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Weight Loss

Never Tried A Sardine? Neither Had Patti Bodner Before They Helped Her Drop 5 Pants Sizes and Reverse Diabetes

Annette Bosworth, MD, explains why and how these little fish can translate into big weight loss

For decades, the only time you’d hear sardines mentioned would be in reference to something else being ‘as packed as tightly as a can of sardines.’ But there is a sea change afoot. Influencers from TikTok to You Tube to Instagram are beginning to sing the praises of the lowly sardine in a new way: as a key player in successful weight loss.

Do the little fish deserve the buzz? Are sardines good for weight loss? “Without a doubt,” says Annette “Dr. Boz” Bosworth, M.D., a Florida-based internist and rising YouTube star herself. Dr. Boz says she’s seen sardines help even the most frustrated dieters slim down. Take Georgia grandmother Deb Hamilton, 61, for example. She used sardines and Dr. Boz’s guidelines to drop a whopping 17 pounds in a single week! Read on to discover how Dr. Boz recommends using sardines for weight loss.

What exactly are sardines?

Sardines are small, oily fish that are part of the herring family. The term “sardine” does not actually refer to a single species of fish, but rather to a group of several types of small, oily fish that are commonly canned and consumed by humans.

Sardines are generally available canned, often in oil, water, tomato sauce, or mustard. Canned sardines can be eaten right out of the can or used in a variety of dishes. And you can find them in your local grocery store or online with no problem.

What makes sardines so healthy?

Sardines are exceptionally nutrient-dense, explains Dr. Boz. They boast ideal doses of healing amino acids, magnesium, vitamin D and a highly absorbable form of calcium. These little fish are also one of the most inexpensive sources of protein in the world: One serving of sardines will deliver 16 grams of protein and run you just a little over $1.

Best of all, just one serving of sardines delivers 2200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which the NIH says is more than twice as much that than you get from a typical fish oil pill.

“Let me just brag on how good those omega-3s are for you. They’re good for your brain, they’re good for your heart and your overall heath,” says Dr. Boz. Omega-3s also help reduce the harmful inflammatory effect of other fats we may eat — and many experts believe reducing inflammation also aids in weight loss.

How sardines speed weight loss

Dr. Boz is a proponent of the keto diet, which she credits with helping restore her ailing mom’s health. Keto works by lowering carbs so our bodies can’t make enough blood sugar for fuel. At that point, the body starts turns to burning fat fat for fuel, and in doing so, creates compounds called ketones that become our new fuel. When we’re running on ketones, research shows body fat begins to burn off significantly faster as metabolism speeds up.

Dr. Boz, a keto coach, went looking for a way to help people maximize ketone production, “and I kept reading about small fish,” she says. “When I first mention sardines, people yell, ‘No!’” But that’s before they realize sardines taste a lot like tuna and can quickly improve blood sugar levels and keto diet results. And she says sardines makes keto far more powerful.

When it comes to sardines and weight loss, Dr. Boz says all those omega-3s in sardines are key because they help stimulate ketone production. And that means more fat is able to be burned. “No other food compares,” she says. Dr. Boz is a fan of incorporating sardines into any healthy menu. But to help jumpstart weight loss, she created a 3-day sardine challenge that she says can do pretty amazing things. “People go from saying, ‘I’d never do that’ to, ‘I want do it again!’” 

Why do a 3-day sardine challenge for weight loss?

A 3-day sardine challenge is a shortcut to get better weight loss results on keto. Why might you need a jumpstart? If you try keto-style eating after years of struggling with blood sugar issues, your cells may be so damaged that they struggle to respond. But research shows adding two weekly servings of sardines makes a healthy diet significantly more likely to reverse severe prediabetes. Dr. Boz coached one diabetic woman who wasn’t seeing much difference on a traditional keto diet. She tried the sardine challenge and saw a 460% rise in ketones as her blood sugar fell to normal for the first time in years. 

How do you do the 3-day sardine challenge?

The 3-day sardine challenge for weight loss is exactly what you think: Eat only sardines in oil for 72 hours. The clock starts when you eat your first bite of sardines. “Eat as many as you like, whenever you like. There are no limits and no hunger,” Dr. Box says. You can pan-fry or air-fry them if you like for crispiness. You can also eat them right from the can.

Eat only as much as you need to feel satiated. “If you can’t get past the flavor, you can have some carb-free hot sauce,” Dr. Boz says. But beyond that or another carb-free seasoning, you should only consume sardines in oil, salt, water and black coffee. Keep it up for three days. Then have one last can of sardines. “I don’t let you end the fast until you eat your last bite of sardines at the 72nd hour.” 

It worked for Patti — she lost 5 pant sizes and got off 6 meds!

Before and after image of a woman who lost 5 sizes with sardines
Patti Bodner lost 5 sizes and reversed diabetes using a 3-day sardine challenge.Krystal Radlinski/

Hoping to get off pricey insulin, Patti Bodner tried keto. “My cravings went away, and the weight just started falling off,” recalls the Florida grandmother, 67, a lifelong dieter. Did she plateau? Yep, and her diabetes was better but not gone. So she dove into Dr. Boz’s 3-day sardine challenge. “I’d never had a sardine, but I figured they had to be better than insulin,” Patti says. She found them tuna-like and ate them with mustard for 72 hours. “I had no hunger and crazy energy.” 

After 25 years of diabetes, her A1C finally fell back to normal. She eventually lost 5 pants sizes. “I was led to believe I had a disease that could only get worse. Now I’m off insulin and five other meds. It saves me $1,000 a month at the pharmacy. I’m also back to my high school weight. This has been a miracle!”

But are sardines high in mercury? 

Sardines actually have far less mercury than large firsh like tuna and swordfish and even contain about half the mercury in salmon (which is itself a low-mercury fish). “The rule is the smaller the fish, the smaller the risk of mercury,” says Dr. Boz. “You would need to eat so many sardines to have a mercury risk that it’s not physically possible.”

What if I don’t like sardines? Is there a substitute?

Sardines are unrivaled, and there really is no substitute. Part of the reason is because people usually don’t go crazy for sardines as they might for, say, bacon—so you eat less overall, which is part of why the approach works so well. You’re giving your system a break from being overloaded as you flood it with sardine super-nutrients. 

For long-term success, make sardines part of a keto diet

Dr. Boz basic keto guidelines start with cutting carbs to 20 grams per day as you focus on fat-rich foods like avocado, eggs, cheese, buttered non-starchy veggies, fatty meat and especially sardines. You can do this using recipes like the one, below, to develop a taste for sardines before you try the 3-day challenge. 

Try this! Sardines-for-beginners salad recipe

Swap sardines for tuna in simple salads to quickly develop a taste for nature’s metabolic miracle food

  • 1 can sardines in oil 
  • 1 hard-cooked egg
  • 2 cups simple mixed salad
  • Olive oil, vinegar and seasoning

Use sardines straight from the can, or for firmer texture, sauté or air-fry using medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Toss sardines with salad ingredients and dress to your liking. Note: In blind taste tests, folks don’t notice the highly nutritious bones/skin in traditionally packed sardines. But boneless/skinless versions are also available. Serves 1

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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