Anchovy’s Health Benefits

It’s quite common, when we start diets or decide to eat less red meat, we choose to increase the consumption of white meat, isn’t it?! Fish is a versatile, nutritious, tasty food that can be prepared in a variety of ways.

However, some fish stand out from the rest because of the amount of benefits they offer to our health. Among these options is the anchovy , a typical temperate water fish, which is usually found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the region of Europe.

With the scientific name “Pomatomus saltator”, the anchovy is among the smallest fish in existence, reaching up to 1.1 in length and a total weight of 14kg. The average measurement is from 50 to 70 cm and weight from 1 to 5 kg. This characteristic ends up being a great ally, as seafood usually has worrying levels of environmental toxins, and anchovy does not absorb these substances at harmful levels.


Found throughout the Brazilian coast, from Pará to Rio Grande do Sul, the anchovy travels in shallow water, swimming close to the surface, and is often seen in large schools, which facilitates its fishing, which is made of December to March, and June and July, as spawning takes place in August and September – a time when fishing is prohibited. Its meat is of good quality, but its appearance is not very pleasant due to its grayish color.

Anchovy is a fish of the pomatomid family and has a long, oblong and laterally long body. The back is greenish blue with a silver belly and sides, with a dark spot at the base of the pectorals. It is a voracious and predatory species, which ingests its prey in amounts corresponding to half its own weight. Its main foods are manjubas, yellowtail and sardines, as well as molluscs and crustaceans.


Anchovy is well known for being the little super fish. It earned this title because of the great amount of benefits it offers our body. From our skin to our heart, it supports the maintenance of our health to impressive proportions.

Considered an oily fish, anchovy is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which is a healthy type of fat that helps in healthy eating and a balanced diet. In addition, it also has high biological value proteins, so its protein content is similar to what is found in red meat or eggs. Among other nutrients that are essential for our body are also the B-complex vitamins, such as B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12.

Learn about the essential nutrients present in anchovies and their benefits for our body:

  • Rich in omega 3:

The high content of omega 3 fatty acids is one of the main benefits of anchovy. This fat is considered healthy and helps prevent heart disease. Another benefit related to omega 3 is that it prevents blood clots and thrombus formation and reduces high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.

  • Heart health:

Calcium and magnesium are present in anchovy and also play an important role in the proper functioning of the heart, in addition to omega 3. Calcium helps to stimulate the heart muscles and blood vessels. Magnesium, on the other hand, helps to relax them. Together, the two minerals help keep your heart rate and blood pressure regulated.

  • Good combination of vitamins:

Due to the high content of vitamins that are soluble in fat, such as vitamins A and D, anchovy is a food that helps improve vision and resistance to infections. Fish also helps promote greater absorption of calcium by the body and is also involved in the production of liver enzymes.

  • Keeps skin young:

When consumed frequently, anchovy provides our body with some nutrients that are essential to keep our skin young for longer. This is due to the presence of fatty acids, selenium and vitamins A and E in its composition. When combined, these nutrients help prevent the formation of wrinkles and blemishes on the skin.

  • Increases muscle mass:

Anchovy is very suitable for those who practice physical or sports activities regularly, as it helps in the development of muscles. This is due to the high amount of proteins present in its composition.

  • Keeps bones and teeth strong:

Anchovies are rich in vitamin D, a nutrient that is increasingly deficient in the population and which is responsible for regulating the levels of calcium present in our blood. Vitamin D also works by absorbing and fixing calcium in bones and teeth, keeping them healthy and strong. In addition, fish also have vitamin A, phosphorus and magnesium, nutrients that play a role in the growth and maintenance of strong bones.

  • Improves immunity:

The presence of magnesium and vitamin A in anchovies makes it a good ally of our immune system, responsible for protecting the body against diseases.

  • Prevents anemia:

Anchovies are a food rich in iron, so much so that about 20g of them have approximately 12% of what is recommended to eat daily for men and 5% for women. As a result, it becomes a great food for preventing anemia, a condition caused by a deficiency of nutrients in the body, including iron.

  • Suitable for pregnant women:

Among other vitamins present in anchovy is folic acid, or vitamin B9, which is a key nutrient in the diet of women who are pregnant. It participates in several functions in the body, including the formation of the nervous system of the fetus during pregnancy. In addition, anchovies are free of mercury and other substances that are toxic and are present in some fish.

  • Magnesium :

Magnesium acts in our body by accelerating our intestinal transit and causing a mild laxative effect. In addition, it is also important for the proper functioning of our muscles and nerves, which is essential for those who have mood disorders and play sports.

  • Prevents thyroid problems:

Another nutrient present in anchovy is iodine, which is essential for the correct functioning of our thyroid gland. It is responsible for regulating many metabolic functions in our body, such as brain development and fetal growth.


To be sure that we are going to consume all the benefits mentioned above, it is important to pay attention when buying anchovies. She needs to be fresh! To do this, check out the tips below to know what to look for when buying the fish:

  • Scales must be well associated and shiny;
  • The fish’s eyes should also be bright and protruding;
  • The anchovy’s gills need to be quite red or a deep pink hue;
  • Despite the characteristic bad smell of fish, the odor cannot cause discomfort. The fish that is good smells of salt air;
  • Look for fish that still have scales, as they help to avoid contact with other substances that can cause contamination.

Now that we know how to buy anchovy, let’s know some of the most common ways to consume anchovy? Below are some recipe suggestions:

  • Grilled snapper:

To prepare the grilled anchovy, take a knife or a fork and make several holes in the whole fish – without the belly. Then spread the parsley, lemon juice, chopped chives, rock salt, basil and some bay leaves over the fish. Afterwards, wrap the fish in aluminum foil. Take care to close the sides well so that air does not come out or enter. Place fish on a grill for 45 to 60 minutes, turning at 15-minute intervals to roast on both sides. Afterwards, place it on a platter and remove the aluminum.

  • Fried snapper:

The first step is to clean the anchovy and then season it with lemon juice, pepper and salt. Afterwards, pass the cut pieces of fish in flour and place to fry in a frying pan with oil. Afterwards, pass it on a platter and wait for the oil to drain.

  • Anchovy in the oven:

To prepare the anchovy in the oven, season the fish with garlic, salt, onion, pepper, tomato and lemon juice. Then place the fish in a baking dish oiled with olive oil. Wait for about 30 minutes and then drizzle the fish with olive oil and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes at medium temperature. After that, remove the foil and leave the pan for another 15 minutes in the oven to dry the liquid that will form on the fish.

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Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

Robert Asprin

Robert Asprin, APD is a non-dieting Accredited Practicing Dietitian passionate about inspiring positive changes in eating and lifestyle behaviors to help improve health while nurturing relationships with food and body.

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