant women.

3. They’re sustainably fished.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SeafoodWATCH rates sardines as a “Best Choice”. Sardine stocks are, once again, abundant, healthy and are now well-managed.

4. They’re affordable.

Prices per oz. of canned sardines are on a par with canned tuna, poultry, ground beef and other supermarket protein sources. Prices of fresh sardines vary with availability, but they are usually among the less expensive fresh fish on display.

5. They taste like fish.

In a supermarket landscape dominated by bland, artificially dyed salmon fillets, pale tuna steaks, frozen fish sticks, artificial crab meat and other attempts to sell seafood as generic chicken-like protein slabs to people who aren’t sure if they actually like it, sardines stand out. You simply can’t ignore the fact that they are, well, fish. They look like fish, being too small to fillet or grind up. They smell like fish. They are oily. They have heads and tails, scales and bones. And they taste fishy.

This is, as most people who genuinely enjoy food know, a good thing.

6. They’re delicious.

This is ultimately the most important point in favor of consuming more sardines: they are a pleasure to eat. Simple, easy to prepare and downright delicious.

If you get your hands on some fresh sardines, they feature in fabulous recipes originating from all over the Mediterranean basin. But sardines are so simple and basic, you really don’t need a recipe to get the best out of them. Just scale and gut them, brush them lightly with olive oil and coarse sea salt, or whatever marinade you make up, grill them for around 5 minutes per side, until the skin is crispy, and serve them up with a drizzle of lemon juice and your favorite fresh herbs.

And if you can’t be fussed to cook, there are few pleasures greater than mashing canned sardines, bones and all, onto buttered toast, or perhaps over a slice of camembert.

The sardine is dead. Long live the sardine!

What are your favorite sardine recipes?

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161 Responses to “6 Reasons To Eat More Sardines”

  1. Dan Welgos says:

    My favorite is sardines/water with a tablespoon of brown vinegar.

  2. Lisa says:

    Thank you for confirming that sardines are a great thing to eat!

    Am seriously watching what I eat and will enjoy these even more now! 👍

  3. Edmund JaniunasEd says:

    Riga Sardines from the Baltic Sea are by far one of the best sardines you can get ….get some black bread and cukecumber slices and youll be in heaven !

  4. Shankar says:

    I eat the canned variety crumbled over a simple salad of tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion, vinaigrette and baguette.

  5. Gayle says:

    I always pack a can or two in my suitcase on every trip. I am diabetic and I know I always hv a quick food fix in any situation.. plus I love them!

  6. Carol says:

    I love to eat the canned sardines with spicy tomato sauce on a slice of toast with grated cheese and some olives, put under grill to melt the cheese, just like pizza. Delicious.

  7. Casie Pierce says:

    I love Beach Cliff sardines in Louisiana hot sauce on saltine crackers with horseradish sauce. So delicious!

  8. Kathy says:

    I take out all the things in the sardine that doesn’t look appealing…like bone and spinal cord. 😂

  9. Sad but glad, sardenist’s from cannery row closing shop. Most of the deck hands I had the pleasure to meet over 2 decades ago were well old and appearance of most gives tell they worked and lived some difficult days and nights. Maybe, now they can lose their sea legs and tell fishing tales to the kids or great grand kids. Everafter…

  10. Brenda Russell says:

    I cannot have enough of Brunswick sardine for breakfast. Straight from the can, with crackers.real good, loads of omega 3.

  11. Roger Tay says:

    guy my sardines from blacks harbour grogery store ,brunswick cannery is located in blacks harbour N.B. .I THINK i pay .63 cents a can ,i buy a 50 cans at a time .my favorite are canned in water ,oil or mustard .sardines are my outdoor food while hiking ,fishing,hunting ,camping ,I always have a couple cans of sardines perrty handy

  12. Mick says:

    Thick toasted bread & a pinch of English mustard….simply delicious.

  13. Angelo says:

    I really love sardines right out of the can but the repeat on me for hours and hours. Have any of you experienced this? Any tips for relief? If not for that, I’d eat them every day!

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