by Sharon Johnson
for the Mail Tribune
Have I told you this before? I absolutely love sardines. My husband calls them my "Mediterr-anean diet in a can."
Maybe it's my Norwegian ancestry, but offer me sardines on a crisp soda cracker and I'm totally satisfied. How about you? Ready to find out?
I intend to make a persuasive case in favor of eating something with a tiny fanned tail and little buggy eyes.
Let's start at the top. Sardines and all Omega-3 seafood (things like salmon, mackerel, black cod and herring) contain staggeringly positive health benefits. I heard Dr. Andrew Weil, integrative medicine physician and author of "Healthy Aging," discuss Omega-3 eating recently. He passed over sardines a little too quickly for my tastes (I'm thinking he must be a wild-salmon guy), but he cataloged the benefits of eating "oily fish" quite convincingly. The impact on heart health is well-known, but Omega-3 seafood also benefits thinking capacity and memory. In Dr. Weil's words, "People who eat fish regularly are less likely to experience cognitive decline." He calls sardines, and their oily-fish relatives, "brain food."
A 2006 study in the American Journal of Medicine indicated eating Omega-3 seafood once a week reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease by 60 percent; twice a week bumped that up to 70 percent. Rethinking sardines perhaps?
I'm told freshly-caught sardines, salted on the boat and eaten raw, are delicious. I don't dispute that contention, although I prefer them grilled — surrounded with copious amounts of lemon. Freshly caught sardines definitely appeals, but local options are limited, so I settle for the flat metal tins with aging fishermen on the lid.
We did a family tasting. We gathered together several different types of canned sardines, rolled open those amazing metal lids and rated the contents. This is what we learned:
Indulge. Serve sardines with angel hair pasta. Bake a few with diced onion, peeled tomatoes and white wine, or toss sardines into a green salad and add some artichoke hearts. Good recipe ideas all.
But I'm a plain-spoken Norwegian girl, so I'll always opt for sardines and soda crackers. Let's party. Got any crackers? I have a pantry full of sardines.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human services at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at email@example.com.
or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.