The anchovy is an oily saltwater fish abundant in the Mediterranean area where they are heavily utilized in the local cuisine. They are also found in African, Asian and Indian seas and cuisines. Anchovies have been harvested and preserved in salt or oil or dried for centuries and were an important trading commodity in ancient Rome.
Although anchovies contain less mercury than larger predatory fish, they can concentrate domoic acid, a marine biotoxin, that can lead to Amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans and animals, particularly in large quantities. Besides the usual food poisoning symptoms, Amnesic shellfish poisoning can cause headaches, dizziness, memory loss, weakness, seizures and, in rare cases, death.
Because they can also contain large quantities of uric acid, anchovies should be avoided by people who have problems with gout.
Anchovies were once believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac if eaten raw. The curing process gives them a very strong flavor, so preserved anchovies are most often eaten in small quantities as a flavoring agent.
Try anchovies in sauces and on pizza.
Anchovies are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, phosphorus, protein, niacin and selenium. Because they are often cured in salt, they are high in sodium. Anchovies are anti-inflammatory.