All seafood has something good to offer. But sardines (a name given to many small fishes in the herring family) are a top choice across the board. They are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fats—richer than many fish oil supplements. And because sardine populations are abundant in most parts of the world, they’re a good ecological choice. Moreover, contaminants are much less of a concern with sardines than with tuna, swordfish, farmed salmon and most other fatty fish.
Sardines typically come canned, but more markets now carry them fresh as well. Restaurants often serve fresh sardines grilled, which is an easy way to prepare them at home. For convenience, keep a few cans of sardines in your cupboard. When buying canned sardines, compare nutrition labels. Depending on the type of sardine, where they come from, and what they are packed in (water, oil or tomato or mustard sauces), they can vary a lot in calories (90 to 275), fat (5 to 15 grams), and sodium (100 to 400 milligrams) per serving.
Canned whole sardines are actually a good source of calcium if you eat the bones, which are softened during processing. A 3-ounce serving has about as much calcium as a cup of milk. Sardines are also a natural source of vitamin D.
If you’re concerned about bisphenol-A (BPA), some brands of sardines now come in BPA-free cans—check the labels. BPA, commonly used in the lining of cans to prevent corrosion, affects hormone function and has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and other adverse effects.