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Sardines — Stealth superfood for men

May 12, 2016

I recently had a full blood and nutritional profile taken by the head nutritionist for Red Bull, a guy who looks after the likes of Lolo Jones, NASA astronauts, and Blake Griffin for a living.

Twenty vials of blood were taken, and the report came back as thick as a Jack Reacher novel. Your GP gives you the CliffsNotes® version, but I got the unabridged, authoritative text, with nothing omitted — and I spent days devouring it.

At my follow-up consultation, the first thing out of the nutritionist’s mouth was “You have the best omega-3 profile of anyone I have tested — ever. What do you take?” This was coming from a guy who supervises athletes whose livelihoods depend on their bodies working optimally — people who often have teams of chefs on staff, preparing every morsel for them.

For a health and fitness hobbyist like me, this was high praise indeed. I’d hacked the system.

What’s my secret, he asked? Sardines, I answered.

I told him that when I travel in Europe in the summer, sardines are pretty much all I live on for lunch and dinner. In Greece a few years back, I consumed the little buggers for ten days straight. Back home in California, I eat a non-BPA can of the Vital Choice brand of sardines almost every day.

So why do I like this often-overlooked, frequently disparaged form of protein so much? For one thing, sardines contain significant amounts of at least a dozen important nutrients for men’s health. A 3.2-ounce serving of Atlantic sardines in water provides the following Daily Value percentages:

  • Vitamin B12: 337.9 percent
  • Selenium: 86.9 percent
  • Phosphorus: 63.5 percent
  • Omega-3: 60.8 percent
  • Protein: 44.6 percent
  • Vitamin D: 43.7 percent
  • Calcium: 34.6 percent
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 29.7 percent
  • Iodine: 24 percent
  • Copper: 18.8 percent
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 16.1 percent
  • Choline: 16 percent

Many of these nutrients are the heavy hitters of men’s health:

  • Vitamin B12 promotes cardiovascular health; increases sperm count, increases sperm motility; relieves depression; improves sleep.
  • Selenium maintains healthy blood vessels and heart health.
  • Phosphorus maintains a regular heartbeat; helps eliminate muscle weakness and fatigue; aids in protein formation and healthy muscle contraction; maintains libido, erectile function, and sperm motility; staves off dementia and cognitive dysfunction.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels; prevent excessive blood clotting and improve cardiovascular health and possibly sexual functioning; increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat mass; support brain health, cognitive performance, memory, and learning; is reported to help prevent prostate cancer cell growth and reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, including advanced cancer.
  • Protein is essential for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle and connective tissue.
  • Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium for improved bone health; is reported to help inhibit cancer cell growth in the prostate; interferes with tumor growth.
  • Calcium maintains a healthy heart and blood pressure; aids in muscle contraction and muscle tone; helps strengthen the bone matrix.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) assists in managing cholesterol as well as blood pressure.
  • Iodine is essential for the health of the thyroid, which regulates energy, metabolism, and weight.
  • Copper plays a part in regulating heart rhythm and reducing cholesterol.
  • Riboflavin is important in helping muscles heal and repair.
  • Choline is essential for muscle and nerve function.

Most of the health benefits of sardines are even more important as you age and focus more on your heart, brain, male “plumbing,” and the prevention of chronic disease and maintaining natural testosterone levels. For me, sardines are a “desert island food”— the one single food I could live on reasonably well, and happily, if I had to.

Canned sardines are great and convenient — if you can get them in non-BPA cans. Otherwise, your local fish supplier may have them seasonally (February and March, particularly). Grilling is the best way to cook them. And since many of the sardine’s predators — tuna and cod, for example — have been over-fished, smaller prey fish like sardines are plentiful in the oceans, so you can eat them relatively guilt-free.

Acquiring the taste for sardines is easier than you may think. After avoiding them for most of her life, my wife has recently started eating them and has begrudgingly admitted that she enjoys them. Do yourself — and your health — a favor and eat sardines.

You can read more about my nutrition secrets in my book: Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40

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