Can You Eat Raw Sardines? Safe or Risky to Eat?



Fact-Checked By: Munyem

Sardines are a type of small, oily fish that are often eaten whole. They are an excellent source of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, selenium, and calcium.

As someone who loves to eat raw fish, I often wonder if it’s safe to eat raw sardines. After doing some research, here’s what I found:

Freshness Matters

The most important thing to consider when eating raw sardines is their freshness. If the sardines are not fresh, they can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause food poisoning.

Therefore, it’s essential to get fresh sardines from a reputable source. You can tell if a sardine is fresh by looking at its eyes. The eyes should be clear and bulging, not sunken or cloudy.

Health Benefits of Eating Raw Sardines

Eating raw sardines has several health benefits. Sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and heart health.

They are also a good source of protein, which is necessary for building and repairing tissues in the body. In addition, sardines contain vitamin B12, essential for red blood cell production and nerve function.

Risks of Eating Raw Sardines

While eating raw sardines can benefit your health, some risks are involved. Sardines can contain high levels of mercury, which can harm your health if consumed in large quantities.

Therefore, it’s essential to limit your intake of sardines and other fish that contain high levels of mercury.

Potential Health Risks


Well, you should be aware of a few potential health risks. In this section, I will discuss these risks in more detail.

Mercury and Pollutants

Sardines are oily fish that can contain high levels of mercury and other pollutants. These contaminants can accumulate in the fish’s body over time, which means that larger and older fish are more likely to have higher levels of mercury and other pollutants.

Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause various health problems, including damage to the nervous, kidneys, and immune systems. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of mercury.

Choose sardines low in mercury to reduce exposure to mercury and other pollutants. You can also limit your intake of sardines to reduce your overall exposure.

Choking Hazard

Another potential health risk associated with eating raw sardines is choking. Sardines have small bones that can be difficult to remove, and if you accidentally swallow a bone, it can become lodged in your throat.

Remove the sardine bones before eating to reduce the risk of choking.

You can do this by gently pulling the bones out with your fingers or using a pair of tweezers.

Food Poisoning

Finally, there is a risk of food poisoning associated with eating raw sardines. Raw fish can contain harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause food poisoning.

Choose fresh sardines that have been properly handled and stored to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

 You should also thoroughly clean your hands, utensils, and cutting board before and after handling raw sardines.

The Pros and Cons of Adding Raw Sardines to Your Diet

If you’re considering adding raw sardines to your diet, weighing the pros and cons is important. Here are some potential benefits and drawbacks to keep in mind:


  • Rich in Nutrients: Raw sardines are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. These nutrients are essential for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and overall bodily function.
  •  Low in Calories: Raw sardines are relatively low in calories, making them a good choice for those who want to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
  •  Versatile: Raw sardines can be prepared in various ways, from grilling to pickling. They can be used in salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for pizza.


  • Risk of Parasites: Raw sardines contain parasites like Anisakis, which can cause foodborne illness if ingested. It’s important to properly clean and prepare raw sardines before eating them to reduce the risk of infection.
  •  High in Mercury: Sardines are a type of fish that can be high in mercury and toxic in large amounts. Limiting your intake of sardines and other high-mercury fish is important to reduce your risk of mercury poisoning.
  •  Strong Flavor: Raw sardines have a strong, fishy flavor that may only appeal to some. If you’re new to eating sardines, you may want to start with cooked or canned sardines to get used to the taste.

Raw sardines can be a healthy and delicious addition to your diet. Still, being aware of the potential risks and drawbacks is important.

Suppose you need clarification on whether raw sardines are right for you. In that case, consulting with a healthcare professional or nutritionist is always a good idea.


Canned Sardines vs. Fresh Sardines

When it comes to sardines, there are two main options: canned sardines and fresh sardines. Both types of sardines have pros and cons, and it’s important to understand the differences before choosing.

Fresh Sardines

Fresh sardines are typically caught in the wild and sold whole, fresh, or frozen. They are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium.

Fresh sardines have a delicate flavor and a soft texture, making them ideal for grilling, baking, or frying.

However, fresh sardines have a short shelf life and must be consumed within a few days of purchase. They are also more expensive than canned sardines and harder to find in some areas.

Canned Sardines

Canned sardines are a convenient and affordable option found in most grocery stores. They are typically sold in water, oil, or tomato sauce. They are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.

Canned sardines have a long shelf life and can be stored in the pantry for months.

However, canned sardines are often high in sodium, which can concern people on a low-sodium diet. They may also contain additives like preservatives or flavorings.

It’s important to read the label when buying canned sardines and choose products that are low in sodium and free of additives.

Comparison Table

Here’s a quick comparison of the key differences between canned sardines and fresh sardines:

Fresh SardinesCanned Sardines
Shelf LifeShort (a few days)Long (months)
AdditivesNoneMay contain preservatives or flavorings
  • Fresh sardines are delicate and soft, while canned sardines are firm and strong-flavored.
  •  Fresh sardines have a short shelf life and are more expensive than canned sardines.
  •  Canned sardines are convenient, affordable, and have a long shelf life.
  •  Canned sardines may be high in sodium and contain additives like preservatives or flavorings.

People Also Ask

As someone who loves sardines, I often get asked if eating them raw is safe. Here are the most common questions I get and my answers:

Can I eat raw sardines?

Yes, you can eat raw sardines! In fact, some people believe that they taste better when eaten raw. However, it’s important to make sure that you are getting fresh sardines from a reputable source, as they can sometimes be contaminated with toxins. Additionally, if you have any health concerns, you should consult with your doctor before eating raw fish.

Are there any health benefits to eating raw sardines?

Yes, there are many health benefits associated with eating sardines raw. Sardines are an excellent source of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, selenium, and calcium. These nutrients have been shown to have many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and supporting brain function.

What are some ways to eat raw sardines?

There are many ways to enjoy raw sardines. Here are a few ideas:

Sashimi: Slice the sardines thinly and serve them with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
Ceviche: Marinate the sardines in lime juice, cilantro, and chili peppers for a refreshing and flavorful dish.
Tartare: Finely chop the sardines and mix them with capers, shallots, and olive oil for a delicious appetizer.

Remember to always use fresh, high-quality sardines and handle them with care to avoid any foodborne illnesses.

About Me

Hey there! I’m the face behind FoodJustify. I’ve put in a lot of effort to ensure this site is your trusted source for all things food. My seafood adventures at the world’s largest beach have been a blast, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Take a look around, and I hope you enjoy the journey with us. Cheers!

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