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Mackerel vs Salmon - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Mackerel
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Salmon

Introduction

Mackerel are saltwater fish that usually live in schools of fish in the ocean. They are about 30 cm on average and they are considered fatty fish due to their rich profile in omega fats. Mackerel are mostly eaten in Europe, specifically Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. The 3 countries combined consumed 51% of the total mackerel market globally. Mackerel fish have a property which is spoilage, mackerel fish skin gets spoiled very quickly. However, it is a fish that is commonly eaten and has oily meat. Mackerel fish can be wild type and farmed, most of the market is wild type.
Salmon on the other hand live in saltwater areas, however, migrate to sweetwater areas to breed. There are 2 types of salmon which are the wild type and the farmed type. Opposite to mackerel, most of the salmon fish is farmed and in size, it is bigger. It is also an oily fish and is mostly eaten in Europe specifically, Belgium, Denmark, Norway among other countries. Salmon has a bigger market than mackerel fish globally, this highlights its importance in the culinary world.

In this article, we are going to discuss the difference between mackerel and salmon according to their main differences, nutritional content comparison, weight loss and diets, and health impacts.

What are actually their main differences?

Their differences come on different layers which are taste, flavor, size, types, price, shelf life, and culinary world.

Taste and flavor

Mackerel and salmon are oily fish. Mackerel is a bony fish and is less salty than salmon, it has an authentic taste but some describe it as close to tuna. Salmon on the other hand has fleshier meat and has an authentic smoky fresh taste.

Size

The average size of a mackerel fish is small compared to salmon. Mackerel are 30 cm on average whereas salmon are larger than that on average.

Types

There are over 30 types of mackerel that are very close to one another although many differences do exist between them. On the other hand, there are fewer types of salmon than mackerel; most varieties are within the pacific types.

Price

Salmon is a more expensive fish than mackerel. As better the fish gets and if it is smoked or not all these factors make the salmon more expensive compared to the standard.

Shelf life

Mackerel has a very short life, even if refrigerated. The skin of the mackerel spoils quickly, thus most mackerel found in markets are either salted, cured, or pickled so that it doesn’t get spoiled. On the other hand, salmon has a longer shelf life.

Culinary world

Mackerel is mostly available in cured and pickled forms in the market. They are even available as fresh, however, fresh mackerel has to be eaten the same day that it is caught. There are different varieties of foods that can be prepared with mackerel, for example, fried, pan-grilled, chargrilled, added to rice, can even be consumed pickled and cured.

On the other hand, salmon has a wider variety of usages. Salmon is consumed raw, most notably in Japanese sushi. They can also be grilled and smoked before being served as a salmon steak. Salmon can also be found in soups and warm dishes in European countries.

Nutritional content comparison

Glycemic index

Salmon and mackerel have a glycemic index equal to 0.

Calories

Mackerel has double the calories of salmon. Mackerel contains 305 calories per 100g whereas salmon contains 145 calories for the same weight.

Carbohydrates

Mackerel and salmon are devoid of carbohydrates. Their carb content is 0.

Protein

Mackerel and salmon are very rich in proteins and their essential amino acid profiles are very versatile and rich. Salmon contains 1 more gram of protein than mackerel for 100g of each.

Fats

Mackerel and salmon are fatty fish, however, mackerel contains much more fat than salmon. Mackerel contains 4 times more fat than salmon, which is a remarkable difference considering the dairy intakes.

The fat profile of salmon is healthier than that of mackerel. The ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fats is less in salmon than in mackerel.

In addition to that, it is important to note that salmon is lower in cholesterol and trans fats. Salmon has nearly half the amount of cholesterol and trans fat compared to mackerel.

Omega fats

Although all the fats are lower in salmon than mackerel, however, when it comes to the most important fat in these fishes, the omega-3 DHA/EPA fats, salmon is a better source of omega fats than mackerel.

Vitamins

Salmon and mackerel have very rich and versatile vitamin profiles. Salmon is richer in vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate. Of these vitamins B3, B5, B6 are more than the recommended daily values, in addition, vitamin B12 which is also high in salmon (however, less than the vitamin B12 content of mackerel) is also more than the recommended daily value.

On the other hand, mackerel is richer in vitamins B12, K, D, E, and A. Of these, vitamins B12 and D are more than the recommended daily value.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
6
Salmon
Contains more Vitamin A +292.5%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +277.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1030%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +138.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +99.5%
Contains more Folate +66.7%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 10% 48% 756% 5% 44% 62% 0% 95% 1500% 20% 12%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 3% 0% 0% 57% 88% 148% 100% 189% 398% 0% 19%
Contains more Vitamin A +292.5%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +277.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +1030%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +138.2%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +99.5%
Contains more Folate +66.7%

Minerals

Similar to their vitamin profiles, the mineral profiles of both are rich and versatile and packed with necessary minerals.

Mackerel is richer in phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iron. However, they are high in sodium. Mostly the ones that are pickled or cured. The amount of sodium surpasses the RDV by 400% which is a matter of concern. Salmon, on the other hand, is richer in copper and has less sodium than mackerel.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Iron +75%
Contains more Calcium +450%
Contains more Magnesium +106.9%
Contains more Zinc +71.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +27%
Contains more Copper +150%
Contains less Sodium -99%
Equal in Potassium - 490
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 53% 20% 46% 43% 34% 30% 109% 581%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 30% 4% 44% 21% 84% 18% 86% 6%
Contains more Iron +75%
Contains more Calcium +450%
Contains more Magnesium +106.9%
Contains more Zinc +71.9%
Contains more Phosphorus +27%
Contains more Copper +150%
Contains less Sodium -99%
Equal in Potassium - 490

Health impacts and diets

From the previous section, we can conclude that both mackerel and salmon are packed with proteins, “good” fats, minerals, and vitamins. They contain 0 amounts of carbs and have a glycemic index equal to 0. All these combined qualifies them to be a good match for dietary foods. However, there are some matters of concern, for example, cured or pickled mackerel are very high in sodium, they are also high in trans fats and cholesterol. In moderation and control, their intake shouldn’t cause any health issues.

Vegan diet

Salmon and mackerel cannot be eaten in vegan diets as they are animal products.

Keto

Both mackerel and salmon are fit to be eaten in the keto diet. They contain 0g of carbs and have a glycemic index equal to 0. Which is suitable for the keto diet. In addition to these, they are rich in “good fats”, vitamins, and minerals which overall provide a good balance to everyday meals.

Bodybuilding

Because of their high protein content, both mackerel and salmon are highly recommended for bodybuilders and athletes. In addition to their mineral and vitamin content, which replaces their biochemical requirements for long-term health and outcomes.

Health impacts

Cardiovascular health

Omega-3 fatty acids may improve heart function by lowering blood triglyceride levels, acting as an antihypertensive, antiarrhythmic, and anti-atherogenic agent. (1)

Omega-3 fatty acids are antiarrhythmic, antithrombotic, and anti-inflammatory. Omega-3 fats are recommended in the dietetic plan for people who have hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and arthritis. Omega-3 and medications don’t react. (2)

Researchers from the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that omega-3 fatty acids can lower blood pressure and minimize your risk of developing heart disease. (3)

Salmon contains bioactive PLs that have antithrombotic and anti-atherogenic cardioprotective properties. (4)

Higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to reduce increased triglyceride levels (2 to 4g per day) as well as morning stiffness and the number of sensitive joints in rheumatoid arthritis patients (at least 3g per day). (5) (6)

According to research, gamma-tocopherol (gT) has positive cardiovascular effects due to its anti-inflammatory activity. (7)

Diabetes

Diabetes therapy is based on dietary recommendations, including changes in dietary fat quality. Increased intake of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish (salmon, sardine) and omega 6 fatty acids from linoleic acid may be suggested for type 2 diabetes patients. (8)

A high-fat diet supplemented with fish oil improved metabolic characteristics linked with type 2 diabetes, such as decreased glucose tolerance and hepatic steatosis. (9)

Cancer

Consumption of omega fats reduces the risk of developing cancer. Vitamins A, D, and omega fats have anti-inflammatory effects as well as inhibiting the growth of prostatic, colon, and mammary carcinomas. (10)

Inflammation

Salmon and mackerel have anti-inflammatory properties due to their omega-3 content, which may contribute to their preventive activities against atherosclerosis, plaque rupture, and reduce risks from cardiovascular mortality. (1)

Antioxidant activity

Carotenoids are found in salmon, a red-colored fish (astaxanthin). Because of its high antioxidant capabilities, astaxanthin may have biological activities relating to growth, reproduction, and tissue health. (11)

Astaxanthin also possesses antibacterial properties against Helicobacter pylori. (11)

Downsides and risks

Cancer

Farmed salmon and mackerel may raise the risk of cancer due to pollution. Toxicity and cancer risk may be minimal in fish produced under controlled conditions. (5)

Mercury, babies, and pregnancy

Methylmercury, which is present in wild salmon and mackerel, can build up in human tissues. It affects the development of the brain and nervous tissue in babies. Mackerel on the other hand is high in mercury, specifically, king mackerel has very high levels of mercury. (12)

Summary

Mackerel is higher in calories and fats, it is richer in phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamins B12, K, D, E, and A. It has higher mercury levels. On the other hand, salmon is richer in omega fats, copper, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171799/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6357043/
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0939475304800450
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26272221/
  8. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/94/1/26/4597878?login=true
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900713001044
  10. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/70/1/85/4714845?login=true
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16431409/
  12. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2109.2009.02211.x
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Profession: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: September 13, 2021

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Mackerel vs Salmon infographic
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Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
212
Mackerel
83
Salmon
Mineral Summary Score
114
Mackerel
36
Salmon

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
111%
Mackerel
119%
Salmon
Carbohydrates
0%
Mackerel
0%
Salmon
Fats
116%
Mackerel
29%
Salmon

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Mackerel Salmon
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Mackerel Salmon
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low glycemic index diet Equal

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Salmon
Salmon is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 40mg)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Salmon
Salmon is lower in Sugar (difference - 0g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Salmon
Salmon contains less Sodium (difference - 4406mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Salmon
Salmon is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 6.167g)
Which food is cheaper?
Mackerel
Mackerel is cheaper (difference - $6)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Mackerel
Mackerel is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Mackerel Salmon Opinion
Calories 305 142 Mackerel
Protein 18.5 19.84 Salmon
Fats 25.1 6.34 Mackerel
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 0 0
Cholesterol 95 55 Salmon
Vitamin D 1006 Mackerel
Iron 1.4 0.8 Mackerel
Calcium 66 12 Mackerel
Potassium 520 490 Mackerel
Magnesium 60 29 Mackerel
Sugar 0 Salmon
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.1 0.25 Salmon
Zinc 1.1 0.64 Mackerel
Starch
Phosphorus 254 200 Mackerel
Sodium 4450 44 Salmon
Vitamin A 157 40 Mackerel
Vitamin E 2.38 Mackerel
Vitamin D 25.2 Mackerel
Vitamin B1 0.02 0.226 Salmon
Vitamin B2 0.19 0.38 Salmon
Vitamin B3 3.3 7.86 Salmon
Vitamin B5 1.664 Salmon
Vitamin B6 0.41 0.818 Salmon
Vitamin B12 12 3.18 Mackerel
Vitamin K 7.8 Mackerel
Folate 15 25 Salmon
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 7.148 0.981 Salmon
Monounsaturated Fat 8.32 2.103 Mackerel
Polyunsaturated fat 6.21 2.539 Mackerel
Tryptophan 0.222 Salmon
Threonine 0.87 Salmon
Isoleucine 0.914 Salmon
Leucine 1.613 Salmon
Lysine 1.822 Salmon
Methionine 0.587 Salmon
Phenylalanine 0.775 Salmon
Valine 1.022 Salmon
Histidine 0.584 Salmon
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Mackerel - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168149/nutrients
  2. Salmon - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173686/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.