Mackerel nutritional value of fresh, smoked and canned mackerel

Due to the significant addition of salt and the resulting cancer-causing compounds, it is better to choose fresh mackerel and prepare it in a baked form in aluminum foil or steamed. 

Mackerel belongs to fatty fish, thanks to which it is a good source of beneficial omega-3 acids and vitamin D. In addition, in mackerel we find a large amount of selenium. However, despite the health benefits of nutrients due to the tendency to accumulate mercury compounds mackerel is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. 


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Mackerel is a popular fish in Poland, it is often used as an addition to sandwiches, salads, pastes or a component of dinner dishes. Most often, we buy smoked mackerel, less often in a can. It is harder to get a fresh mackerel – and this has the most nutritional value and health properties. Mackerel lives in the waters from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. The meat of this fish is cream-colored with dark muscle hypertrophy. Mackerel is a fatty fish rich in unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, but it tends to accumulate harmful methylmercury, which is why it is inadvisable for pregnant and nursing women. 

Mackerel a source of protein 

Mackerel is a source of wholesome protein (18.6 g / 100 g). It is worth replacing it with red meat and poultry. Mackerel contains exogenous amino acids (including leucine, isoleucine, lysine) that must be delivered to the body with food. 


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Mackerel and fatty acids 

Mackerel is a fatty fish, it contains 14 grams of fat in 100 grams of meat. In this fish there is a lot of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which determines the health benefits of mackerel. Omega-3 acids normalize triglyceride levels in the blood, have a protective effect on the heart and blood vessels. By incorporating them into red blood cells, they improve their flexibility, thus increasing the blood supply to the body. They also stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which has an effect on the blood vessels, which improves blood flow, helping to reduce blood pressure. 

Mackerel rich with selenium and vitamin D 


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Mackerel is a wealth of minerals. The meat of this fish is particularly valued due to the high content of selenium, in 100 g it contains 44.1 μg of selenium, which covers 80% of the daily adult’s needs for this element. Selenium improves the body’s immunity and protects the red blood cells from free radicals. 

In addition, mackerel is a source of phosphorus and potassium as well as vitamin D and vitamin A, which has a beneficial effect on the skin. Phosphorus and vitamin D have a beneficial effect on bones and teeth, so they should be consumed by children. Vitamin D takes part in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body and bone mineralization. Facilitates the absorption of calcium and transport to the bone, thus affecting their proper functioning, which is why it is especially important for women who have an increased risk of bone loss. 

In addition, vitamin D has an immunomodulatory effect. It suppresses pro-inflammatory processes in the body, preventing the occurrence of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel diseases. Vitamin D also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. 


Mackerel not for pregnant and lactating women 

Mackerel belongs to fish not recommended for pregnant and lactating women due to the high tendency to accumulate mercury compounds. For 1 g of fresh weight this fish has 0.072 μg of methylmercury that easily crosses the blood-placenta barrier and into the breast milk of the nursing mother. Methylmercury causes damage to the central nervous system by accumulating in the fetal blood and brain. There was a 30% higher content of methylmercury in fetal blood cells compared to maternal blood cells. For this reason, in 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that mackerel be completely eliminated from the diet by pregnant women and breastfeeding women. 


Mackerel and histamine content 

In addition to valuable nutrients in mackerel, there are also compounds that can be dangerous to health. The histamine contained in mackerel may cause sensitization, manifested by dyspnoea, nausea and edema. Especially high level of histamine is in smoked mackerel, because the smoking process significantly increases its concentration. For this reason, smoked mackerel is not recommended for people with histamine intolerance. In addition, mackerel is a source of purines that, if eaten in excess, can cause arthritis. 

Mackerel fresh or smoked? 

Mackerel is most often eaten in smoked form. However, this method of treatment is not indifferent to health. During the smoking process, compounds hazardous to the PAH organism (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are produced that have carcinogenic properties. In addition, smoked mackerel is not indicated for people with hypertension due to the high sodium content. In addition, during smoking, the fish loses B vitamins, which reduces its nutritional value. 

In the case of smoked mackerel, the content of omega-3 fatty acids is higher, but it should be remembered that these quantities are given in terms of the mass of the finished product. 100 g of smoked mackerel has not been prepared with 100 g of fresh mackerel, hence a much higher content of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, the omega-3 content depends on the smoking technique – cold smoked mackerel does not lose these acids.

In spite of the potentially higher content of omega-3 in smoked mackerel due to the significant addition of salt and the dangerous compounds created during smoking, it is better to choose mackerel fresh and prepare it in a baked form in aluminum foil or steamed. 

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