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Sardine Salad Recipe

September 26, 2015 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Every once in awhile I get the undeniable urge to share something that’s a little “out there”, even by my standards. Usually, this comes about as a result of some mad chemistry experiment in the Healthy Fellow kitchen or lab. But still, don’t dismiss today’s recipe right off the bat. Although this unconventional meal may sound a bit unusual, it just might fill an important role in your quest for genuinely healthy “fast food”.

As a jumping off point for this recipe, I used a traditional tuna salad model. Then, I combed through our kitchen pantry for alternative ingredients. We always keep a few cans of wild caught sardines (in olive oil) on hand. The same is true of pumpkin seeds. Avocados are also a mainstay in our household, provided that we can find high quality versions of the fruit. And, of course, mustard and red chili flakes are familiar components of many of our home recipes and staples for most people.

Why reinvent an American classic? For starters, sardines are an excellent source of calcium, CoQ10, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, protein, selenium and vitamins B12 and D. What’s more, the latest research on the health benefits of regular fish consumption continues to impress. Current studies show that eating fatty fish, such as sardines and wild salmon lowers the risk of many diseases including depression, diabetes, heart disease and, possibly even, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis. Opting for sardines that are packed in extra virgin olive oil provides some overlapping health effects, in addition to possibly decreasing breast cancer incidence. Avocados remain one of the healthiest fruits on the planet. Among their many attributes, avocados aid with hunger satisfaction and dramatically improve the nutrient density of most modern diets. Pumpkin seeds are another nutritional dynamo. They support men’s health by discouraging male pattern baldness and symptoms relating to prostate enlargement. Women benefit from pumpkin seeds due to their ability to protect against postmenopausal breast cancer and cardiovascular risk. Additionally, pumpkin seeds contain a significant quantity of tryptophan, a relaxing amino acid that moderates anxiety and troubled sleep.

Healthy Fellow Spicy Sardine Salad

4.375 oz can wild sardines in olive oil
2 oz toasted, organic pumpkin seeds
1 medium avocado, cubed
2 Tbs organic Dijon mustard
organic fresh black pepper
organic red chili flakes

Nutritional Information: Calories: 405. Protein: 12 grams. Fat: 35 grams. Carbohydrates: 11 grams. Fiber: 9 grams. “Net Carbs”: 2 grams *. Two servings per recipe. * “Net” Carbohydrates indicate the number of non-fiber carbohydrates.

Empty the can of sardines and the accompanying oil into a large bowl. Mash the fish with a fork until you reach your desired consistency. Cube the avocado and toss into the mashed sardines. Fold in the tablespoons of mustard, chili flakes and pepper to taste. It’s preferable to eat this salad fresh, as the avocado tends to oxidize if stored for more than several hours. You can also squeeze a few some of lemon juice on the avocado to keep it from browning so quickly.

Black pepper, chili flakes and mustard aren’t just added to this recipe for the sake of heightened flavor. In the past, I’ve described black pepper’s ability to enhance nutrient and phytochemical bioavailability. Mustard may shield the body from DNA damage that contributes to cancer development. And, a new study appearing in the British Medical Journal reports that spicy foods and seasonings such chili peppers are associated with a lower risk of “total mortality”. So, even if you don’t particularly care for spicy, well seasoned foods, you might want to learn to love them.

If, after reading all of this, you still can’t wrap your head around the idea of a sardine centered meal, try this alternative. Canned salmon can pinch hit for wild sardines in this recipe or try adding just a sardine or two to your salmon salad. You’ll certainly have a much milder tasting dish that still provides a significant amount of calcium, omega-3s, potassium, protein and selenium. There’s even a small amount of astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that’s responsible for wild salmon’s characteristic pink color. Either way, this is a quick and easy meal that will fill you up and fuel your body and brain in all the right ways. Enjoy!

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – A Multifunctional Diet Improves Cardiometabolic-Related (link)

Study 2 – Fish Consumption and Risk of Depression: A Meta-Analysis(link)

Study 3 – Effect of a Diet Enriched with Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty (link)

Study 4 – Vitamins & Minerals from Sardine in Tomato Sauce, from the (link)

Study 5 – Dietary Sardine Protein Lowers Insulin Resistance, Leptin & TNF-α (link)

Study 6 – Fish Intake and Type 2 Diabetes in Japanese Men and Women (link)

Study 7 – Dietary Sardine Oil Increases Erythrocyte Membrane Fluidity (link)

Study 8 – High Omega-3 Fat Intake Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Reduces (link)

Study 9 – Effect of Regular Consumption of Oily Fish Compared w/ White Fish (link)

Study 10 – Higher Intake of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated fatty Acids Is … (link)

Study 11 – Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women (link)

Study 12 – Cardio-Metabolic & Immunological Impacts of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (link)

Study 13 – Extra Virgin Olive Oil Use is Associated with Improved Post-Prandial (link)

Study 14 – Impact of the Consumption of a Rich Diet in Butter & it Replacement … (link)

Study 15 – A Randomized 3×3 Crossover Study to Evaluate the Effect of Hass (link)

Study 16 – Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects (link)

Study 17 – Avocado Consumption is Associated with Better Diet Quality & Nutrient (link)

Study 18 – Effects of Pumpkin Seed in Men with Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (link)

Study 19 – Effect of Pumpkin Seed Oil on Hair Growth in Men with Androgenetic (link)

Study 20 – Improvement in HDL Cholesterol in Postmenopausal Women (link)

Study 21 – The Association Between Dietary Lignans, Phytoestrogen-Rich Foods (link)

Study 22 – Protein-Source Tryptophan as an Efficacious Treatment for Social (link)

Study 23 – Protein Source Tryptophan Vs. Pharmaceutical Grade Tryptophan (link)

Study 24 – Incorporation of Eicosapentaenioic & Docosahexaenoic Acids Into (link)

Study 25 – Consumption of Spicy Foods and Total and Cause Specific Mortality (link)

Pumpkin Seeds Promote Healthier Hair Growth

Source: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:549721. (link)

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8 Comments & Updates to “Sardine Salad Recipe”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 09/26/15:


    Food Chem. 2015 Jul 15;179:331-5.

    Human exposure to mercury, lead and cadmium through consumption of canned mackerel, tuna, pilchard and sardine.

    Total mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) concentrations were determined in canned fish on the Ghanaian market. Total mercury was determined using an automatic mercury analyzer while cadmium and lead levels were determined by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The metal contents in the samples, expressed in μg g(-1) (wet weight), varied from <0.01 to 0.20 with an average value of 0.03 for mercury, from <0.01 to 0.45 with an average value of 0.34 for cadmium, and from <0.01 to 1.44 with an average value of 0.72 for lead. The results indicate that canned fish from the Ghanaian market have concentrations well below the permissible FAO/WHO for these toxic metals. Thus considering the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) of Hg, Pb and Cd the levels obtained in this study are unlikely to constitute a significant exposure to the public through consumption of moderate amounts.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 09/26/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Sep 18;16(9):22636-22661.

    ω-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Diseases: Effects, Mechanisms and Dietary Relevance.

    ω-3 fatty acids (n-3 FA) have, since the 1970s, been associated with beneficial health effects. They are, however, prone to lipid peroxidation due to their many double bonds. Lipid peroxidation is a process that may lead to increased oxidative stress, a condition associated with adverse health effects. Recently, conflicting evidence regarding the health benefits of intake of n-3 from seafood or n-3 supplements has emerged. The aim of this review was thus to examine recent literature regarding health aspects of n-3 FA intake from fish or n-3 supplements, and to discuss possible reasons for the conflicting findings. There is a broad consensus that fish and seafood are the optimal sources of n-3 FA and consumption of approximately 2-3 servings per week is recommended. The scientific evidence of benefits from n-3 supplementation has diminished over time, probably due to a general increase in seafood consumption and better pharmacological intervention and acute treatment of patients with cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 09/26/15:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 11:1-15.

    Diet-induced changes in iron and n-3 fatty acid status and associations with cognitive performance in 8-11-year-old Danish children: secondary analyses of the Optimal Well-Being, Development and Health for Danish Children through a Healthy New Nordic Diet School Meal Study.

    Fe and n-3 long-chain PUFA (n-3 LCPUFA) have both been associated with cognition, but evidence remains inconclusive in well-nourished school-aged children. In the Optimal Well-Being, Development and Health for Danish Children through a Healthy New Nordic Diet (OPUS) School Meal Study, the 3-month intervention increased reading performance, inattention, impulsivity and dietary intake of fish and Fe. This study investigated whether the intervention influenced n-3 LCPUFA and Fe status and, if so, explored how these changes correlated with the changes in cognitive performance. The study was a cluster-randomised cross-over trial comparing school meals with packed lunch (control). At baseline and after each treatment, we measured serum ferritin, whole-blood n-3 LCPUFA and Hb, and performance in reading, mathematics and d2-test of attention. Data were analysed using mixed models (n 726) and principal component analysis of test performances (n 644), which showed two main patterns: ‘school performance’ and ‘reading comprehension’. The latter indicated that children with good reading comprehension were also more inattentive and impulsive (i.e. higher d2-test error%). The intervention improved ‘school performance’ (P=0·015), ‘reading comprehension’ (P=0·043) and EPA+DHA status 0·21 (95 % CI 0·15, 0·27) w/w % (P<0·001), but it did not affect serum ferritin or Hb. At baseline, having small Fe stores was associated with poorer 'school performance' in girls, but with better 'reading comprehension' in both boys and girls. Both baseline EPA+DHA status and the intervention-induced increase in EPA+DHA status was positively associated with 'school performance', suggesting that n-3 LCPUFA could potentially explain approximately 20 % of the intervention effect. These exploratory associations indicate that increased fish intake might explain some of the increase in reading performance and inattention in the study.

    Be well!


  4. Jacek/Jack Haciak, Psy.D. Says:

    Great recipe, and I have exchanged on occasion white anchovies for the sardines. Excellent taste and nutrition.

    Sometime I would appreciate cautions identified about individuals at risk of hemorrhagic strokes or other internal bleeding for the commonly accepted “super foods” for preventing ischemic strokes and clotting dangers. Most Americans’ diets and bodies are at risk for the latter, so the dangers from Omega 3’s, garlic and onion, Vitamin E, salicylates (heavily present in fruits and dried herbs), etc. are rarely identified. I know several people, one of them a close friend, who were unaware of these dietary risks for their unique makeups, and experienced career ending hemorrhagic strokes. It would be good to have such reminders interspersed among the heavy emphasis on eating what is assumed to be infallible “super foods.”

    Thank you for your wonderful attention broad and continuing relevant research for your topics. This website is the best organized internet resource for readable and important research findings.


  5. JP Says:

    Many thanks for your kind words, Jacek. I appreciate them very much.

    I’ll address your concern more in depth in an upcoming blog. Until then, here are a few recent studies that may be of interest:

    Study #1: Green tea is often grouped into the “super food” category.


    Neuroepidemiology. 2015;44(4):215-20.

    The Impact of Green Tea Consumption on the Prevention of Hemorrhagic Stroke.

    BACKGROUND: Different types of tea may have varying effects on the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, but previous studies have generated inconsistent results. We performed a nationwide, multi-center, case-control study to evaluate the association between the consumption of tea and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

    METHODS: This study included 940 patients aged 30 to 84 with non-traumatic acute hemorrhagic stroke who did not have a history of stroke or hemorrhage-prone brain lesions, as well as 940 community controls and 940 hospital controls matched to each patient by age and gender. Pre-trained interviewers obtained information on potential confounders. Consumption of tea was assessed by using a food frequency questionnaire. Participants were asked to indicate the number of cups of tea (green, black, and oolong tea) they consumed per day or per week during the preceding year.

    RESULTS: The adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and their 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by conditional logistic regression. The adjusted ORs of hemorrhagic stroke were 0.71 (95% CI: 0.59-0.87), 0.86 (95% CI: 0.55-1.37), and 1.34 (95% CI: 0.91-1.98) for consumption of green, oolong, and black tea, respectively, compared with no consumption. There was no significant linear trend for green tea consumption.

    CONCLUSIONS: Consumption of green tea may protect against hemorrhagic stroke, whereas consumption of black tea may have no meaningful effect on risk.

    Study #2: A traditional Mediterranean diet contains many of the dietary factors you mentioned above.


    Stroke. 2015 Mar;46(3):780-5.

    Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and prediction of incident stroke.

    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: There are limited data on the potential association of adherence to Mediterranean diet (MeD) with incident stroke. We sought to assess the longitudinal association between greater adherence to MeD and risk of incident stroke.

    METHODS: We prospectively evaluated a population-based cohort of 30 239 individuals enrolled in REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, after excluding participants with stroke history, missing demographic data or food frequency questionnaires, and unavailable follow-up information. Adherence to MeD was categorized using MeD score. Incident stroke was adjudicated by expert panel review of medical records during a mean follow-up period of 6.5 years.

    RESULTS: Incident stroke was identified in 565 participants (2.8%; 497 and 68 cases of ischemic stroke [IS] and hemorrhagic stroke, respectively) of 20 197 individuals fulfilling the inclusion criteria. High adherence to MeD (MeD score, 5-9) was associated with lower risk of incident IS in unadjusted analyses (hazard ratio, 0.83; 95% confidence interval, 0.70-1.00; P=0.046). The former association retained its significance (hazard ratio, 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.65-0.96; P=0.016) after adjustment for demographics, vascular risk factors, blood pressure levels, and antihypertensive medications. When MeD was evaluated as a continuous variable, a 1-point increase in MeD score was independently associated with a 5% reduction in the risk of incident IS (95% confidence interval, 0-11%). We documented no association of adherence to MeD with incident hemorrhagic stroke. There was no interaction of race (P=0.37) on the association of adherence to MeD with incident IS.

    CONCLUSIONS: High adherence to MeD seems to be associated with a lower risk of incident IS independent of potential confounders. Adherence to MeD is not related to the risk of incident hemorrhagic stroke.

    Study #3: Addresses the common concern about dietary vitamin k intake.

    J Am Heart Assoc. 2013 Dec 10;2(6):e000455.

    Intake of dietary phylloquinone and menaquinones and risk of stroke.

    BACKGROUND: Dietary vitamin K intake is thought to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by reducing vascular calcification, although vitamin K is also involved in coagulation. Studies investigating the association between phylloquinone intake and risk of stroke are scarce, and the relation with menaquinones has not been investigated to date.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: We investigated the association between intake of phylloquinone and menaquinones and stroke in a prospective cohort of 35,476 healthy subjects. Information on occurrence of stroke was obtained by linkage to national registries, and stroke was further specified into ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Vitamin K intake was estimated using a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for cardiovascular risk factors, lifestyle, and other dietary factors were used to estimate the associations. During a follow-up of 12.1 ± 2.1 years, 580 incident cases of stroke were identified, 163 of which were hemorrhagic and 324 were ischemic. Phylloquinone intake was not associated with risk of stroke with a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.09 (95% CI: 0.85 to 1.40, P(trend) 0.41) for the highest versus lowest quartile. For intake of menaquinones similar results were found, with an HR(Q4 versus Q1) of 0.99 (95% CI: 0.75 to 1.29, P(trend) 0.82). When specifying hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke or menaquinone subtypes, no significant associations were detected.

    CONCLUSION: In our study, neither dietary phylloquinone nor dietary menaquinones intake were associated with stroke risk.

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Today, I substituted roasted broccoli for the avocado. It may sound like an odd combination, but it was delicious! And, of course, it was equally health promoting. Try it out some time, if you dare! 🙂

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Updated 04/20/16:


    Lipids Health Dis. 2016 Apr 18;15(1):78.

    Effects of sardine-enriched diet on metabolic control, inflammation and gut microbiota in drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes: a pilot randomized trial.

    BACKGROUND: Nutrition therapy is the cornerstone of treating diabetes mellitus. The inclusion of fish (particularly oily fish) at least two times per week is recommended by current international dietary guidelines for type 2 diabetes. In contrast to a large number of human studies examining the effects of oily fish on different cardiovascular risk factors, little research on this topic is available in patients with type 2 diabetes. The aims of this pilot study were to investigate the effects of a sardine-enriched diet on metabolic control, adiponectin, inflammatory markers, erythrocyte membrane fatty acid (EMFA) composition, and gut microbiota in drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes.

    METHODS: 35 drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to follow either a type 2 diabetes standard diet (control group: CG), or a standard diet enriched with 100 g of sardines 5 days a week (sardine group: SG) for 6 months. Anthropometric, dietary information, fasting glycated hemoglobin, glucose, insulin, adiponectin, inflammatory markers, EMFA and specific bacterial strains were determined before and after intervention.

    RESULTS: There were no significant differences in glycemic control between groups at the end of the study. Both groups decreased plasma insulin (SG: -35.3 %, P = 0.01, CG: -22.6 %, P = 0.02) and homeostasis model of assessment – insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) (SG: -39.2 %, P = 0.007, CG: -21.8 %, P = 0.04) at 6-months from baseline. However only SG increased adiponectin in plasma compared to baseline level (+40.7 %, P = 0.04). The omega-3 index increased 2.6 % in the SG compared to 0.6 % in the CG (P = 0.001). Both dietary interventions decreased phylum Firmicutes (SG and CG: P = 0.04) and increased E. coli concentrations (SG: P = 0.01, CG: P = 0.03) at the end of the study from baseline, whereas SG decreased Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio (P = 0.04) and increased Bacteroides-Prevotella (P = 0.004) compared to baseline.

    CONCLUSIONS: Although enriching diet with 100 g of sardines 5 days a week during 6 months to a type 2 diabetes standard diet seems to have neutral effects on glycemic control in drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes, this nutritional intervention could have beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk. Furthermore, both dietary interventions decreased HOMA-IR and altered gut microbiota composition of drug-naïve patients with type 2 diabetes.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 11/15/16:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 11:1-10.

    The metabolic effects of a commercially available chicken peri-peri (African bird’s eye chilli) meal in overweight individuals.

    A growing body of evidence suggests that capsaicin ingestion may lead to desirable metabolic outcomes; however, the results in humans are equivocal. Whether or not benefits may be gained from ingestion of capsaicin via a commercially available meal has not been determined. The objectives of this randomised, cross-over intervention study were to compare the 2 h postprandial effects of a standard commercially prepared meal containing chilli (HOT, 5·82 mg total capsaicinoids) with a similar meal with no chilli (CON, 25 kg/m2 and a waist circumference >94 cm (men) or 80 cm (women), were studied. Participants had normal glucose tolerance and were accustomed, but were not regular chilli eaters. A paired t test indicated that insulin AUC was smaller following the HOT meal (P=0·002). Similarly, there was a tendency for glucose AUC to be reduced following the HOT meal (P=0·056). No discernable effects of the HOT meal were observed on metabolic rate, core temperature, hs-CRP concentrations and endothelial-dependent microvascular reactivity. The results from this study indicate that a standard restaurant meal containing a relatively small dose of capsaicin delivered via African bird’s eye chilli, which is currently available to the public, results in lower postprandial insulin concentrations in overweight individuals, compared with the same meal without chilli.

    Be well!


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