Make sardines taste good and boost your memory

No added salt - just wild Canadian sardines and water.

No added salt – just wild Canadian sardines and water.

More on the omega-3s…

Omega-3 fats are vital to the workings of our brain, the most important organ of our body. They keep our memories sharp and our minds on target. Sadly, the average North American diet is not a welcoming place for these guys.

Last week we looked at salmon as a delicious source of the most useful kind of omega-3 fats. But any cold-water fish will do the trick. To enjoy the freezing ocean, a fish needs plenty of fat to keep warm. And fish fat is blessed with the rare kind of omega-3 our brains thrive on. Unlike the omega-3 in walnuts, it doesn’t need to change before it gets down to work.

Bring on the lowly sardine!


Headless, yes. But I needed to rub off the skin and delicately pick out the backbones. You might be able to find tins of fish where this is already done for you.


These little fish are economical and plentiful. But their aroma is strong when you pry open that thin, flat can, where their bodies are packed in like, well, sardines… often along with  skin, tails, backbones and who knows what all else. For that reason lots of people (including me…) turn their noses up at this ridiculously cheap and healthy food.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. To make sardines taste good, pair them with other strongly flavored ingredients. Try this fruity fish salad starring sardines, for a pleasant balance. If this works for you, you’ve found another tool to help you find your path to a smarter life.

To keep your taste buds interested in the elusive omega-3 fats, remember this: Walnuts are dandy. But salmon is quicker. And a little variety never hurts.

sardine and apple salad

Fish and fruit salad
Serves 2 as a hearty lunch

  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard*
  • 2 teaspoons powdered Dijon mustard*
  • 1 tin skinless boneless sardines in water  (I ended up with 2.5 oz/75 grams of sardines)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts,  chopped
  • Salt, pepper, and stevia to taste

*Use your favorite mustard and taste to see how much you need. The prepared mustard I used was an “ancient” type, containing the whole seeds and not too much vinegar. It didn’t provide enough flavor so I threw in the mustard powder as well. A honey mustard would work, but then you’re adding that dastardly fellow Sugar to the mix. Instead, I added a little stevia to sweeten things up.

  1. Mix together coconut milk and mustard.  Add salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce tastes too bitter, add a little stevia to balance the flavor.
  2. Drain sardines and mash them up. Mine were not skinned and boned, so I had to take care of that myself. No fins for me, thank you very much.
  3. Chop apple into small pieces. Leave on the skin for the most nutrients.
  4. In a large bowl, mix sardines, apple, walnuts and sauce.  Stir well, serve on a bed of washed greens,  and chow down. I like baby arugula, mache, or spinach.
Ile de Re: Fish market

Sardines: only 4 Euros a kilogram in France

How this dish rates

This dish makes a satisfying lunch with crunch, from the apples and nuts. There’s sweetness from the apple and stevia, and a little warmth from the mustard. Delicious! I ate both servings (piggy).

I felt so full after lunch, I did a calorie count. Yikes… 680! But I comfort myself knowing these calories were packed with nutrients.

For a single serving (or half this recipe), you get about 12 grams of omega-3 fats, 1 serving of protein, 1.5 servings of fruit and veg, about 125% of the daily requirement for vitamin B-12, excellent amounts of iron and vitamin E, good amounts of vitamin D and fiber… plus more!

Reduce the calories further

Coconut milk is enjoying a new popularity these days due to its medium-chain saturated fats only found elsewhere in human breast milk. But if you want to eliminate these fats and their calories (about 10 grams or 90 Calories), switch to Greek yogurt instead and forget about the lemon juice.

With just 1/4 cup walnuts, the count is about 250 Cal. for half the recipe. You reduce the saturated fats and increase the protein. The other nutrients seem to be about the same or even more. It’s really just a matter of taste. Enjoy!

What ways do you like your sardines best?


  • Where’s walnuts? Find out how walnuts power your brain and check out the links there for recipes and news on other kinds of nuts. Featured: Walnut and mushroom soup. Leafless party salad with broccoli and nuts.
  • Something’s fishy… Why we should eat more fish. Plus… two fabulous recipes for barbecuing salmon.
  • When it’s hot, it hurts  More about omega-3 fats and a smokin’ salmon recipe from the tropics, baked in banana leaves (optional) with cilantro and chilies.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Good For You Nutrition
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 11:07:03

    You did it again! Last time it was your post with Fennel that brought back childhood memories, now Sardines. When my dad made lunch for me, often it was sardine salad. Very simple and I loved it! Sardines, olive oil, vinegar, and green onions 🙂 I didn’t know back then how healthy they were, just loved the taste. Great post:)


    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 20, 2014 @ 11:37:07

      I should try sardines your way. They are a new food for me. I never liked them as a child (even though my dad, too, loved them) because of the fins etc. I’m just learning to like them now, thus the post title :). So glad my posts bring back memories of childhood for you, as the idea of family is important to me.


  2. haridasgowra
    Mar 19, 2014 @ 05:01:09

    Eat fish to fire up your memory………True post……..#wordpress!


  3. Tony
    Mar 18, 2014 @ 15:04:28

    Reblogged this on One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Longer and commented:
    I am a big sardine fan and Brunswick is my brand.


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