Sardines vs Anchovies: Which Canned Food is Healthier and More Nutritious

Sardines and anchovies are marine fish that live in oceans around the world. Sardines are small, elongated, and oily. They are silver in color and range in size from 15 to 30 cm.

Anchovies are smaller than sardines, from 10 to 25 cm. They have a green-blue back with a silver underside. Although both can be cooked fresh, they are usually preserved in oil or water to extend their shelf life.

While sardines are processed at a temperature of (113-160ºC before canning), anchovies are often pre-cured in salt water, which gives them a distinct salty flavor.

Nutrients in sardines and anchovies

Sardines are a rich source of vitamins B12 and D, while anchovies contain slightly more iron, zinc, niacin, and protein. Both fish are naturally low in sodium. However, canning significantly increases the sodium content.

Health benefits of sardines and anchovies

Sardines and anchovies are similar in terms of health benefits. One of the biggest benefits of oily fish is that they contain omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain protein and a number of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, selenium, niacin, and vitamins B12 and D.

However, if you’re comparing canned varieties, you should keep in mind the very high sodium content of anchovies. Anyone who is watching their salt intake can buy canned sardines instead or cook any of these fish fresh.

In addition, if you have questions about incorporating omega-3s into your diet, consult a qualified healthcare professional.

Brain Health

Sardines and anchovies are excellent sources of omega-3 fats, which are abundant in some types of fish and may contribute to brain function.

Inadequate intake of omega-3s can increase the risk of mental illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression.

In a 6-month study involving adults over 60 with mild mental disorders, those who took daily omega-3s showed improved brain function compared to those who took olive oil capsules.

Can support heart health

The omega-3s in this fish can also improve heart health by lowering triglyceride levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. These effects help reduce the risk of blood clots by reducing inflammatory markers in the body.

One review showed that omega-3s reduce the risk of heart disease, but the results depend on the dosage. One gram a day helped the general population and people with diabetes, while people with high triglyceride levels needed four grams a day to reduce their risk.

However, more research is needed to confirm some of these claims. Nevertheless, selenium, found in high amounts in both Pisces, plays a role in reducing oxidative stress and supporting heart health. Studies have shown that a deficiency of this mineral can increase the risk of heart disease.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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