By David Grotto, RD
Some Oscar recipients, like 82-year-old Christopher Plummer, who is now the oldest actor to have ever received an Oscar, looked amazing last night. I wonder what his health secret is?
My father, who would consider Mr. Plummer a “youngster,” always had his stable of “go-to” foods and activities for health and longevity. Food wise, I remember as a kid my dad always eating oatmeal, having wine at dinner, and eating sardines as a snack topped with chopped onions, olive oil, a little cayenne pepper, and a pinch of salt. Watching the Oscars last night reminded me of my dad’s love of the sardine and remembering those red King Oscar brand cans lined up in my parents’ kitchen cabinets. I always thought of them as “gross” though I never tried them as a kid. I love sardines now and know they are an amazing superfood, in the truest sense of the word, and am really surprised I don’t eat them as often as my dad.
There really isn’t one fish called a “sardine” – the term actually means “small” and what you commonly find in canned sardines can be made from as many as 11 different species of fish. The Norwegian Bristling variety is one of the most common types found in the cans and is prized for its taste and tenderness. In fact, sardines are the first fish to ever be canned.
Sardines are truly the unsung heros of the sea. “What I love about sardines is what they have and what they don’t have,” says registered dietitian, Keri Glassman, MS, RD, author of The Sardine Diet and the forthcoming Slim, Calm, Sexy Diet . “They’re loaded with omega-3 fats which reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease and also calcium and protein and [they] are very low in mercury.” Sardines, because they’re very small and don’t weigh much, have the least amount of contaminants and are safer to eat compared to other fish. Besides omega-3 fats, protein, and calcium, they’re also a top source of vitamins B12 and D.
What I love about sardines is how I can get amazing nutrition from a can into this man, in minutes. “They are so convenient and easy to prepare – and you can keep them in your cabinet,” states Glassman. “A great way of first trying them out is to simply chop them up and add them to a tuna or salmon salad sandwich.” She recommends placing sardines on a whole grain cracker and topping it off with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt.
Want sushi but don’t have the time or budget to purchase sushi-grade fish? Try this recipe from The Sardine Diet that uses canned sardines instead. Be adventurous this week and try some sardines. And if you do already, what’s your favorite way to eat them??
Photo and recipe excerpted from The Sardine Diet courtesy of Downtown Bookworks, Inc
2 cans skinless and boneless sardines, drained
1½ cups short grain rice
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
4 sheets nori (dried seaweed), about 6×8 inches each
Vegetables, cut into thin julienne (carrots, green onions,
Prepare rice according to package instructions. After rice is cooked, dissolve sugar in vinegar and stir into hot rice. Cool rice completely.
To assemble sushi: Place a piece of nori, shiny side down, on bamboo sushi mat. Spread 1/4 of the rice evenly over nori, leaving a one-inch margin at top edge to seal the roll. Place pieces of sardines and selected vegetables across the center of the rice parallel to the top edge. Starting from the long end, roll up mat to enclose filling. Press mat gently around roll to shape it, then moisten margin of nori with water and seal roll snugly. Remove mat. Press in loose ends. Place seam side down on cutting board. Repeat with remaining nori and filling. Slice into one-inch thick rounds with sharp, wet knife. Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi (Japanese horseradish) paste.