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I recently had a full blood and nutritional profile undertaken by the head nutritionist for Red Bull — the guy that looks after all their professional athletes: 20 vials of blood and a report that came back as thick as a Jack Reacher novel . Comparing the amount of data in my report to what you get from your local GP blood work-up was like comparing an instruction manual to build a model airplane to one to build a 747. I spent days devouring it.

When I eventually had a follow up consultation, the first thing out of his mouth was, “You know you have the best omega-3 profile of anyone I have ever tested – ever — what do you take? “Well, I eat a lot of sardines” I said.

In fact, I went on to say that when I travel in Europe in summer some weeks that is ALL I live on – lunch and dinner. I think my longest stretch in Greece a few years back was 10 days. Back home in California I eat a non-BPA can of the Vital Choice brand every day or second day at a minimum.

Sardines contain good, very good, and excellent amounts of at least a dozen important nutrients, especially for men’s health. A 3.2 ounce serving of Atlantic sardines in water provides the following Daily Value percentages:

Vitamin B12: 337.9%

Selenium: 86.9

Phosphorus: 63.5

Omega-3: 60.8

Protein: 44.6

Vitamin D: 43.7

Calcium: 34.6

Vitamin B3 (niacin): 29.7

Iodine: 24

Copper: 18.8

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 16.1

Choline: 16

These nutrients (as well as others) are the makings of a perfect superfood for men.

Here’s why.

Heart Health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Omega-3s also work to prevent excessive blood clotting and help the arteries to dilate and relax, which in turn works to maintain normal blood pressure
  • Vitamin B12, which plays a critical role in keeping levels of the artery damaging substance called homocysteine in balance. High homocysteine levels contribute to atherosclerosis
  • Selenium is important for maintaining healthy blood vessels and heart health.
  • Phosphorus has a role in maintaining a regular heart beat
  • Calcium in the bloodstream has an important role in maintaining a healthy heart and blood pressure
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) can assist in managing cholesterol as well as blood pressure (Al-Mohaissen; Bays)
  • Copper plays a part in regulating heart rhythm and reducing cholesterol

Bone Health

  • Sardines are one of the few foods that provide excellent amounts of vitamin D, which is critical for bone health.
  • These tiny fish also provide very good levels of two other minerals essential for bone health: calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D assists in the absorption of bone-building calcium, and phosphorus has a key role in strengthening the bone matrix.

Sexual Health/Erectile Dysfunction

  • Vitamin B12 can significantly increase sperm counts in men who have low values. The nutrient also helps increase sperm motility rates.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help blood vessels to relax and dilate, which then improves blood flow to the penis and may help with erectile dysfunction
  • In men who have low sperm counts and poor sperm motility, vitamin B12 may help resolve these conditions. (Kumamoto)
  • A healthy level of phosphorus (1,200 mg daily) is necessary to help maintain sexual health, especially libido and erectile function, as well as sperm motility

Muscle Health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids help increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat mass. (Noreen)
  • The protein in sardines are essential for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle and connective tissue
  • Phosphorus works with the B vitamins to maintain healthy muscle contractions
  • Phosphorus also works to eliminate muscle weakness and fatigue as well as the process of protein formation
  • Calcium in the bloodstream is essential for healthy muscle contractions and muscle tone
  • Riboflavin is important in helping muscles heal and repair
  • Choline is a precursor of acetylcholine, a substance that is essential for muscle and nerve function

Brain Health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, and especially DHA, plays a critical role in brain health and cognitive performance. DHA may improve cognitive function relating to memory, speed of performing brain tasks, and learning. (Stonehouse)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of fish oil, administered to aged mice were found to protect the brain by delaying age-related mitochondrial dysfunction. The mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles in your cells. (Afshordel)
  • Vitamin B12 may relieve depression by helping to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of calm
  • Vitamin B12 also has an important role in sleep because it is a key partner in the production of melatonin. Levels of this hormone decline with age, so it is important to maintain healthy levels of this vitamin.
  • Phosphorus deficiency is associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive dysfunction.

Prostate Health

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent prostate cancer cell growth and reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer, including advanced cancer (Fradet; Hedelin; Leitzmann)
  • Vitamin D, specifically the hormonally active form called calcitriol, has been shown to inhibit damaging actions of prostaglandins and suppress inflammatory activities in prostate cancer cell. This form of vitamin D also can interfere with tumor growth and spread. (Krishnan)
  • At least one study suggests that low levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream is associated with a greater risk of developing prostate cancer of an enlarged prostate. (Galic)

Most of the health benefits of sardines are even more important as you age and focus more on your heart, brain, male “plumbing” and prevention of chronic disease.

The canned sardines are great and convenient if you can get them in non-BPA cans. Otherwise, your local fish supplier may have them seasonally which you can cook yourself (best on the grill).

I sometimes ask people I meet what are the two food items they would take to a desert island if they were stranded – like Tom Hanks in Castaway. For me, I just need to master that fish spear he used and learn to build a net and I will be fine – as long as there are coconuts for coconut water. That’s enough for me to survive.

Yes, they are an acquired taste – but funnily enough my wife has even started eating them after avoiding them for most of her life. Look up recipes and do yourself and your health a favor.