Mackerel is a fish that is often compared to tuna because its many features are similar. They are large fatty fish, usually packaged in oil and canned, both with a firm texture. The two fish are members of the same Scombridae family, but the mackerel is smaller and shorter. Mackerel is oily and richer than tuna but has a milder flavor. Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, mackerel fish has a mild flavor for those who want to add more fish to their diet but do not like the strong taste of other fish species. This article contains information about the nutritional values, health benefits and storage conditions of mackerel fish.
Mackerel Nutrition Facts
The nutritional values given by the USDA are as follows for a 3.5-ounce serving (100 grams) of raw mackerel:
- Calories: 189
- Fat: 11.9g
- Sodium: 89mg
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Protein: 19g
To briefly explain these nutritional values;
Carbohydrates: Plain raw mackerel contains no carbohydrates, fiber or sugar. However, any fish that is breaded or processed may contain some carbohydrates.
Fats: Mackerel provides about 12 grams of fat per 100-gram serving. It is about 3 grams of saturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.9 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids. According to USDA data, a serving of 0.77 grams of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 1.25 grams of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) both provides essential fatty acids that can be made minimally by the body. Therefore, consuming these fatty acids in foods is the only practical way to increase their levels. Mackerel also provides a small amount of a lesser known omega-3 fatty acid called DPA (docosapentaenoic acid). A 100 gram serving of fish provides 0.18 grams. Mackerel caught in different regions and at different times of the year can provide slightly different amounts of oil.
Protein: Mackerel is a complete protein with a 100-gram serving that provides 19 grams of macronutrients, including all nine essential amino acids.
Vitamins and minerals: Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin B-12. One serving provides 7.29 mcg, which means you’ll be getting much more than the recommended daily allowance for adults of 2.4 mcg. Mackerel also provides niacin, iron, vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, and selenium. Mackerel can also be a good source of vitamin D. Besides milk, fatty fish are often touted as a good food source. According to USDA data, one serving of mackerel contains 13.8 mcg, which can be converted into about 552 international units (IU). Dietary guidelines recommend taking 600 IU of vitamin D, usually obtained through sunlight exposure. However, researchers have expressed concern that the actual vitamin D content in fish is often overestimated. When the researchers tested the mackerel, they found that it contained levels much lower than predicted. In fact, one sample they tested contains only 24 IU of vitamin D3.
Health Benefits of Mackerel Fish
Whether fresh or canned, mackerel has a variety of health benefits to offer. Here are some of the health benefits of eating mackerel:
May Improve Heart Health in Adults
Research studies have shown that heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats (including the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA) can help reduce the incidence and mortality from cardiovascular disease. Many studies have also shown that fish oil supplements help lower triglycerides without raising other types of cholesterol. For heart disease prevention, some health practitioners may recommend that those with coronary heart disease take a fish oil supplement to get enough of the essential omega-3s. However, the American Heart Association recommends that healthy individuals consume fish at least twice a week and choose fatty fish whenever possible. Mackerel is a type of fish that the organization lists as a recommendation.
May Reduce Risk of Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Researchers suggest that seafood consumption may prevent age-related cognitive decline. Several studies have shown that consuming foods that provide EPA and DHA (such as fish) is linked to improved cognitive function in those with very mild Alzheimer’s disease. In a large prospective cohort study involving nearly 6000 women, researchers found that the type of fish consumed played a role in benefit. In their analysis, they determined that total seafood consumption did not lead to any improvement in verbal memory or global cognition. However, it was determined that women who consumed dark colored fish (including mackerel) at least once a week had significantly better verbal memory.
May Improve Cardiometabolic Health in Children
As evidence shows that fatty fish consumption can provide health benefits in adults, researchers have begun to examine how fatty fish intake can improve development and health in children. This study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2019, a new research study on children. The study involved about 200 8 or 9-year-olds who received fatty fish or poultry for 12 weeks. Researchers found that those who consumed fish had an improvement in triglyceride levels and HDL cholesterol levels, with no adverse effects on blood pressure, heart rate variability, and glucose homeostasis. Study authors concluded that recommendations for fish intake in children would help improve initiatives to increase children’s fatty fish intake.
May Help Prevent Anemia
Mackerel can provide a good nutritional basis for preventing anemia caused by nutritional deficiencies. Fatty fish contains iron, vitamin B12 and some folate. A deficiency in any of these micronutrients can lead to certain types of anemia. 11 Symptoms of anemia can include muscle weakness, visual impairment, extreme fatigue, and other serious complications such as infertility. The National Institutes of Health recommend consuming foods such as fish, shellfish, and meat to help prevent anemia. They also suggest that you can consume iron-rich plant-based foods, but the iron in fish and meat is more easily absorbed by the body.
May Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Prospective studies have shown that high intake of foods containing saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a high intake of polyunsaturated fat reduces the risk. It remains unclear whether polyunsaturated fats from marine (fish) or vegetable (plant) sources affect glycemic regulation differently in type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association lists fish high in omega-3, including mackerel, on its list of the top 10 superfoods. They recommend eating fish twice a week to improve overall health and prevent disease.
May Benefit in Allergies
Fish is a common allergen that can cause serious reactions such as anaphylaxis. Sometimes fish allergies can be confused with scombroid poisoning, a type of food poisoning, histamine toxicity. Fish including mackerel and tuna are naturally rich in histamine. If the fish is degraded, the overgrowth of bacteria increases the histamine content and the possibility of histamine toxicity. Symptoms can occur anytime from 5 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. The symptoms of histamine toxicity mimic the symptoms of a typical food allergy. Symptoms may include wheezing, swollen tongue, diarrhea, fainting, and nausea. However, when a group of people eating the same food shows symptoms, they are more likely to have histamine toxicity than food poisoning. If a person experiences a reaction more than once, especially after eating mackerel, the allergist can confirm the allergy.
Possible Side Effects of Consuming Mackerel
Many types of fish are rich in mercury and should be consumed in limited quantities during pregnancy and breastfeeding to avoid harming the baby. Current recommendations provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women follow the FDA recommendation to consume 2-3 servings of fish per week. However, they suggest you check the recommendations to avoid fish with high mercury content. Some types of mackerel, including mackerel, should be avoided completely. Pacific mullet mackerel is on the list of the best options. Raw or undercooked fish should be avoided completely during pregnancy to avoid food poisoning.
Mackerel can be found both fresh and canned in most grocery stores. Canned mackerel is usually packaged in olive oil, and some people believe that the oil and fish combination tastes better than canned tuna with a stronger flavor. There are varieties of mackerel, but not all of them are widely consumed. Atlantic mackerel is one of the most popular varieties. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Clock provides suggestions to help choose a variety that is hunted or grown with less impact on the environment. Their guides show that king mackerel, horseka mackerel, and Atlantic Spanish mackerel are their top choices.
Mackerel Fish Storage and Food Safety
If buying fresh fish, products that smell sour or smell like ammonia should be avoided. When choosing fresh mackerel, a firm fish with an open eyes and a bright body should be chosen. Fresh fish can be sold pre-frozen but should still smell fresh. Immediately after purchasing raw mackerel, it should be stored on ice or in the refrigerator. Fish should be cooked within 2 days, if they do not intend to use them immediately, they should be wrapped tightly with cling film and placed in the freezer. It can be stored for up to three months in this way. After handling raw seafood, hands should always be thoroughly washed in soapy water, and the counter, cutting boards and utensils should be sterilized after preparing raw fish.
Before using the frozen fish, it should be taken to the normal part of the refrigerator or wait for it to be thawed in a closed plastic bag immersed in cold water. It is best to cook raw fish at 145 degrees Fahrenheit core temperature. According to USDA, canned fish can be consumed before the expiry date as long as the can is not rusted, dented or swollen. It should be eaten within 3-4 days after opening the box.
How to Prepare Mackerel?
One of the most popular ways to prepare canned mackerel is to add it to a salad. Its mild flavor pairs well with leafy greens and nourishing salad ingredients such as crispy radishes, peppers, tomatoes or avocados. It can be grilled or roasted with fresh mackerel, olive oil and lemon. It can be made more palatable by adding herbs such as dill, tarragon, coriander or green onions. Some people cure mackerel with salt and rice wine vinegar.