Paleo Chicken and Sardine salad
Quick & Nutrient Dense Paleo lunch
Today I’m sharing one of my all time favorite recipes to make for a quick lunch when I’m in a pinch but not sacrifice on nutrients. There are two types of reactions that I’ll receive after you read the title - Eww, sardines! - Or Oh I love them! Guess what? I was like the majority of you scrunching up your nose at the thought (and smell) of eating sardines! Honestly, the fear around sardines was all in my head. Never eating them when I was growing up, when I first saw them in the can I immediately thought of the other equally hated food - anchovies. “Eww they smell” people would say and you never wanted them on your pizza! Can you relate? I was right in your shoes and now prefer them over tuna especially in this paleo chicken sardine salad.
nutritional value in Wild Caught Sardines
After many months of saying absolutely not, I decided to give a can a try and see what happens. I talked to my peers and ended up purchasing the brand Wild Planet after many recommendations. I will say I have stuck to that brand since. So why should you be eating wild caught sardines?
Sardines are a food that is very nutrient dense and according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, one 3.25 oz can contains over 50% of daily nutrients needed for EPA and DHA (as we know them - the omega 3’s). One of the highest nutrients in sardines includes the vitamin B12 which is important for a healthy cardiovascular system and maintaining the health of the artery walls. This particular nutrient is an important aspect to bone health as it relates to homocysteine levels. Okay, allow me to pause a moment because you might be asking “what is homocysteine?”
Homocysteine is an amino acid found in the bloodstream. When there are high levels it can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. My functional doctor once explained high levels to me as having the character, Wolverine, inside my blood vessels scratching the walls because he is angry. Doesn’t that paint a not so nice picture? High levels also seem to be caused by deficiencies in Vitamin D, B12, folic acid, and B6. Other lifestyle factors like unbalanced thyroid hormones or generally poor thyroid health, increased intake in coffee and smoking, as well as prescription medications like proton pump inhibitors (an entirely different topic for a different day) can cause elevated homocysteine levels.
B12 helps protect the artery walls by lowering the homocysteine levels in the blood which works to protect bone health as well. Bone health and cardiovascular health? Correct, because B12 lowers the homocysteine levels which than may reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is another player to this protection team because it helps with the absorption of calcium which again contributes to healthy bones.
Sardines also include high amounts of two other minerals, phosphorus and selenium. Phosphorus is another important nutrient for maintaining bone health and selenium helps to support proper thyroid function.
To summarize, we want to maintain a healthy lifestyle of nutrient dense foods and reduce or eliminate the lifestyle factors that harm our cardiovascular and bone health - especially those with hyperthyroidism.
Preparing your sardines in 3 easy steps:
These steps for preparing your sardines will be helpful if you are a feeling a little queasy about eating them in the first place. I like to remove the bones, which come off very easy with these steps, just so I don’t have that extra texture. With these 3 steps, I find them very enjoyable and a mild taste in this recipe.
Step One: Open the can of sardines and pull one out at a time. Place on a cutting board or surface so you can debone them.
Step Two: Gently separate the sardine like shown below. They tend to split easily down the middle if you are gentle and not forcing them apart. Seriously, it is pretty simple.
Step Three: Once on the flat surface, gently pull the bones up starting at one end and pulling upward until it is completely off. Only one side of the sardines will have the bones attached. I can usually pull the whole piece off with everything staying attached. I discard the bones and the liquid in the can.
Paleo Chicken Sardine Salad
Now you are ready to prepare your chicken salad. I told you I am all about this recipe being a quick staple that requires little fuss so…I also use organic canned chicken breast.
You will need:
1 can of Wild Planet, wild caught sardines
I prefer the ones in water but I recently found a good deal at Costco on this brand. They were in olive oil.
1 can of organic chicken breast
Wild Planet also carries a good canned chicken breast but any organic canned chicken with clean ingredients would work.
1-3 dollops from a real spoon not a measuring spoon of Primal Kitchen mayonnaise (or paleo friendly mayonnaise that is made without poor quality oils)
Spices of your choice: Always salt & pepper but you might want to get creative - garlic or onion powder, lemon zest, etc…
Fresh herbs (optional) chives, parsley or cilantro are always a good choice
My husband also likes a squirt of mustard (again optional, feel free to think chicken salad and go with your instincts.)
Drain the chicken breast and add to a bowl. After you prepared the wild caught sardines, add them to the bowl. Chop and mix together with a spoon breaking the protein into smaller pieces. Add rest of ingredients - mayonnaise, sea salt, black pepper, diced onion, and any additional spices or herbs you wish to add.
Serve with plantain or cassava chips, eat on top of a salad, or serve on gluten free/paleo bread. My absolute favorite way is to serve with plantain chips but truly endless possibilities.