Growing up in Queens, I used to listen to The Notorious B.I.G. His rap music was an East Coast phenomenon. He was an overweight, rotund rapper who was soft on the outside but hard at the core. But who would have thought that big Biggie Smalls knew something about nutrition?
“Born sinner, the opposite of a winner, remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner…” as he rapped in his song Juicy.
Yes, sardines have always been viewed as a poor man’s meal – it is cheap, convenient, and you can buy tons of them and store them in your kitchen cabinet for a very long time. But did you know they are named after the island of Sardinia in Italy? It is there they were once fished in abundance and was the staple food of Italy. They are akin to the anchovy family – salty and similar in the sense that either you like ‘em or you don’t. So if you are turning your nose at the thought of eating sardines, you might want to reconsider because they are actually pretty good for you!
One can of sardines has only 170 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and it’s most important nutrition trait – it has 14 grams of protein. Sardines are a great alternative to your protein shake or Porterhouse steak with less fat. One can has 12 grams of fat – 4 of which are good saturated fats and 0 trans fat, the bad fat. Another very important nutrition fact about sardines is that it is a great source of calcium. One can has about 20% of your daily calcium intake, particularly good news for women, who are often calcium deficient. One can also has 11% vitamin A and 8% iron. Finally, the MOST important nutrition fact about sardines is that it contains a vast amount of the good omega 3 fatty acid – which help to protect against heart disease, cancer, and help maintain your immune and hormonal systems.
Sardines are also cheap – my favorite is King Oscar sardines in tomato sauce and it is around $3. I have tried other brands and other sauces (like sardines in oil or sardines in pesto) and did not like them as much. You can also buy sardines fresh from the market but more often than not, you will likely be buying canned. I like to put them in my salad, not the whole can but a few of them for taste. It’s salty and tasty enough that I often don’t need to add salad dressing. My spinach sardine salad is great for a post-workout meal because it has a good mix of carbs and protein. The carbs come from the carrots, spinach, almonds, and artichoke hearts and the protein comes from the sardines. Keep in mind your raw veggies each have about 3 to 8 grams of carbs, depending on how much of them you eat. My salad probably has about 10 grams of carbs. I also like to use sardines in my pasta, paying a little homage to Sardinia, Italy where it originated from. Sardines are also great for dogs – my puppy and kitty both LOVE sardines. Smart animals!
So in this economy, if you need your protein fix and want to save some of your hard-earned money then give sardines a try. After all, Biggie Smalls did, as did the entire population of Sardinia, Italy for many decades!