Sardines- The Overlooked Superfood

Sardine tartines

Regardless of whether you are a lover of the small silvery soft-boned fish or not, you aren’t living a year in coastal Europe to the fullest if you ignore the existence of sardines. Most Americans have misconceptions about sardines (and anchovies) as we are most often exposed to the canned versions in the US.

A few facts:

  • Family– Anchovies and sardines are not even of the same family. Anchovies are in the Engraulidae family while sardines are in the Clupeidae family.
  • Where– Both anchovies and sardines are abundant in the Mediterranean Sea. Sardines, thought to get their name from Sardinia, Italy, are also found in areas of the Pacific, Atlantic (on the Spain and Portugal side) and Indian oceans. They are fished off of western North and South America, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. Almost everywhere!
  • Physical– One obvious physical difference is that anchovies have a long pointed snout and have a blue/greenish stripe whereas sardines have a gaping more protruding snout and more silvery body.
  • Who-“Sardines” encompass a wide variety of small oily fish which include: herring, pilchards and sprat. Although there are different varieties of anchovies, the Engraulidae family doesn’t include other fish.
  • Nutrition– Did you know they are a superfood? Both anchovies and sardines are full of Omega-3 fatty acids (brain fuel), iodine , vitamin B-12, iron, calcium, and of course, protein. Another upside, they don’t contain much mercury.

Before this trip, I don’t recall ever having eaten fresh sardines. I generally don’t care for overly salty or fishy fish on its own. My motto is that food must be eaten at least twice and in their freshest; finest form before writing it off. It made the most sense to jump on the sardine wagon when we were in Barcelona as we were having unprecedented luck stumbling into the best tapas bars. Below is the photo from Lo Pinyol tapas bar:

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