The name sardine can apply to any of several fish of the herring family. These fish, which grow up to 12 inches (30.48 cm) long, are often canned in oil or tomato sauce for human consumption and contain necessary nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium and omega fatty acids. Sardine health benefits from these ingredients include improvement in cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system and healthy bones.
One of the most important of the sardine health benefits is a healthier cardiovascular system. Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower triglycerides in the blood. Low triglyceride levels correspond to a decreased risk of blood clots and plaque buildup in the arteries. Serving whole grain pasta with sardines rather than white pasta gives more soluble fiber, which can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often called the bad cholesterol. Excess amounts of LDL in the blood may lead to blood clots that in turn may cause heart disease or stroke.
The presence of vitamin D means that another of the sardine health benefits is a stronger immune system. This vitamin activates the immune system's T cells to fight off infections. Vitamin D deficiency may result in these cells remaining dormant, making the body more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
Vitamin D also works in conjunction with calcium to add stronger bones; this is another one of the sardine health benefits. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and can prevent bone mass loss due to osteoporosis. The body cannot properly absorb calcium without an adequate supply of vitamin D, however. A 3-ounce (85.05 g) serving of sardines contains 324 mg of calcium, found in the soft bones of the whole fish, and up to 213 IU of vitamin D, depending on the type of sardines and the canning method used.
Nearly anyone can benefit from the nutritional value of sardines. One of the facts about fish that are commonly presented to pregnant women is that certain species should be limited or avoided due to the potential harm their mercury content may cause to the developing fetus. The mercury content of sardines is among the lowest of all fish, meaning that pregnant women may enjoy sardines up to twice a week. Each serving can be up to 6 ounces (170.10 g) in size. The growing fetus will benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D present in sardines without the risk posed by mercury.