Are Sardines Good For Weight Loss Or Fattening?

Photo of author
Last Updated On

You may have heard that eating enough protein is generally helpful when losing weight. Find out if this also applies to sardines.

Sardines are a small type of fatty fish. You can eat them cooked, baked, and grilled but they are also often found in their canned version.

Similar to most other fish options, many people can lose some weight by eating more sardines. Thanks to the protein and fats in sardines, you will likely consume fewer unhealthy foods which in turn can benefit weight loss.

At the same time, only adding sardines to your diet and keeping all your other habits the same can result in weight gain so make sure you adjust what else you eat in what quantities.

This article will also go over the specific nutrients in sardines, the best preparation method to use for weight loss, and how they compare to fish alternatives for your diet.

Micronutrients in sardines

While macronutrients like fats, protein, and carbohydrates are definitely important for weight loss, it can also sometimes be helpful to take a look at the micronutrients in foods.

These play important roles in many areas of your health, including weight loss.

100 grams of sardines canned in oil (but drained) contains (1):

  • Vitamin B12: 149% of the DV (Daily Value)
  • Selenium: 75% of the DV
  • Vitamin D: 68% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 49% of the DV
  • Calcium: 38% of the DV
  • Niacin: 26% of the DV
  • Sodium: 21% of the DV
  • Iron: 16% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 13% of the DV
  • Potassium: 11% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 10% of the DV

And a few other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts. Compared to other whole foods, sardines contain impressive amounts of vitamins and minerals per 100 grams.

Something to note is that it is also possible to overdo it with some micronutrients. For example, you want to keep an eye on the amount of selenium in sardines.

There is a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of selenium. In simple words that means that too much selenium can cause negative side effects (2).

An adult would have to eat over 750 grams of sardines to reach this UL so this is not very likely (3).

That being said, if you also eat other foods that are high in selenium like for example brazil nuts, you want to keep an eye on how many sardines you eat.

At the same time, selenium plays a role in metabolism. Resolving any selenium insufficiencies could lead to tiny improvements in weight loss.

Protein in sardines

Before going into the number of calories in sardines, another important nutrient to look at is protein. Protein is one of the three macronutrients and plays a role in a variety of important processes.

Canned sardines contain about 24.6 grams of protein per 100 grams (1). To get a better idea of what this number means, salmon contains around 25.4 grams per 100 grams (4).

There are also fish with more protein but sardines still contain high amounts of this nutrient compared to many other whole foods.

The first reason why protein can be helpful for weight loss is that it helps you feel fuller. Many people don’t reach their weight loss goals because of being too hungry and having cravings that are too intense.

If this is a struggle point for you, eating more sardines could be a great idea.

Additionally, protein is an important nutrient for growing and preserving muscles. Muscle mass helps you burn more calories throughout the day so again, sardines could be a good diet addition.

Calories in sardines

Not all calories are equal when it comes to losing weight. Even so, the number of calories in sardines can still offer an idea about how helpful this food is for weight loss.

Canned sardines contain around 208 calories per 100 grams (1). All of these calories come from fat and protein so sardines are definitely suited for low-carb diets.

Compared to other fish, sardines contain an above-average number of calories per 100 grams. Vegetables and fruits will generally be lower in calories per 100 grams than sardines.

Lastly, compared to all foods (the unhealthy ones included), sardines can be considered low-medium in calories.

Will sardines help you lose weight?

Whether or not sardines will help you lose weight also depends on your other lifestyle habits.

Let’s say you keep everything the same except that you add sardines to your diet. In that case, you would likely (unless you have some serious nutrient insufficiencies) gain a bit of weight since you are adding food to your diet.

That being said, since sardines are relatively filling you will likely eat less of other foods by eating more of these tiny fishes.

If this helps you avoid foods that are less helpful, eating sardines could help you lose weight.

In theory, you can overdo it with sardines in terms of calories and selenium. In that case, sardines could make you gain weight and be bad for your health.

In practice, you will likely feel too full way before you reach that point.

How to eat sardines for weight loss

Even if you decide to eat more sardines, there are many different ways to prepare this fish. Some will be better than others for weight loss.

The best way to cook sardines would be boiling them. You can then eat them as your piece of meat for the meal or as an ingredient in weight-loss-friendly recipes like tomato sauce (without added sugars).

Sardines canned in water are generally great too. Canned in oil is acceptable too but in that case you would preferably choose something like olive oil that is generally considered to be healthier.

Baking sardines in the oven or grilling them are also good when it comes to losing weight. In this case you preferably want to use a healthy cooking oil.

Lastly, deep frying sardines is something you want to avoid on a weight loss journey.

Can you eat sardines every day?

Human knowledge about the best nutrition recommendations for what types of people is rather lacking. Things like genes and fitness goals influence the recommendations a lot.

That being said, most people could eat sardines every day. At the same time, switching up what foods you eat is generally considered healthy to do.

Sardines vs other fish for weight loss

Sardines are not the only option when it comes to fish. Find out how they compare to other types like anchovies, mackerel, tuna, and salmon for weight loss.

Sardines vs anchovies

Sardines and anchovies are very similar when it comes to calories. More precisely, sardines contain around 208 calories per 100 grams whereas the same weight of anchovies contains around 210 calories (1, 5).

Besides that sardines contain around 24.6 grams of protein per 100 grams, anchovies 28.9 grams. These two foods are similar when it comes to the amounts of vitamins and minerals.

The difference will not be that big but anchovies are likely better for weight loss than sardines.

Sardines vs mackerel

Mackerel is another popular kind of fatty fish. It is a decent amount higher in calories than sardines with 262 calories per 100 grams (6).

When it comes to protein content, these fish are closer to each other. Mackereal has about 23.8 grams of protein per 100 grams. Sardines generally have bigger amounts of vitamins and minerals.

In short, sardines will likely be better for weight loss than mackerel.

Addtionnally, you have to keep in mind that some types of mackerel contain a lot of mercury. Mercury is a substance in certain kinds of food that can be harmful in higher amounts.

Make sure you read the guidelines if you plan on eating a lot of mackerel.

Sardines vs tuna

Next, tuna is lower in calories than sardines with about 184 calories per 100 grams (7). On top of that, 100 grams of tuna contains more protein with about 29.9 grams.

The amount of vitamins and minerals in these two fish is similar, slightly in favor of sardines.

So tuna will likely be better for weight loss than sardines. However, tuna has the same potential issue as mackerel because the mercury content.

Make sure you check the guidelines around mercury before implementing large amounts of tuna.

Sardines vs salmon

Lastly, there is salmon which is one of the most popular types of fish. It contains around 182 calories per 100 grams so less than sardines (4).

On top of that, salmon is slightly higher in protein with about 25.4 grams per 100 grams. On the flip side, sardines contain slightly higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.

These things make salmon slightly better than sardines for people who are trying to lose weight.

Chart of sardines vs other fish

While the small differences above do apply, you should likely not care too much about them. Enjoying your food is also an important factor for a good diet plan.

At the same time, if you enjoy them more or less equally, you could use the table below with nutrition details from 100 grams of each type to choose your fish.

Calories208 calories210 calories262 calories184 calories182 calories
Protein24.6 g28.9 g23.8 g29.9 g25.4 g
Chart comparing sardines vs other fish for weight loss
Photo of author


Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.