A couple of years ago, the last time I was visiting my family on St. Maarten (little Dutch/French Caribbean country where I was born and grew up) I always went for my early morning beach walk and then soaked and floated for a couple of hours in the cool blue sea waters of Great Bay Beach. (see previous post on the “value and benefits of water baths and aroma therapy”I was surprised to see one of the old fishermen I knew since I was a little girl also walking the beach, straight without a cane, no eye glasses, slender and looking as good as when I was a child.
I ran up to him and exclaimed: “It is so nice to see you’re still alive and looking so good and healthy. I am Mr. Brill daughter, you remember, (since I thought he might have forgotten me). How old are you now, I couldn’t help asking” because I knew he should be up in age. He said: “Yes, I remember you Glenda, I am ninety-seven (97) years old and don’t feel like it. “Wow”, I exclaimed and probably no mayor health problems either”. “Yep”, he answered, all the fish I ate for the most part of my life, my early morning walks and sunshine must have been good for me”.
Several years earlier than this before I had even moved to New York another older man was interviewed as to his secret for his outstanding good health despite advancing age. He was reaching his 100th birthday, but had none of the major diseases found here in the USA that usually came with old age. He wasn’t suffering from prostrate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or anything common to older people. When the interview was finished, he said laughingly: “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of my health”.
Years ago no Fast Food places, not even a hotdog stand could be found anywhere on the island
So what was the secret to these older men long healthy life (and there are quite a lot of them on the islands of the sea)?. As my older fisherman admitted he believed it was his diet rich in eating his own self caught fish. These were mostly smaller fish not large fish that had to be sliced before selling. The latter older man when asked what his meals consisted of, he admitted that it was simple cans of sardines. Unknown to himself and even most people back then he didn’t know that his simple daily diet of eating a mere can of sardines, along with greens and bread had actually contributed to his good health and long life.
Being a single man probably a widower who didn’t learn how to prepare and cook to many or different foods, (unlike Mr. Plantz, the fisherman mentioned at the beginning who took the trouble to scale and cook his fish) he preferred to open a can of sardines. They were easy to prepare, much cheaper than buying regular fish and it cost money to eat in restaurants. Also on St Maarten back then you couldn’t find any fast food places anywhere, not even a hot dog stand. People didn’t eat fast foods, they ate home cooked meals, or those that could afford it went to a restaurant that prepared wholesome foods.
Why called a poor man’s food
So his fast food was a simple can of sardines that didn’t call for any cooking or too much preparation. That was considered a poor man’s food back then since a can of sardines was very inexpensive only costing a few pennies a can at that time. People who ate only “poor men foods” were thought of as not taking care of their health. The local people ate a lot of regular caught fish and believed that fish was healthy even though they didn’t know what made fish that healthy. Nobody at that time knew anything about Omega-3 benefits to the body and life. My family ate regular sea caught fish and other sea foods weekly, sardines were only eaten as a breakfast meal on sandwiches or in egg omelettes, but never as the main meal.
No one had any idea that these little small fishes were even healthier to the body than some of the larger fish they were eating.
We always thought that regular fish was healthier and sardines were not considered a meal. So that was the reason this old man responded the way he did by saying that if he knew he was going to live this long he would have taken better care of his health. He was referring to eating real sea caught fresh fish rather than these little canned fishes. Little did he knew that the simple can of sardines he ate daily considered to be a “poor man’s food” would later be discovered by rich men as containing some of the best nutrition necessary for life, which is Omega-3 fatty acids along with other necessary vitamins and minerals.
The many benefits of eating healthy omega-3 fatty acid fish like sardines
In recent times much research has been done on the benefits of getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in our body. Sardines are one of the main fish that supply these Omega-3’s referred to as EPA (eicos-apentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These can also be found in Salmon, Trout, herring, mackerel and other sea creatures like Krill. Omega-3’s keep our bodies free from inflammation, they are necessary for the protection of our heart, brain, some kinds of cancers and keep our eyesight sharp. Also help keep our skin young and glowing, and for shiny healthy hair. As a whole they may help us live a healthier longer life. Let’s see how. (This I did from careful research along with personal experience as I always do):
Protects our heart against heart disease
Omega-3 fatty acids may protect us against heart disease. One study found that people with heart disease had less omega-3 in their bodies than people without heart disease. This may be due to the ability of some omega-3 fats to reduce inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease. Also people who get more omega-3 fatty acids in their diets tend to have lower blood pressure.
Researchers found this link by looking at nearly 5000 middle-aged men and women in the United States, Great Britain, China and Japan. Other studies have found links between fats from fish and lower risks of stroke and heart rhythm problems. To benefit from fatty fish the American Heart Association urges everyone to include fish like wild caught salmon and sardines in their diets at least twice a week.
A great remedy for a Healthy prostrate
The same EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines (and some of the other fatty fish mentioned above like salmon) that help our heart, may also offer protection against prostrate cancer. Most men between the ages of 40 and 50 often suffer from an enlarged prostrate. This leads to urinary and sexual problems, with the biggest fear of developing prostrate cancer. Scientists have long noticed that groups of people who eat lots of fish, like Japanese and Eskimo men, tend to have fewer cases of prostrate cancer. So they have been looking at men who eat traditional Western diets to see how eating fish might help.
A study of about 48,000 men found those who ate fatty fish more than three times a week had less risk of prostrate cancer over 12 years. Eating shellfish or taking fish oil supplements didn’t seem to help. In another study, men in Sweden who ate fatty fish at least once a week had fewer cases of prostrate cancer than those who never ate fish. Researchers think the omega-3 fats block natural body chemicals that help tumor cells grow. But other things could be going on. Sardines contain a lot of selenium which is believed to fight tumors.
One study found that men who took selenium supplements had fewer cases of prostrate cancer. So it would be wise for men even while still young to start replacing red meat with more fish in their diet. The same should be said of women since all cancers including breast cancers start as tumors, so including more fish in our diet will help everyone both men and women.
Sardines are also a great source of necessary vitamins, protein and calcium
Sardines besides containing tumor fighting selenium mentioned above also supply the body with phosphorous, calcium, vitamins B12, vitamin D and protein. Sardines are mostly sold in the can and retain the same nutrition as those bought fresh. I have seen and buy fresh herring which are also a fatty fish from my local fish market, but have not seen any fresh sardines. And some people believe that sardines and herrings are the same, just different names. Nevertheless they are related and supply the body with the same necessary omega-3 acids, vitamins and minerals.Unlike big fish which can carry mercury or other contaminants sardines and smaller fish are relatively safe from such pollutants, another reason they are healthier for the human body.
Get a double dose of bone protection and crunch osteoporosis by eating sardines
Pick canned sardines with the bones included and you’ll get a double dose of bone protection. Osteoporosis which is the gradual loss of bone mass and strength occurs in some people as they age, and can be slowed or prevented by getting more calcium and vitamin D in our diet. We can get calcium and vitamin D from dairy products, but marine calcium from fish bones or cartilage is another great source.
The bones of sardines are soft and can be eaten along with the fish itself. A can of sardines eaten with their bones included provide one-third the calcium and two-thirds the vitamin D our body needs every day. So boneless sardines will not provide the same amount of calcium as those eaten with the bones included.
Fishy News have been known long before our day
From studying the diet of people of old going back since the creation of earth and humans, their diet included plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains made into bread, and later fish. In Genesis 1-20-23 records of how God created the sea swarming with fish and sea creatures of all kinds and also gave the command for them to multiply and fill the oceans with other fish, and these were to be in subjection to man. After the Great Flood of Noah’s Day, fish became a staple part of the diet of people back then.
Those people who later became enemies of God and his people such as the Egyptians enjoyed meals of plenty of fish, and this was fed to the enslaved Hebrews. Even while they were on their trek in the wilderness out of Egypt, the freed Hebrews or Israelites started complaining about their lack of the good food and longing for the fish they used to eat in Egypt, along with onions and garlic a favorite way most cultures still prepare fish today.
Their longing for fish showed that it was part of their daily diet back in Egypt. (Recorded in Bible Book of Numbers 11:5). Even after they were established back in the Promised Land fish continued to be a part of their diet along with bread, this no doubt was wholegrain breads since they didn’t have today’s processing equipment for making refined flour, or white flour. One of the Gates in old Jerusalem was called the “Fish Gate” suggesting that a fish market was located there or close by where people gathered to buy fish caught by their local fishermen. (Bible Book of 2 Chronicles 33:14).
Did the poor people of old knew something about the benefits of fish that is only now being discovered in our day?
Today when we read the reports by Medical or Nutritional Scientists about including more fish and other nutrition in our diets from whole foods, even though they gave credit to themselves for discovering something new, in reality they are not telling us anything that wasn’t already created and given as food by our Creator himself. If we study the habits and diets of people of old as recorded in the Bible itself, their lives were dependent on the natural foods created by God himself and they obeyed him in eating such. We today can learn from this and know what is also good for us to eat or not.
Take for instance Jesus himself. As mentioned above the Israelites or Hebrews were used to eating lots of fish, so it shouldn’t surprise us to read that Jesus himself also a Jew ate lots of fish. Some of his disciples themselves were fishermen, so they always had plenty of fish to eat. Even though he was the foretold Messiah or Deliverer of imperfect men, and was a perfect man himself while on earth he ate the same foods common to the people in his day.
He didn’t have any special foods dropped from heaven for himself, but he knew the foods his Father (Jehovah) created on earth and in the sea, and told us to eat was already good and approved for everyone to eat. On two occasions after his resurrection before he went back to Heaven the Bible records his eating broiled fish along with his disciples. (Luke 24:36-43).
And the other time he prepared breakfast of bread along with fish cooked over a charcoal fire. (the common way of cooking back then). (Bible book of John 21:9-12). Eating fish for breakfast was the customary way of the people back then and even now in most of the Caribbean Islands and in some other countries most small fish like sardines are prepared for breakfast. (sometimes in egg omelettes).
Small fishes along with wholegrain bread was often eaten by the poor people of Bible times, and by Jesus himself.
On one occasion before he died he was teaching a large crowd of people, made up of entire families with children, and it was getting late. These poor Jews who were hungry for spiritual knowledge had stuck with him for three days just listening to his teachings, even though they were physically hungry. So Jesus felt pity for them and out of love for the hungry crowd he performed his second miracle. Bible Book of Matthew 15:32-38 says:
“But Jesus called his disciples to him and said: “I feel pity for the crowd, because it is already three days that they have stayed with me and they have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away fasting. They may possible give out on the road.” However his disciples said to him: Where are we in this lonely place going to get sufficient loaves to satisfy a crowd of this size?”
At this Jesus said to them: “How many loaves have you?” They said: “Seven (loaves of bread) and a few little fishes”. So after instructing the crowd to recline upon the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fishes and, after offering thanks, he broke them and began distributing to the disciples, the disciples in turn to the crowds. And all ate and were satisfied, and as a surplus of fragments they took up seven provision baskets full. Yet those eating were four thousand men, besides women and children”.(Matthew 15:32-38 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.)
If anyone knew the benefits of fish, then no one better than Jesus himself would
So he took a few small fishes and loaves of bread and multiplied them miraculously to feed a crowd of four thousand people, with some even left over. Now that gave them even more reasons to believe he was indeed the Son of God in order to perform such a miracle. These small fishes he fed to this large crowd probably were what we today called sardines or herrings.
But we know for sure if they were not nutritious for the people to eat Jesus would not have performed this miracle of feeding these hungry people, besides the account said they were satisfied. This simple food of small fishes and wholegrain bread gave them the energy, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids their bodies needed to stay alive and keep listening. Jesus knew what these fishes contain something that modern day scientists are only now discovering.
Sardines can hardly or no longer be considered a poor man’s food, they are becoming the chosen delicacy of some of the rich themselves.
Sardines now come in many different flavors and varieties. Some of them are packed in water, oil, tomato sauce, or flavored with mustard sauce, hot chili peppers, with or without salt. They can also now be found in some of the classy whole food markets and health food stores everywhere, places where most poor people can’t afford to shop. The price of a can of sardines the best imported Omega-3 loaded kinds, has gone up so much making it much harder for even the poor to be able to buy them. That is the case with most fish, very few people can afford to treat themselves with good fish like Salmon, trout and other fish because of the high cost.
In some places or countries the price of sardines or herrings are still lower than regular fish or steak and other meats. They might still be the choice of poor people in some countries because of their lower price. I know when I was in Holland (Europe) I used to buy and eat raw herring marinated in a delicious white sauce. People used to buy these marinated herrings in this sauce like they buy fast foods here in New York. But they were inexpensive and so delicious prepared in this sauce I used to stuff myself on several fishes alone without anything else, because of the taste. Next time I go back to Holland I have to find out what they use in this sauce to make it so tasty.
Even with the increase in cost, it is still worth spending the extra dollar for fish than eating junk foods which might be cheaper
But no matter what their price in your Country, City or State including these small fishes or other Omega-3 fatty acids fish into your diet is worth the extra dollar spent. I don’t know how much a Hamburger or Hotdog cost since I never developed the habit of eating such, but I know and believe eating a can of sardines or preparing a nice meal of fish along with greens and wholegrain bread will do your body a lot more good than buying fast foods, even if it cost a few more dollars.
So that old man back in St. Maarten mentioned in the beginning who lived to be more than100 years old and thought that he wasn’t taking good care of his health because all he ate was sardines which was called a “poor man’s food,” had no idea that he was doing just the opposite, he was actually taking excellent care of himself. The fact that he lived that long, was healthier than most people his age was proof that the simple diet of some poor people including those mentioned from the Bible in the past has many “rich health benefits” for us living today.
Researched, written and illustrated by: Glenda Brill©
*See more nutritional health benefits under the category “Healthy Tips”. To learn more about what the Bible teaches and how it affects our life today and gives us a hope for the future request this book “What does the Bible really teach” from this website http://www.jw.org/en
Can also read the Bible online on the site.