At a recent webinar on bone health that I taught jointly with the wonderful BCH oncology PT Brandy Whitney, I had exactly two minutes left to produce a bone-healthy dish. Here’s what I made.
The thinking behind it?
- Sardines are packed with calcium (from the fish bones)
- Sardines are rich in high-quality protein (since about half your bones are made of protein, it’s essential to eat enough of the stuff)
- Sardines supply omega-3 fatty acids (which may decrease bone loss and fracture risk)
- Sardine skin & bones are rich in collagen (another bone-healthy nutrient)
- Fermented onions (garnish) supply probiotics and prebiotics
- Horseradish (a member of the cruciferous family) doesn’t have bone-health benefits that I know of, but it may have other health benefits (it’s antibacterial, diuretic, supports metabolism, digestion, and immune function, and is thought to contain cancer-fighting compounds)
- Apples contain a compound called phloridzin (in the skin) that may help improve bone density and reduce bone breakdown in women after menopause
- Alternatively, if you replace the apple with arugula you’ll get an additional 64 mg of bioavailable calcium — unlike raw spinach, whose high oxalate content makes its calcium less bioavailable and can contribute to kidney stone formation
Yes, I know, not everyone loves sardines, but consider giving them another chance. Trust me, once you pair them with all the gutsy-flavored ingredients listed above, you’ll barely notice their oily taste.
Moreover, you may be interested to know that a growing crowd of “a-fish-ionados” has elevated sardines to a hot new food trend. (If you don’t believe me, I suggest you read this New York Times article about the Tik-Tok-fueled tinned fish craze that’s taking the U.S. by storm.)
Bone-Building Sardine Lunch
- 1 slice Norwegian crispbread I love Trader Joe's or Sigdal's crispbreads (esp. their Everything or Oats flavors -- I buy these at Sprouts)
- 1/2-1 tbsp grated horseradish
- 1 can sardines in extra virgin olive oil bone-in, skin-on; drained. Check the nutrition information on the packaging to see whether the sardines contain bones; if it says something like "Calcium 15%," they have bones (don't worry, thanks to the canning process they are so soft you can eat them without even noticing them). If it says "Calcium 0%," the sardines are boneless and contain no calcium.
- 1-2 tbsp raw fermented onions I used Small Town Cultures' Red Onions
- a sprig of fresh dill
- ½ large apple skin-on, cut into wedges
- Spread the horseradish evenly onto the crisp bread.
- Top with the drained sardines.
- Garnish with fermented onions and dill sprig.
- Place on a plate, accompanied by the apple wedges.