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Nutritious Fish: Salmon & Mackerel

Nutritious Fish: Salmon & Mackerel

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Salmon and mackerels are both oily fish and packed full of omega-3 fatty acids. Also, according to Dr. Bruce Holub, B.Sc., Ph.D., of the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute, both of these fishes are one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D. Some mackerels (but not all) and salmon are also low in pollutants such as mercury which means they are much safer than other seafood. Read on to find out the full benefits of salmon and mackerel.

Key Takeaways

    1. Salmon and Mackerel have unique health benefits.
    2. Be careful with what type of mackerel you eat, such as the King mackerel contains high levels of mercury.
    3. Both fish are delicious and are versatile in the kitchen.

Available both canned and fresh, salmon and mackerel are favourites amongst fish lovers for their distinct, but different, tastes. Both fish makes are a great addition to any well-balanced diet and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

What makes these fish so healthy?

Dietary vitamin D

While the optimal source for vitamin D is the sun, both salmon and mackerels are one of the few dietary sources. Research from The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements found that 3 ounces of mackerel provide just under the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D (97%), and Salmon just over (112%). Try incorporating these fish into your diet especially during winter when the sun’s not about!


Oily fish, including salmon and mackerel, are a great source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. According to the NHS, these are thought to help prevent heart disease. Other research suggests possible health benefits which include:

  • Eye health
  • Reduction in depression and anxiety
  • Lowers inflammation

Not all mackerels get the thumbs up

The nutrients inside the mackerel fish may differ depending on which one is eaten. The Atlantic and Atka mackerel from Alaska are fantastic as they are a rich source of inflammation-fighting omega-3s and low in mercury. Despite this, not all mackerels boast the same nutrition stats. The King mackerel, from Gulf of Mexico and Western Atlantic, and potentially Spanish mackerel, contain pollutants such as high levels of mercury. High quantities of mercury can potentially lead to long-term, sometimes permanent, neurological changes. A study of 1,800 men found that those with the highest levels of mercury were twice as like to die from heart-related issues, compared to the men with lower levels. Also, children, in particular, should avoid these mackerels as high mercury exposure could lead to developmental problems in the brain.

Delicious in different ways

While the nutritious benefits of the fish are fairly similar, if you have not tried both fish, you may be surprised to know that the taste of salmon and mackerel differs distinctly. Salmon has a fairly unique delicate “non-fishy” flavor compared to the fatty fish, mackerel. This makes them great for different occasions although if you are serving mackerel make sure that your friends enjoy the taste of fish! We recommend grilling or poaching the mackerel to toss into a salad or serve it with a side of grilled vegetables. Here are two recipe ideas:

Salmon, on the other hand, is a more versatile fish and can be steamed, smoked, grilled, poached or sauteéd. Also, if time is of the essence, you could even use canned salmon as a quick and inexpensive alternative – canned salmon provides almost the exact same health benefits that fresh salmon does. Here are some ideas for a salmon lunch/dinner.

If you end up trying one of these recipes let us know how it went on Twitter or Facebook we’d love to know your thoughts!

Portion sizes?

The health benefits of eating oily fish are well recognized. It is recommended that we should eat at least 1 portion of oily fish a week (around 140g when cooked). The NHS give advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the Committee on Toxicity. Girls, women who are planning a pregnancy or may have a child one day, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week.


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FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration). “Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish.” (1990-2012).

Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: Scientific evidence and biological mechanisms.” Oxid Med Cell Longev. (2014). doi:10.1155/2014/313570.

Holub, Bruce, et al. Omega-3 Institute; Dietary Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Belury MA, Andridge R, Malarkey WB, Glaser R. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun.” 25.8, 1725-34: (2011). doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229. Epub 2011 Jul 19.

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National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”

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