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Tuna vs Sardine - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Sardine vs Tuna

Introduction

Sardines are oily saltwater fish that are harvested from the mediterranean sea, north and European shores of the Atlantic ocean. Due to its geographical importance, countries like Portugal, Italy, and some middle eastern countries that are on the Mediterranean shores consume a lot of sardines. The country that consumes the highest amount of sardines in Portugal.

Sardines can be available yearlong, however, fresh sardines are available during the warm seasons, between May and October mostly. In addition to that, during that season sardines consume the most amount of food and become fatter and tastier. A difference that exists between sardines and tuna is their size and weight. Sardines are usually between 15-30 cm and weigh around 150g each. They are available in the sea in schools of sardines.

Tuna is a saltwater fish that is harvested in all oceans of the world. Tuna has an importance in the sushi market, it has a high value in that market that it is also sold in auctions. Japan is the country that consumes the highest amounts of tuna and that is mostly due to their gastronomy which focuses on sushi and sashimi.

Different types of tunas are harvested during different seasons. Atlantic bluefin tuna is caught during June and November and pacific bluefin tuna is caught between May and October.

A significant difference exists between them, which is the weight and size of the fish. An average tuna is between 2-2.5 meters and weighs around 250kg.

Culinary world

Sardines are available in different ways, they can be sold fresh, frozen, smoked, canned with olive oil or soybean oil, and pickled.

Different countries have their signature dish when it comes to sardines, for example in Italy, Sicily a famous regional dish is pasta con le sarde, which is spaghetti mixed with sardines and anchovies. In Portugal where seafood is one of the main sources of proteins in gastronomy, they rely heavily on sardine consumption. One of the famous sardine dishes is grilled sardines.

Tuna, on the other hand, can be consumed raw, which is the case in sushi and sashimi in Japanese gastronomy. Raw tuna is of high value as it needs culinary mastery and the best type of fish for the perfect flavors.

Tuna can be grilled, canned with different types of oils. The most common consumption of tuna is the raw form which is in Japanese gastronomy. Another famous tuna dish is seared tuna. Canned tuna has a variety of ways that it could be eaten, one of the common ways is the tuna pasta, where canned tuna is associated with different types of pasta and garnishes.

In this article, we are going to compare sardine and tuna based on their difference in nutritional content, weight loss and diet impacts, and health impacts.

Nutritional content comparison

In this section of the article, we are comparing the nutritional content of sardine and tuna. The sardine taken into consideration is canned in oil which is compared to tuna which is cooked in dry heat.

Glycemic index

Both sardine and tuna have a glycemic index that is equal to 0.

Calories

Tuna is lower in calories compared to sardine. However, the difference is not of high significance.

Carbs

Sardine and tuna are devoid of carbs, the total amount of carb in both is equal to 0.

Protein

Tuna is richer in proteins compared to sardine. The amount of protein in both foods is high and the amino profile is versatile. The dietary benefits and bodybuilding benefits will be discussed in the upcoming paragraphs.

Fat

Sardine contains higher amounts of fats compared to tuna. However, the higher amount of sardine is also due to the added oil. The amount of fat is double in sardines compared to tuna.

Omega-3 fatty acid

Fatty fish, such as sardine and tuna, are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid).

These fatty acids are important lipids with a variety of health benefits.

Their health significance will be explored in the section on health effects.

Cholesterol

Sardines are higher in cholesterol compared to tuna. The amount of cholesterol of sardines is 100mg higher than that of tuna. Which is relatively very high and has to be taken into consideration.

Minerals

Sardines have a richer and more versatile mineral profile compared to tuna. Sardine is richer in phosphorus, zinc, copper, calcium, and iron. In addition to that, sardine has higher amounts of sodium than tuna. On the other hand, tuna is richer in magnesium and has a lower sodium content.

It is important to mention that 300g of sardine and tuna can satisfy the recommended daily values of different minerals. For example, 300g of sardine can complete the daily requirement of phosphorus, iron, and calcium. On the other hand, 300g of tuna can complete the daily requirement of phosphorus only.

Vitamins

Tuna has a more versatile and richer vitamin profile compared to sardines. Tuna is richer in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, and A. On the other hand, sardine is richer in vitamins D and E.

It is important that we mention that 300g of tuna can satisfy the recommended daily value of vitamins B3, B6, B12, and E. On the other hand, 300g of sardine can satisfy the recommended daily value of vitamins B3, B12, and D.

Weight loss and diets

Sardine and tuna are high-fat, low-carb meals. As a result, the amount of fat consumed should be considered during weight reduction or varied diets.

Sardines and tuna are also rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins. Making them suitable for different types of diets like the keto diet and body-building curated diets. These diet impacts will be further discussed in this section.

Keto

Sardine and tuna are considered ideal keto diet foods. They are high-fat, low-carb meals. It is critical to remember that the fat profile of these fish contains healthy fats. However, when consuming sardine, it is necessary to take in mind its high cholesterol level.

Sardine has a higher mineral and vitamin content than tuna.

Tuna has a richer vitamin profile compared to sardine. Both these give an advantage to these foods in the keto diet.

Vegan

Both sardine and tuna cannot be consumed in the vegan diet.

Bodybuilding

Sardine and tuna are perfect foods to be consumed during bodybuilding. They are packed with proteins, healthy fats, and are devoid of carbs. This combination makes them ideal for bodybuilding. Both these foods are easy to prepare and can be associated with a salad to provide a fuller range of flavors and tastes. It is important to associate these types of proteins with fiber-rich food.

Health impacts

Cardiovascular health

Omega-3 fatty acids present in tuna and sardine enhance heart function by lowering blood triglyceride levels, acting as an antihypertensive, antiarrhythmic, and anti-atherogenic agent. (1)

Omega-3 fatty acids are antiarrhythmic, antithrombotic, and anti-inflammatory. These fatty acids are also used to treat hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis. There are no known medication interactions between omega-3 fatty acids. (2)

Researchers from the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure and reduce your chance of getting heart disease. (3)

Higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to lower high triglyceride levels (2 to 4g per day) as well as morning stiffness and the number of sensitive joints in rheumatoid arthritis patients (at least 3g per day). (4) (5)

According to research, gamma-tocopherol (gT) has favorable cardiovascular benefits due to its anti-inflammatory action. (6)

Diabetes

Diabetes therapy is based on dietary recommendations, including changes in the quality of dietary fat. The danger associated with somewhat increased blood glucose concentrations with an omega-3–enriched diet may be offset by beneficial effects on lipoprotein concentrations.

Patients with type 2 diabetes may benefit from an increase in long-chain omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish (tuna, sardine) and omega 6 fatty acids from linoleic acid. Thus tuna and sardines are recommended to be consumed in the regulation of glucose levels in diabetes. (7)

According to several papers, a high-fat diet supplemented with fish oil improved metabolic characteristics linked with type 2 diabetes, such as decreased glucose tolerance and hepatic steatosis. (8)

Cancer

Few studies suggest that consuming essential fatty acids may reduce the chance of getting cancer. As we know, fat from both sources contain 20–25 percent saturated fatty acids, the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and omega–3 fatty acids, which are important components of cell membranes and appear to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as inhibiting the growth of colon, breast, and prostate cancers in vitro. (9)

Inflammation

Tuna and sardine have anti-inflammatory properties due to their omega-3 content, which may contribute to their preventive activities against atherosclerosis, plaque rupture, and cardiovascular mortality. (1)

Regulation of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid synthesis via the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways via fatty acids has a significant role in inflammation, proliferation, and angiogenesis, all of which are essential drivers in cancer progression. (10)

Bone impact

Sardine, a tiny fish that may be eaten with the bones, is a good source of calcium, even if calcium from bone may be difficult to absorb. (11)

As a result, calcium-containing products may help reduce gout episodes while also protecting your bones. (12)

Sardines include vitamin D, which is important to bone health and development. (13)

Downsides and Risks

Pregnancy

Methylmercury, which is present in tuna, can build up in human tissues. It can have a detrimental influence on the development of the baby's brain and nervous system. Rapid development rates and a high-fat content in tuna may play key roles in controlling pollutant concentrations such as mercury. (14)

Diabetes

According to certain research, the high cholesterol content of sardines may be linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. (15)

Summary

Sardine has more fat and cholesterol, it has a richer mineral profile. Sardine is richer in vitamin D and E. Tuna is richer in proteins and lower in calories. Tuna has a richer vitamin profile. It contains higher amounts of mercury. They have positive effects on overall health.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171799/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0939475304800450
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26272221/
  7. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/94/1/26/4597878?login=true
  8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900713001044
  9. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/1/85/4714845?login=true
  10. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/exposures/meat-fish-dairy
  11. https://www.nature.com/articles/ejcn201171
  12. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/lifestyle-changes-to-reduce-the-risk-of-gout-attacks
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257679/
  14. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2109.2009.02211.x
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942738/
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Profession: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: August 14, 2021

Infographic

Tuna vs Sardine infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Tuna
2
:
Contains more Magnesium +64.1%
Contains less Sodium -83.7%
Contains more Iron +122.9%
Contains more Calcium +3720%
Contains more Potassium +22.9%
Contains more Copper +69.1%
Contains more Zinc +70.1%
Contains more Phosphorus +50.3%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 50% 3% 29% 46% 37% 22% 140% 7%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 110% 115% 36% 28% 62% 36% 210% 41%
Contains more Magnesium +64.1%
Contains less Sodium -83.7%
Contains more Iron +122.9%
Contains more Calcium +3720%
Contains more Potassium +22.9%
Contains more Copper +69.1%
Contains more Zinc +70.1%
Contains more Phosphorus +50.3%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Tuna
7
:
Contains more Vitamin A +2233.3%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +247.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +34.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +101%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +113.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +214.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +21.7%
Contains more Folate +400%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 152% 0% 0% 70% 71% 198% 83% 122% 1361% 0% 2%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 7% 41% 144% 20% 53% 99% 39% 39% 1118% 7% 8%
Contains more Vitamin A +2233.3%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +247.5%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +34.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +101%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +113.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +214.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +21.7%
Contains more Folate +400%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
171
Tuna
131
Sardine
Mineral Summary Score
41
Tuna
79
Sardine

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
179%
Tuna
148%
Sardine
Carbohydrates
0%
Tuna
0%
Sardine
Fats
29%
Tuna
53%
Sardine

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Tuna Sardine
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Lower in price Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Tuna Sardine
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Tuna
Tuna is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 93mg)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Tuna
Tuna is lower in Sugar (difference - 0g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Tuna
Tuna contains less Sodium (difference - 257mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Sardine
Sardine is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.084g)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Sardine
Sardine is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($7)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Tuna Sardine Opinion
Calories 184 208 Sardine
Protein 29.91 24.62 Tuna
Fats 6.28 11.45 Sardine
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 0 0
Cholesterol 49 142 Tuna
Vitamin D 193 Sardine
Iron 1.31 2.92 Sardine
Calcium 10 382 Sardine
Potassium 323 397 Sardine
Magnesium 64 39 Tuna
Sugar 0 Tuna
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.11 0.186 Sardine
Zinc 0.77 1.31 Sardine
Starch
Phosphorus 326 490 Sardine
Sodium 50 307 Tuna
Vitamin A 2520 108 Tuna
Vitamin E 2.04 Sardine
Vitamin D 4.8 Sardine
Vitamin B1 0.278 0.08 Tuna
Vitamin B2 0.306 0.227 Tuna
Vitamin B3 10.54 5.245 Tuna
Vitamin B5 1.37 0.642 Tuna
Vitamin B6 0.525 0.167 Tuna
Vitamin B12 10.88 8.94 Tuna
Vitamin K 2.6 Sardine
Folate 2 10 Sardine
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 1.612 1.528 Sardine
Monounsaturated Fat 2.053 3.869 Sardine
Polyunsaturated fat 1.844 5.148 Sardine
Tryptophan 0.335 0.276 Tuna
Threonine 1.311 1.079 Tuna
Isoleucine 1.378 1.134 Tuna
Leucine 2.431 2.001 Tuna
Lysine 2.747 2.26 Tuna
Methionine 0.885 0.729 Tuna
Phenylalanine 1.168 0.961 Tuna
Valine 1.541 1.268 Tuna
Histidine 0.88 0.725 Tuna
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Tuna - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173707/nutrients
  2. Sardine - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175139/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.