Meatless Monday Late Night Edition: Six Reasons to Eat Sardines (if You Plan to Eat Any Animal Protein)
After last week’s conversation, it’s pretty clear that everyone draws their dietary lines differently. But over the past decade we’ve noticed the rise of a certain trend that we call “vegans who eat fish.” What gives? On the one hand there are the convincing health (and environmental) benefits of a plant-based diet, extolled in The China Study and elsewhere. On the other, nutrition heros like Dr. Andrew Weil continue to make strong arguments for eating fish, particularly the kind high in omega-3s.
Instead of choosing, some (including Bill Clinton) have opted for the hybrid diet—a.k.a. vegans who eat fish, and preferably the sustainably sourced kind. Which takes me to sardines—a new obsession. As I mentioned last week, I’m going through a period right now where animal protein seems crucial to my health. Fish is a regular go-to, but like so many foods these days, it’s also a minefield. If it’s not mercury levels, it’s over-fishing. When it’s not over-fishing, it’s the carbon footprint of sushi.
But because I believe most things Dr. Weil says, after several false starts I have finally come around to sardines in a big way. Here’s why you may want to as well… Or have you already?
1. They’re low on toxins. Because they’re little and low on the food chain, sardines don’t contain all the scary environmental chemicals found in bigger fish.
2. They’re high in omega-3s. Good for your brain, great for your skin, proven to fight inflammation, omega-3s may be the closest thing we have to a silver bullet in the food-as-medicine world.
3. There are lots of them. In fact, according to Weil, we have twice as many sardines today as we did 100 years ago. Unfortunately, that’s because we’ve overfished their predators.
4. They contain vitamin D. Many people are vitamin D deficient, and it doesn’t occur naturally in most food. While doctors are still debating just how much we need, sardines are a healthy way to get this super-vitamin without sitting in the sun (which makes dermatologists cry).
5. They taste better than tuna. Everybody knows that fat makes things yummier, and those super-healthy fats in sardines give them a satisfying flavor that you only get from tuna when you drown it in olive oil and mayo.
6. And they stink less too! It’s true that we’ve called them “stinky sardines” in the past, but compared to canned tuna or salmon, sardines are actually the least offensive on the olfactory front.
Here’s how I do mine:
—I buy a skinless, boneless variety in olive oil (I like the one at Trader Joe’s)
—I drain them and then add a bit of Vegenaise (the soy-free one), a tsp of dijon, some chopped green onion, capers, pepper, salt, and a hit of Tabasco
—I mash that together and spread on toast, wrap it in cabbage, eat it with a cucumber, whatever’s handy and good
Have you made friends yet with this sustainable superfood? If so, when, and how do you do yours?