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Sardines vs. Salmon — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian by Jack Yacoubian | Last updated on June 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan Article author photo Astghik Baghinyan
Sardine
vs
Salmon

Summary

Compared to salmon, sardines have more than twice the amount of cholesterol. Sardines and salmon are great sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. They are especially rich in selenium. Although both have enough Vitamin B12 to cover the daily need, sardines contain 3 times more of it than salmon. 

On the other hand, compared to sardines, salmon is richer in Vitamin D, as well as other B-complex vitamins such as Vitamins B3, B6, and B5. Additionally, sardines contain higher amounts of calciumphosphorus, and iron. 

Introduction

This article will discuss the differences and similarities between sardines and salmon, focusing on their nutritional data, usage in specific diet regimens, and health impact.

Sardines are usually harvested from the Mediterranean Sea, European shores of the Atlantic, and North Atlantic.

On the other hand, salmon is mainly harvested from farms that are grown in basins. Although some wild salmon are found in the market, most of the salmon that is easily accessible is harvested from basins.

Culinary World

Sardines are primarily sold in cans with vegetable oil. However, during harvest seasons in the Mediterranean and European countries of the Atlantic, sardines can be found grilled and smoked.

On the other hand, fresh salmon can be available year-long because they are mostly farmed and are not wild. Salmon is eaten raw, specifically in Japanese sushi. They can also be grilled and smoked and served as a salmon steak. Salmon is also found in European countries in soups and warm dishes.

Nutrition 

The average serving sizes for both sardines and salmon are similar. One serving of sardines equals about one can, which is 92 grams. One serving of salmon is, similarly, around 85 grams

This section will review the nutritional data of sardines and salmon per 100g serving. The sardines discussed in the article are canned sardines in oil.

Calories

Sardines are slightly higher in calories compared to salmon. 100g serving of sardines contains 208 calories, while the same serving of salmon contains 142 calories.  

Carbohydrates

Both sardines and salmon contain no carbohydrates.

Protein

Sardines and salmon are considered to be high in proteins, although sardines contain slightly higher levels. 

Sardines contain 24.6 grams of protein per 100 grams, while salmon contains 22.1 grams.  

The essential amino acid profile of sardines is richer than that of salmon. However, both are considered to have rich essential amino acid profiles.

Fats

The total lipid fat in sardines equals 11.4 grams, while in salmon, it is slightly higher and equals 12.4 grams

Saturated Fats

It is important to consider the amounts of saturated fats in both.

Salmon has slightly higher amounts of saturated fats, equalling 2.4 grams, while sardines contain 1.53 grams.   

Monounsaturated Fats

Per 100-gram serving, salmon is richer in monounsaturated fats by 0.31 grams compared to sardines.

Polyunsaturated Fats and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated fats make up the omega-3 element of fish. It is important to note that sardines are richer in polyunsaturated fats by 0.6 grams.

Fatty fish like sardine and salmon are among the richest sources of dietary supply of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid).

These fatty acids are essential fat with various health-beneficial properties. We will discuss their health relevance in the health impact section.

Cholesterol

Sardines have higher amounts of cholesterol. Per 100 grams of serving, they contain 142mg, while salmon contains only 63mg. The cholesterol content of 100-gram sardines is nearly 50% of the daily recommended intake value.

Minerals

Sardines and salmon are rich in minerals. Specifically both are especially rich in selenium. A 100g serving of sardines and salmon provides 48.5µg and 41.4µg of selenium, respectively, which almost completes the daily need for selenium (~55µg).  

Moreover, compared to salmon, sardines also contain high amounts of calciumphosphorus, and iron. 

It is important to note that sardines also contain more sodium than salmon, which is important to take into consideration, especially among hypertensive patients. 

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
1
Salmon
Contains more Calcium +2446.7%
Contains more Iron +758.8%
Contains more Magnesium +30%
Contains more Phosphorus +94.4%
Contains more Zinc +204.7%
Contains more Copper +279.6%
Contains more Manganese +575%
Contains more Selenium +27.3%
Contains less Sodium -80.1%
Equal in Potassium - 384
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 115% 110% 28% 210% 36% 41% 36% 62% 15% 288%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 5% 13% 22% 108% 34% 8% 12% 17% 3% 226%
Contains more Calcium +2446.7%
Contains more Iron +758.8%
Contains more Magnesium +30%
Contains more Phosphorus +94.4%
Contains more Zinc +204.7%
Contains more Copper +279.6%
Contains more Manganese +575%
Contains more Selenium +27.3%
Contains less Sodium -80.1%
Equal in Potassium - 384

Vitamins

The amount of Vitamin B12 found in a 100-gram serving of sardines and salmon equals 8.94µg and 2.8µg, respectively. Although both have enough to cover the recommended daily need for Vitamin B12 (2.4µg), sardines contain 3 times more than salmon. 

On the other hand, compared to sardines, salmon is richer in Vitamin D, as well as other B-complex vitamins such as Vitamins B3, B6, and B5.

A 100-gram serving of sardines provides 193 IU of Vitamin D, while the same serving of salmon provides 546 IU, almost enough to cover the daily need (600 IU).

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
8
Salmon
Contains more Vitamin E +78.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +68.1%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +219.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +2500%
Contains more Vitamin A +113%
Contains more Vitamin D +172.9%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +325%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +53.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +129.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +287.4%
Contains more Folate +240%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 7% 41% 144% 0% 20% 53% 99% 39% 39% 8% 1118% 7%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 14% 23% 393% 13% 86% 32% 151% 89% 150% 26% 350% 1%
Contains more Vitamin E +78.9%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +68.1%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +219.3%
Contains more Vitamin K +2500%
Contains more Vitamin A +113%
Contains more Vitamin D +172.9%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +325%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +53.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +129.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +287.4%
Contains more Folate +240%

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index for these products is 0, which means their consumption has no impact on blood glucose levels. 

Acidity

One way to understand the acidity of foods is through their potential renal acid load (PRAL) value, which shows how much acid or base the given food produces inside the organism. 

The PRAl values for sardines and salmon are 15.9 and 11.1, respectively, which means both are acidic

Weight Loss and Diets

Sardine and salmon are low-carb and high-fat foods. We should consider the amount of fat during weight loss or different diets.

Sardine and salmon are also excellent sources of proteinminerals, and vitamins, which makes them a great choice for many diets.

Keto

Sardine and salmon are excellent choices for keto diets. They are low-carb, high-fat foods. It is important to note that the fat profile in these fish is made primarily of healthy fats. However, the high cholesterol content of sardines should also be considered.

Both sardines and salmon contain various amounts of minerals and vitamins, essential for any diet. Salmon has a wider range of versatility and accessibility during cooking than sardines.

Vegan

Both sardines and salmon cannot be consumed during vegan diets.

Bodybuilding

Both sardine and salmon are highly recommended to bodybuilders and athletes. Their high protein content, rich mineral and vitamin compositions contribute to replenishing the biochemical necessities essential for maintaining good health and yielding long-term results.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Omega 3 fatty acids may improve cardiac function by their activity of lower blood triglyceride levelsantihypertensiveantiarrhythmic, and anti-atherogenic effects (1).

Omega-3 fatty acids, as antiarrhythmic, have antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory properties. These fatty acids are also used to treat hyperlipidemiahypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are no significant drug interactions with omega-3 fatty acids (2).

In an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers have found that omega-3 fatty acids can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing heart disease (3). Salmon contains bioactive PLs with strong antithrombotic and anti-atherogenic cardioprotective activities (4).

Higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids are required to reduce elevated triglyceride levels (2 to 4g per day) and reduce morning stiffness and the number of tender joints in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (at least 3g per day) (5, 6).

Studies have found that gamma-tocopherol (gT) exhibits beneficial cardiovascular effects partly due to its anti-inflammatory activity (7).

Diabetes

Dietary suggestions, including modification of dietary fat quality, are the basis of the treatment of diabetes. The risk related to the moderately higher blood glucose concentrations with the omega 3–enriched diet may be counteracted by positive effects concerning lipoprotein concentrations. An increase in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish (salmon, sardine) and omega-6 fatty acids from linoleic acid may be recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes (8).

Some studies show that the high-fat diet combined with fish oil improved metabolic features associated with type 2 diabetes, such as impaired glucose tolerance and hepatic steatosis (9).

Cancer

Few studies indicate that essential fatty acid consumption may influence the risk of developing cancer. Both sardines and salmon contain less than 20-25% saturated fatty acids, along with fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and omega-2 fatty acids, which are all known for their vital role in cell membrane composition and potential anti-inflammatory effects and have been found to inhibit the growth of colon, breast, and prostate cancers in vitro (10). 

Inflammation

Due to omega-3 content, salmon and sardine have anti-inflammatory effects, contributing to their protective actions against atherosclerosis, plaque rupture, and cardiovascular mortality (1).

Regulation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid production via the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways via fatty acids play a significant role in inflammation, proliferation, and angiogenesis, which are variables that are critical drivers in cancer progression (11).

Antioxidant activity

Salmon, as red-colored fish, have carotenoids (astaxanthin). Astaxanthin has biological functions related to growth, reproduction, and tissue health, possibly due to the compound's potent antioxidant properties (12).

Astaxanthin also has bioactive characteristics against H. pylori (12).

Impact on Bones

Both sardines and salmon serve as alternate sources of calcium (13).

Sardine, a small fish eaten with bones, can be a rich source of calcium, even though calcium from bone is unavailable for absorption (14).

So these products, which contain calcium, may help lessen gout attacks and protect your bones (15).

Vitamin D present in sardines also has a beneficial impact on bone health and formation (16).

Downsides and Risks

Cancer

Due to contamination, farmed salmon and sardines might lead to an increased risk of cancer. Fish grown under appropriate conditions may have a low risk of toxicity and cancer (5).

Pregnancy

Methylmercury found in wild salmon can accumulate in body tissues. It can have a negative impact on the baby's brain and nervous system development. For salmon, rapid growth rates and a high lipid content may play important roles in regulating concentrations of contaminants such as mercury. Salmon and sardines are fed on plankton only, which means they don't contain the high levels of mercury that other fish do (17).

Diabetes

Some studies show that the high cholesterol content in sardines might be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes (18).

Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Education: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: June 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by Astghik Baghinyan

Infographic

Sardine vs Salmon infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
:
2
Salmon
Contains more Protein +11.4%
Contains more Other +440%
Equal in Fats - 12.35
Equal in Water - 64.75
25% 11% 60% 4%
Protein: 24.62 g
Fats: 11.45 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 59.61 g
Other: 4.32 g
22% 12% 65%
Protein: 22.1 g
Fats: 12.35 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 64.75 g
Other: 0.8 g
Contains more Protein +11.4%
Contains more Other +440%
Equal in Fats - 12.35
Equal in Water - 64.75

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
:
1
Salmon
Contains less Saturated Fat -36.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +13.1%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 4.181
14% 37% 49%
Saturated Fat: 1.528 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3.869 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 5.148 g
22% 38% 41%
Saturated Fat: 2.397 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.181 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4.553 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -36.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +13.1%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 4.181

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Sardine Salmon
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Glycemic Index Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Sardine Salmon Opinion
Protein 24.62g 22.1g Sardine
Fats 11.45g 12.35g Salmon
Calories 208kcal 206kcal Sardine
Calcium 382mg 15mg Sardine
Iron 2.92mg 0.34mg Sardine
Magnesium 39mg 30mg Sardine
Phosphorus 490mg 252mg Sardine
Potassium 397mg 384mg Sardine
Sodium 307mg 61mg Salmon
Zinc 1.31mg 0.43mg Sardine
Copper 0.186mg 0.049mg Sardine
Manganese 0.108mg 0.016mg Sardine
Selenium 52.7µg 41.4µg Sardine
Vitamin A 108IU 230IU Salmon
Vitamin A RAE 32µg 69µg Salmon
Vitamin E 2.04mg 1.14mg Sardine
Vitamin D 193IU 526IU Salmon
Vitamin D 4.8µg 13.1µg Salmon
Vitamin C 0mg 3.7mg Salmon
Vitamin B1 0.08mg 0.34mg Salmon
Vitamin B2 0.227mg 0.135mg Sardine
Vitamin B3 5.245mg 8.045mg Salmon
Vitamin B5 0.642mg 1.475mg Salmon
Vitamin B6 0.167mg 0.647mg Salmon
Folate 10µg 34µg Salmon
Vitamin B12 8.94µg 2.8µg Sardine
Vitamin K 2.6µg 0.1µg Sardine
Tryptophan 0.276mg 0.248mg Sardine
Threonine 1.079mg 0.969mg Sardine
Isoleucine 1.134mg 1.018mg Sardine
Leucine 2.001mg 1.796mg Sardine
Lysine 2.26mg 2.03mg Sardine
Methionine 0.729mg 0.654mg Sardine
Phenylalanine 0.961mg 0.863mg Sardine
Valine 1.268mg 1.139mg Sardine
Histidine 0.725mg 0.651mg Sardine
Cholesterol 142mg 63mg Salmon
Saturated Fat 1.528g 2.397g Sardine
Omega-3 - DHA 0.509g 1.457g Salmon
Omega-3 - EPA 0.473g 0.69g Salmon
Omega-3 - DPA 0g 0.17g Salmon
Monounsaturated Fat 3.869g 4.181g Salmon
Polyunsaturated fat 5.148g 4.553g Sardine

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Sardine Salmon
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
131%
Sardine
110%
Salmon
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
94%
Sardine
44%
Salmon

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Sardine
Sardine is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.869g)
Which food is cheaper?
Sardine
Sardine is cheaper (difference - $6)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Sardine
Sardine is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Sodium?
Salmon
Salmon contains less Sodium (difference - 246mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Salmon
Salmon is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 79mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Salmon
Salmon is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar (0 g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Sardine - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175139/nutrients
  2. Salmon - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175168/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.