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Anchovies (Engraulidae)

Although small silvery fish caught off many coastlines are referred to as "anchovies," true anchovies live only in the Mediterranean sea and off the coast of southern Europe. The minerals in anchovies have vital roles in bone, nerve and muscle health and aid in glucose regulation, energy production, immune function, blood clotting and blood oxygenation. The vitamins found in anchovies play vital roles in energy production, DNA synthesis, neurological health, red blood cell formation, digestion and the maintenance of healthy hair, heart, nails, nerves, skin and vision.

Anchovies are a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid and docosapentaenoic acid. These omega-3 fatty acids are a primary structural component of the human brain, cerebral cortex, skin, sperm, testicles and retina. It also smoothes muscle cell proliferation which can prevent the development of atherosclerosis and restenosis and reduces harmful triglycerides.

These fish also contains pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but in a far lower level than anti-inflammatory omega-3 which is helpful as the western diet is often too high in the omega-6 ratio to omega-3.

Anchovies are also the richest source of a newly discovered fatty acid, omega-7, also known as palmitoleic acid, that has tremendous health benefits for diabetics and those at a risk of developing heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Palmitoleic acid is the first fatty acid found to act as a hormone in the body and this class of hormones has been called lipokine. Before this, all known hormones were either proteins (like growth hormone) or steroids (like oestrogen and testosterone).

Omega-7 can reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, prevent the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque, reduce triglycerides, increase beneficial HDL cholesterol and lower an inflammation marker called C-reactive protein, which is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

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Anchovies Engraulidae

In metabolic syndrome, as well as in type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the sugar-lowering effects of insulin. This results in a rise in sugar and insulin levels, both of which are toxic in large quantities. Omega-7 counteracts this by doubling glucose uptake by muscle cells, increasing their ability to burn sugar for energy and store it in quick-release, non-toxic glycogen.


Omega-7 is rarely found in foods but anchovies contain far more than other natural sources such as macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn. These other sources also contain palmitic acid which can cause stiffening of the arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes, whereas anchovies contains far less palmitic acid so are a good choice. However it should be noted that they also contain a lot of sodium so are not advised when high blood pressure is an issue.


Pancreatic cells that produce insulin are damaged by high levels of glucose, eventually resulting in still higher sugar levels and worse tissue damage. Omega-7 protects the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and enhances proliferation of pancreatic beta-cells which helps the body optimise blood sugar control with its own natural insulin


Liver fat deposition is a key factor in metabolic syndrome and is a leading cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and omega-7 has been shown in studies to reduce this also.

Regular consumption of anchovies will reduce the risk of heart disease, maintain bone density and prevent anaemia as well as protect against nerve and neurological disorders such as Alzheimers disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease.

It can also help to relieve skin disorder such as acne and psoriasis as omega-7 is a major antimicrobial component in skin fat and vitamin E is also important for skin health.

Anchovies are also rich in vitamins B9 and K which can help to prevent neural tube defects in the unborn foetus.

A standard tin of European anchovies packed in oil has approximately 94 calories, 13 grams of protein, 4.4 grams of fat, 1.7 grams of sodium and no fibre or carbohydrates. Anchovies are an extremely rich source of B vitamins and a significant source of minerals.

A 56 grams (2 oz) serving of anchovies contains 10% of the adult male recommended daily amount for vitamin E, which aids in retention of vitamins A and C. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant and helps to keep the skin in good condition.

NOTE: To reduce the sodium content of anchovies, drain them of oil then soak for 30 minutes in water, drain again and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Organic nutrients in 100 grams of anchovies

Inorganic minerals in 100 grams of anchovies


NOTE: One µg is equivalent to one microgram and one IU is the biological equivalent of 0.3 μg or 0.3 micrograms.


Anchovy recipes


Anchovies add a rich flavour to any dish but remember never to add any extra salt as they are already very salty. Fresh anchovies are difficult to acquire but tinned anchovies contain the same nutritious content and are easily used for many dishes. Unopened tins can be stored at room temperature for a year. Once opened anchovies can be removed from the tin and stored, covered in olive or similar oil, in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to a month.


Anchovy pasta


In a skillet heat several anchovies, some olive oil, chopped garlic and a pinch of chilli pepper. When the anchovies have dissolved, add some chopped broccoli tops. When the greens start to wilt, toss in cooked pasta of choice and grated Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with basil leaves and cherry tomatoes.


Anchovy salad


Blend anchovies, yoghurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice and ground pepper together. Then add chosen chopped up salad ingredients of all colours and cashews or walnuts and mix well. Nutritious choices are beetroot, bell peppers (red and yellow), carrots (grated), cress, cucumber, olives (stones removed), peas, rocket, spring onions, sweet potatoes (cooked with skins), tomatoes and watercress.


British gentleman's relish


Combine anchovies, butter, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, ground peppercorns and nutmeg in a food processor. Use this relish on hot brown rice or vegetables such as potatoes or anything else that requires salted butter.


Marinade for steak or chicken


Blend anchovies, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, ground peppercorns and garlic, then use to marinate meat in the refrigerator overnight.


Scotch woodcock


This is an nutritious and protein-rich breakfast. Make some scrambled eggs with a tablespoon of oats, some milk and a knob of butter. Blend some plain yoghurt, a pinch of turmeric and a few fillets of anchovies together then mix with the scrambled eggs. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped chives and dill, some halved cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with ground peppercorns.


See also

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC


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