Fish is a healthy and natural source of protein, but not everyone loves it. We all can relate to the experience of our moms trying to force us to eat fish, telling us that it is way better than meat. Well, it is hard to argue with the truth. Fish is rich not only in protein but in essential nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids. While the best available fresh fish are outrageously expensive, there is a cheap and practical alternative in the form of sardines.
The thing with sardines is that they are affordable yet very nutritious. According to Healthline, it contains vital nutrients the body needs, including calcium, niacin, potassium, selenium, magnesium, and zinc. So, aside from the fatty acids, you get a lot from the small fish species.
Sardines are available in both fresh and canned. People consume it as a full meal or snack paired with bread. Regardless of how you want it prepared or served, the reality is that sardines offer you the best option for a nutritious food without spending a lot.
Are Sardines Any Good?
This small fish is named after the island of Sardinia in Italy, where it is of great abundance. The reason why canned sardines were invented is that the fish is highly perishable, which means people needed to do something to preserve it effectively.
Unlike in Europe and the Mediterranean, canned sardines are not popular in North America. It is a shame considering the nutritional benefits that come with every can. The high calcium content makes it ideal for old adults and pregnant women.
The omega 3 fatty acids in sardines contain anti-inflammatory properties that prevent blood clots and heart disease. The vitamins present in a can of sardines like B-12 provide energy and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Vitamin D helps improve bone health.
Although there are numerous sources of protein for human consumption, the one found in sardines provides a healthier option compared to the likes of chicken, beef, and pork.
Canned sardines are a type of processed food. Aside from the fish, you expect it to have added ingredients to help in flavor and preservation. So, be sure to choose a brand that offers a healthy can of sardines with natural flavors and as little preservatives as possible.
We compiled a list of what we believe are the best canned sardines in the market today. Like all other lists, this one is subject to arguments and debates. But we took a handful of factors and weighed on each one of them to create this list.
1. Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Wild Planet is a household name when it comes to canned fish products. The Wild Planet Wild Sardines comes in extra virgin olive oil to add flavor and preserve the fish. You cannot get any other better way to keep the fish fresh inside a can than with olive oil. The result is a flavorful solution minus the usual stink of fish. This brand is also renowned for its mild smokey flavor in its sardines.
Like all sardines in a can, Wild Planet is rich in protein. The product is advertised as an excellent source of iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids.
• Uses healthy extra virgin olive oil
• Contains high concentrations of iron and calcium from the fish skin retained in the can
• Non-GMO and gluten-free
• Fish head, tail, and scales are removed
• The mild smokey flavor makes it stand out from the rest
2. Season’s Skinless and Boneless Sardines
The season is another recognized name in canned sardines. The fish is sourced from Morocco, with the brand boasting that its ingredients are all-natural. Like Wild Planet sardines, this one uses pure olive oil for storage. The use of olive oil makes sense when you love your sardines in a salad.
Each serving of Season’s sardines has 1500mg of omega 3, giving it by far the highest concentration of the essential fatty acids in a can. It is high in calcium and protein. It is available in a 3.75-ounce pack, with the brand opting for bristling sardines compared to the regular-sized ones. The brand wants its sardines to be low in calories, hence the decision to use the bristling variety.
As the label suggests, this product is ideal for people who hate eating sardines with the bone and skin. Removing the skin means there are less iron and calcium content, but it offers a much better texture. The small whole fish without the bones makes it ideal for kids, plus BPA-free packaging adds peace of mind to those who are apprehensive about consuming canned goods.
• Contains whole bristling sardines
• Sourced from sustainable fish harvesting practice
• Uses pure olive oil for successful flavor retention
• Gluten-free formula
• No bones and skin
• Carries a high level of omega 3 fatty acids
• BPA-free packaging
3. King Oscar Sardines Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The main sales pitch of the King Oscar Sardines Extra Virgin Olive Oil is its pure organic composition. The brand prides on the commitment to use natural flavors and nutrients in processing its canned products. The sardines offer a unique flavor, thanks to the use of wood for smoking.
Unlike other brands, this one is hand-packed, ensuring uniform sizing and premium quality of each fish. Like Season, King Oscar uses bristling sardines in 3.75-ounce packaging.
Canned sardines stored in olive oil like King Oscar are best for people who dislike the natural smell of raw fish. The oil successfully eliminates the smell and improves the taste. The commitment to all-natural ingredients and processing means that King Oscar manages to retain the nutritional value of its canned sardines without compromising the taste. You will benefit from the full flavor of the fish even if it has undergone canning and preservation.
• Wood smoking improves the flavor and taste
• Has more nutrients than other brands because of the retention of the bones and skin
• Packaged in certified BPA-NI cans
• Gluten and sugar-free product
• Best for people who are on a low carbohydrate diet
• Uses pure olive oil for preserving the fish
• A high concentration of protein
4. Crown Prince Skinless and Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil
This product is the best option for those who have not tried canned sardines before. Since the bones and skin of the fish are removed, it is also ideal for kids. The crunchy texture gives a unique twist that is different from the mainstream sardine brands. Crown Prince uses premium-quality pilchard sardines combined with kosher and pure olive oil.
Crown Prince Sardines in Olive Oil has a mild taste. Its firm texture emulates that of tuna. So, if you are not a fan of fish but you are supposed to try it, this one is a safe bet. It does not have that aggressive smell or flavor typical in many sardine brands.
• Uses olive oil to retain the freshness of the sardines
• The mild flavor makes it ideal for those who have not tried sardines before
• Unique crispy and firm texture
• Gluten-free formula
• Contains high levels of protein and omega 3 fatty acids
5. Brunswick Sardine Fillets (Spring Water)
The difference between Brunswick Sardine Fillets and the other products we mentioned is that this one uses spring water to preserve the fish. The use of spring water instead of oil gives a clean taste to the sardine. However, the natural taste of sardines in spring water can either be a hit or miss for most people. It is recommended for people who have grown accustomed to sardines in olive oil but want to explore another flavor or taste.
Interestingly, this product does not contain any other ingredient that seeks to improve its flavor. It is common to see canned sardines with salt or tomato sauce to mask the natural taste of the fish, but Brunswick chooses to retain the original sardine flavor.
• Natural and healthy source of protein
• Best for people who embrace a low carb or keto diet
• Rich in omega 3 fatty acids
• Healthy snack option, best paired with sandwich or salad
No matter how healthy and flavorful these canned sardines are, know that they are not for everyone. Those who suffer from kidney issues or renal disease must avoid these products. The same is true for those who have high uric acid. Sardines are a type of fish with substances that can produce high levels of uric acid in the human body. Accordingly, canned products contain salt, which also can cause harm in people with vulnerable kidneys.
Our Final Thoughts
Sardines may not have the best reputation out there, but there is no question about their health benefits. Some people say it is an acquired taste, but that is untrue. Sardines are a type of fish that has been consumed for centuries, which says a lot about its likable taste. The only reason why some people do not get to try it is because of the stigma of eating canned food. The bottom line is that a can of sardines is unquestionably good food.