Squeamish around sardines? Tinned fish’s health benefits might convince you otherwise.

Here's why you should eat tinned fish, according to experts. (Getty Creative)
Here's why you should eat tinned fish, according to experts. (Getty Creative)

Cans are making a comeback. Tinned fish — including tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies — is getting a lot of love among foodies on social media. (Case in point: cookbook author Alison Roman’s TikTok-favorite carmelized shallot pasta recipe, which uses an entire container of anchovies to give the dish a rich umami flavor.)

And there’s good reason to love it: New research shows that people who eat small fish, which are common among the tinned varieties, may actually live longer. There are other health benefits too, dietitians tell Yahoo Life. Here’s what they say about tinned fish’s appeal, the recipes they recommend and their tips for trying the trend even if you’re — let’s be honest — a little fussy around fish.

Tinned fish refers to fish that has been cooked and preserved in a sealed tin or can. One of the most appealing aspects of tinned fish (especially for the budget-friendly shopper!) is its shelf life, as the canning process helps keep the fish fresh and safe to eat for a long time without refrigeration. It’s also a good option for those who camp or hike, as tinned fish is a portable source of protein you don’t need to keep cool or cook.

While the fish can be eaten on its own, or used in various dishes like salads, sandwiches and pastas, it’s also great for adding flavor. Caesar salad dressing, for example, is typically made with anchovies.

Dietitians approve of tinned fish for many reasons. They contain a variety of vitamins, such as B12 and vitamin D, as well as minerals like calcium and selenium.

Dietitian Rima Kleiner, food blogger at Dish on Fish, tells Yahoo Life that fish, whether tinned or fresh, is the “ultimate brain food.” This is especially true of oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, which provide omega-3 fatty acids. These are “used by the body to build nerve and brain cells,” Kleiner explains. (Research also shows that eating sardines is more effective than taking a fish oil supplement in order to get a healthy dose of omega-3s.)

Dietitian Michelle Routhenstein tells Yahoo Life that tinned fish is also packed with high-quality protein. Typically, tinned fish contains about 20 to 25 grams of protein per 100 grams.

One health perk of many types of tinned fish, Routhenstein notes, is their edible bones. The bones of fish like sardines and salmon, she says, are “softened during canning, providing a significant source of calcium and vitamin D.” These nutrients are crucial for maintaining strong bones, supporting heart rhythm regularity and facilitating proper blood clotting, she explains.

Watch out for the sodium content in tinned fish, Routhenstein says — especially those packed in brine or sauces — as too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Certain fish, such as tuna, may come in lower-sodium varieties.

Another thing to note with tinned fish is the potential presence of BPAs (bisphenol A), chemicals used in the production of plastics, including those used to line food cans. This means that when you’re eating tinned fish, you could be ingesting BPAs, as they can leach into food. Exposure to BPAs and other endocrine disruptors have been linked to health concerns, such as insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.

It’s important to note that while BPAs in tinned fish are a potential concern, regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration monitor BPA quantities to reduce risk. However, if you’re concerned, you can choose BPA-free packaging or alternative packaging options, like glass jars.

Another thing to consider is the mercury content in your tinned fish. Mercury, a heavy metal, can build up in one’s body over time and cause health concerns. Canned tuna, as well as mackerel, is most likely to contain mercury, with light tuna deemed the safer option. While eating this fish in moderation (two to three 4-ounce servings per week) is unlikely to cause mercury poisoning, pregnant people may want to avoid fish higher in mercury due to the risks to the fetus.

Get creative with your tinned fish! Kleiner has these recipe recommendations:

Squeamish about tinned fish? Dietitian Avery Zenker tells Yahoo Life that you can “try having it in small quantities first, like adding a small amount to a pasta dish,” she says. You can also “try blending it into sauces, such as tomato or cream-based sauces.”

Another way to downplay the fish? Zenker suggests “using it as a filling for stuffed vegetables or blending it into spreads for crackers or bread,” which can “help ease any apprehensions about its taste and texture.” And, if all that fails? Try Caesar salad — the ultimate crowd-pleasing food made from tinned fish.