HEALTHY FOODS — By Mini Padikkal — Fish is wholesome and nutritional food without any kind of side effects. During Ramadhan, fish consumption is highly recommended because it is a storehouse of nutrition. Take the case of sardines which are found throughout the oceans of the world. Sardines are fish that are quite small in size, but not small in nutrition. In fact the health benefits of eating sardines are far greater than their size.
Sardines are cold water fish that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and calcium. They are also very high in other vitamins and minerals and one portion provides about a third of an adult’s daily needs of iron and vitamin E, and a whole day’s requirement of vitamin B12 and selenium. Vitamin B-12 is very important to the proper functioning of your immune system and central nervous system.
Sardines are rich in numerous nutrients that have been found to support cardiovascular health. They are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been found to lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Also vitamin B12, which promotes cardiovascular health as it is intricately tied to keeping levels of homocysteine in balance. Homocysteine can damage artery walls, with elevated levels being a risk factor for atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults eat at least two servings of fish a week.
Sardines offer about 400 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce. For those who suffer from coronary heart disease, the AHA recommends a total of 1 gram per day of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, which you can obtain from supplements, or from sardines. Those who need to lower their triglycerides should consume 2 to 4 gm daily of these two omega-3 fatty acids; look for a supplement that contains an ideal ratio of EPA: DHA of 3:2. serving of sardines which provides all the daily omega-3s recommended by the AHA for patients with coronary heart disease.
Then there’s your skin. Sardines are high in antioxidants, which benefit the health of your skin, and Omega 3 essential fatty acids are also extremely good for your skin, particularly for maintaining skin moisture. These are the fats found in fish oil supplements.
l A 3 oz/75g serving supplies as much calcium as a glass of milk-300 milligrams. Sardines are a superb source of bone-building calcium and contain surprisingly high concentrations of vitamin D, a nutrient not so readily available in the diet. Vitamin D prevents unwanted inflammation and helps bones to absorb calcium.
l Sardines are a great source of phosphorus too, a key mineral in strengthening the bone matrix. Recent studies also show that the omega-3s found in abundance in sardines support joint cartilage and help regulate and stabilise the balance of collagen and minerals in bone and surrounding tissue.
l The high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids in sardines offer substantial protection against macular degeneration of the eye, a condition in which fine vision deteriorates, resulting in central vision loss and is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50 years.
Ounce for ounce, sardines provide more protein than steak, more potassium than bananas and more iron than cooked spinach. Sardines are usually eaten canned, which retains most of the nutrients of fresh sardines, but fresh sardines are a healthy treat. So eat lots of sardines, canned or fresh, for all those good nutrients in sardines. Not only that, whereas many fish are becoming contaminated with industrial toxins like Mercury, mainly fish which are at the top of the food chain, sardines, being at the bottom of the food chain, are a clean food source. If you find truly fresh sardines, simplicity is the key. Enjoy the rich flavour of the fresh fish by steaming it with little salt, lemon and olive oil.
— The writer is a dietician at Atlas star Medical Centre, Al Khuwair, Muscat.