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Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tip: Sardines

Sardines are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Don't turn your nose up just yet! Sardines could become your new best friend. They're one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which means they may lower your triglycerides and cholesterol levels. They promote heart and bone health with good doses of vitamin D and B12. They're loaded with protein to help strengthen your immune system. And the healthy fat in sardines is good for your brain, which may ward off Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

Why choose sardines over good ol' tuna? Most experts don't recommend tuna because it's high in mercury. Instead, think of the acronym SMASH, which stands for salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Those are your best bets.

What Do Experts Say?
"Fish that are high in omega-3 fats and low in mercury, like sardines and salmon, are good choices to help lower inflammation in the body," says functional medicine specialist Elizabeth W. Boham, MD, MS, RD, of The UltraWellness Center. "Getting more omega-3 fats in your diet from these fish and ground flaxseed can help lower inflammation in your body."

How Should You Eat Them?
Sardines hardly need a recipe. One of the easiest ways to eat them is to mash two sardines into your favorite tomato sauce. They'll give you that deep, savory umami flavor -- without the fishiness. If you're more daring, try a few canned sardines as a snack. The taste and texture have come a long way in recent years, so they're worth giving another chance. Look for the kind packed in lemon and oil or tomato sauce. These are great on whole-grain crackers for a healthy midday morsel.

For a fancier snack or appetizer, skewer fresh sardines, drizzle with little olive oil and lemon juice, and pop them on the grill. Or sauté them in olive oil, then top with olives, tomatoes and some fresh herbs. Experiment with your own recipes!

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