My first memory of anchovies wasn't even a sense memory. I didn't taste them or smell them, and I certainly didn't have contact with their oily exterior. I learned about anchovies from watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Like me, the Turtle's were avid lovers of pizza but avoided these small fish like the plague. And so, I too eschewed the pizza topping until I grew up a little bit. Once I learned about anchovies health benefits and realized they're so good for me, I found ways to add them to my diet.
Before we dive in and look at why anchovies are good for you, I feel the need to make a compelling argument that you should be eating the oily fish in the first place. Yes, they have a super strong flavor and, yes, they get a bad rap for being a terrible pizza topping. But, when cooked correctly and served up right, anchovies are super delicious!
The Health Benefits of Anchovies
1. Omega-3 fatty acids
The majority of fat from anchovies are healthy fats, also known as omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are also known as healthy unsaturated fats, which reduce inflammation and prevent cardiovascular disease.
One serving of anchovies contains 20 percent of your daily values of niacin. Also known as Vitamin B3, niacin can improve cholesterol levels and lower cardiovascular risk. Adding niacin to your diet has also been known to improve heart health and lower the risk of heart attacks.
3. Vitamin A
Anchovies are rich in vitamin A, the nutrient responsible for helping your body keep your vision strong. Vitamin A is also known to aid in bone growth, cell division, and regulate the immune system.
Potassium is an important nutrient for your body to keep up with skeletal and smooth muscle contraction. This helps with normal, everyday digestion and muscular function. One serving of anchovies is a good source of potassium to help you get to your recommended daily values.
Who doesn't want healthy, strong bones and teeth? Milk and other dairy products aren't the only good source of calcium - anchovies are, too! One serving of anchovies will get you 147 mg of calcium.
Anchovies are rich in selenium, the mineral that plays a key role in metabolism. In addition, selenium is antioxidant-rich so it has been linked to reducing risks of certain types of cancer, like prostate, lungs, stomach, and skin.
Anchovies are low in fat and calories while being high in protein. Adding anchovies to your diet can aid in weight loss. The high protein will trigger your brain that you're full, which can limit your calorie intake.
If you're feeling low on energy, you may have an iron deficiency known as anemia. Eating iron-rich anchovies will help you get to your daily recommended values and give you an energy boost.
9. Vitamin E
Eating anchovies will provide your body with vitamin E, the nutrient that helps your body retain vitamin A and C. It's also a powerful antioxidant that can help stop cell damage in your body.
The 5 Ways to Love Anchovies
While anchovies on their own have a super strong flavor, you can get the most out of anchovies health benefits without having to choke down something you don't like. A few cooking techniques will make it easy to eat anchovies the star of your next meal while also sneaking anchovies health benefits into your cooking.
It doesn't matter if you're using fresh anchovies or canned anchovy fillets in these recipes. You could also use anchovy paste, too, if that's more convenient. Their nutritional differences mainly center around whether they're packed in water, oil, or salt.
1. Caesar Salad Dressing
The classic Caesar salad is a perfect introduction to anchovies. Blend up a few anchovies with egg yolks, garlic, and Dijon mustard for this aggressive but delicious classic.
2. Toast with Radishes and Anchovy Butter
This is my favorite way to celebrate spring radishes. They bring a slightly spicy and crisp bite that pairs perfectly with the mega-savory flavors in the anchovy butter. Serve this to unassuming guests and they'll never know they hated anchovies!
3. Pasta Puttanesca
This Italian pasta sauce has bold flavors at the forefront. Combining anchovies, garlic, capers, and olives in a savory tomato sauce is a sure fire way to pack an aromatic punch! It might make your breath stink making it a bad first date meal, but it's a delicious meal for any other day.
4. Bagna Cauda
This classic northwest Italian sauce is so delicious, I want to smother everything with it! Use it as a dip with crudites vegetables, or use it as a marinade for steaks. This anchovy-based sauce is bright, salty, and it will completely transform your day.
5. Italian-Style Salsa Verde
Most people think Mexican-style tomatillo salsa when they think salsa verde, but there's another kind. This Italian-style sauce is made up of anchovies and fresh herbs. It reminds me a little bit of a briny chimichurri sauce.