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Mackerel vs. Herring — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Sveta Badalyan by Sveta Badalyan | Last updated on October 02, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Mackerel
vs
Herring

Summary

Mackerel is high in magnesium, selenium, and vitamins A, B2, B3, B5, and B12. Mackerel also contains more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Unlike mackerel, herring has higher calcium, choline, potassium, vitamins D, E, and folate. Herring has less saturated fats, whereas mackerel has lower sodium content.

Introduction

Herring is a small-headed fish with a silvery iridescent side and a deep blue, metallic-colored back. Mackerel has a rounded and torpedo-shaped body, a forked tail, and a series of tiny finlets behind the dorsal and anal fins. The color of Atlantic mackerel is pale champagne with a greenish hue.

The length of Atlantic mackerel is 16 ½ inches, and the weight is 2.2 pounds. Atlantic herring is 10-12 inches long and weighs around half a pound.

Classification

Herring belongs to the order Clupeiformes and the family Clupeidae. Mackerel, on the other hand, belongs to the order Perciformes and the family Scombridae

Taste 

Almost every type of mackerel has a particular flavor. The flesh is wet, flaky, and delicate. Many people praise these fish for their somewhat sweet and salty

Herring has a unique, fatty flavor. Many people describe them as deep and full-bodied. It has a smooth, flaky texture and a subtle saltiness that complements many sauces and seasonings.

Varieties

Mackerel has more than 30 types. The most common are Atlantic, King, and Spanish mackerels. There are several types of herring. The common types are Atlantic, Pacific, Blueback, and Shad.

Nutrition

The nutritional information below concerns mackerel, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat, and herring, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat

Macronutrients and Calories

Mackerel and herring contain equal amounts of protein and are carb-free. In comparison to herring, mackerel has more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Furthermore, mackerel has more calories per hundred grams.

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Fats +53.7%
Contains more Other +315.6%
Contains more Water +20.4%
Equal in Protein - 23.03
24% 18% 53% 5%
Protein: 23.85 g
Fats: 17.81 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 53.27 g
Other: 5.07 g
23% 12% 64%
Protein: 23.03 g
Fats: 11.59 g
Carbs: 0 g
Water: 64.16 g
Other: 1.22 g
Contains more Fats +53.7%
Contains more Other +315.6%
Contains more Water +20.4%
Equal in Protein - 23.03

Calories

Compared to herring, mackerel has more calories per hundred grams. A hundred grams of mackerel contains 262 calories, whereas herring provides 203 calories.

The serving size of mackerel and herring is one fillet. 

Calories in one fillet or 88 grams for mackerel is 230kcal. One fillet of herring weighs 143 grams and has 290 kcal.

Protein

Mackerel and herring contain equal amounts of protein. The protein contents for mackerel and herring are 23.85g and 23.03g, respectively. Both provide all essential amino acids in small quantities.

Fats

Compared to herring, mackerel is higher in fats. A hundred grams of mackerel contains 17.81g of fat. Unlike it, herring has only 11.59g. Mackerel is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Herring, on the other hand, contains over two times less saturated fats.

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +46.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +57.2%
Contains less Saturated Fat -37.4%
27% 45% 28%
Saturated Fat: 4.176 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 7.006 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4.3 g
26% 47% 27%
Saturated Fat: 2.615 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4.79 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.735 g
Contains more Monounsaturated Fat +46.3%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +57.2%
Contains less Saturated Fat -37.4%

Omega-3 fatty acids

Compared to mackerel, herring has two times more omega-3 fatty acids. Herring is high in omega-3 DHA and EPA, whereas mackerel is high in omega-3 DPA.

Carbohydrates

Mackerel and herring are carb-free.

Carbohydrate type comparison

Carbohydrate type breakdown side-by-side comparison

Vitamins

Mackerel is high in vitamins B2, B3, B5, B12, and A. On the other hand, herring contains more vitamins D, E, C, and folate.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin A +50%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +37.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +66.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +33.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.2%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +44.6%
Contains more Vitamin C +75%
Contains more Folate +500%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 11% 0% 0% 1.3% 40% 95% 128% 59% 106% 1.5% 2375% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin K 7.2% 27% 162% 2.3% 28% 69% 77% 44% 80% 9% 1643% 45% 0.25%
Contains more Vitamin A +50%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +37.8%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +66.1%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +33.8%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +32.2%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +44.6%
Contains more Vitamin C +75%
Contains more Folate +500%

Minerals

Mackerel contains more magnesium and selenium. Moreover, mackerel provides less sodium. A hundred grams of mackerel has 83mg of sodium, whereas herring has 115mg

Herring is high in calcium and phosphorus. Herring also contains 83.3mg of choline, whereas mackerel does not.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Iron +11.3%
Contains more Magnesium +136.6%
Contains less Sodium -27.8%
Contains more Selenium +10.3%
Contains more Calcium +393.3%
Contains more Zinc +35.1%
Contains more Copper +25.5%
Contains more Manganese +100%
Equal in Phosphorus - 303
Equal in Potassium - 419
Equal in Selenium - 46.8
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 4.5% 59% 69% 119% 35% 11% 26% 31% 2.6% 281%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 22% 53% 29% 130% 37% 15% 35% 39% 5.2% 255%
Contains more Iron +11.3%
Contains more Magnesium +136.6%
Contains less Sodium -27.8%
Contains more Selenium +10.3%
Contains more Calcium +393.3%
Contains more Zinc +35.1%
Contains more Copper +25.5%
Contains more Manganese +100%
Equal in Phosphorus - 303
Equal in Potassium - 419
Equal in Selenium - 46.8

Mercury Level

The mercury concentration mean (PPM) for Atlantic mackerel is 0.05. Herring has a mercury concentration mean (PPM) of 0.078. Herring has a higher mercury level than Atlantic mackerel.

Compared to other types of mackerel, Atlantic mackerel has a lower PPM(0.05), whereas King mackerel has a higher PPM(0.73)(1).

Glycemic Index

Mackerel and herring do not contain carbohydrates and are low glycemic index foods. The glycemic index of both foods is 0.

Acidity

The potential renal acid load (PRAL) is a method for determining the acidity of food. The PRAL value of mackerel is 10.8. The PRAL value of the herring is 11.7. Both of them are acidic.

Health Impact

Cardiovascular Health

Oily fish have cardioprotective properties. In individuals with established coronary heart disease, omega-3 fatty acids may lower the risk of sudden cardiac death and overall mortality(2). 

Even a low-dose consumption of mackerel and herring may successfully control modestly high blood pressure over an extended length of time(3).

Consuming oily fish such as salmon, herring, and pompano can significantly raise the level of n-3 LC-PUFA in serum. According to the study, herring consumption may also reduce blood levels of TAG, apoB, apoCII, apoCIII, and TNF-α and increase serum levels of adiponectin(4). 

According to the study, mackerel consumption may reduce the level of VLDL and LDL. It also increases HDL/total plasma cholesterol ratio(5).

Diabetes

The findings do not suggest a protective impact of fish consumption or EPA and DHA intake on the incidence of type 2 diabetes(6).

However, for people with diabetes, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids is a suitable option(7). 

Pregnancy

While pregnant, seafood may be a regular part of your healthy eating plan as long as you avoid fish that are high in mercury. Atlantic mackerel and herring are the best choices for pregnant women. Unlike it, they must avoid king mackerel, which is high in mercury(8).  

Moreover, fish consumption rich in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with embryonic development, including immunological, neural, and retinal function(9).   

Cancer

There was insufficient data to support the impact of omega-3 fatty acids on cancer risk. Weak evidence supports the link between omega-3 fatty acids and breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, prostate cancer, and brain tumors(10). 

Article author photo Sveta Badalyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: October 02, 2023
Medically reviewed by Elen Khachatrian

Infographic

Mackerel vs Herring infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Mackerel Herring
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Glycemic Index Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Mackerel Herring Opinion
Protein 23.85g 23.03g Mackerel
Fats 17.81g 11.59g Mackerel
Calories 262kcal 203kcal Mackerel
Calcium 15mg 74mg Herring
Iron 1.57mg 1.41mg Mackerel
Magnesium 97mg 41mg Mackerel
Phosphorus 278mg 303mg Herring
Potassium 401mg 419mg Herring
Sodium 83mg 115mg Mackerel
Zinc 0.94mg 1.27mg Herring
Copper 0.094mg 0.118mg Herring
Manganese 0.02mg 0.04mg Herring
Selenium 51.6µg 46.8µg Mackerel
Vitamin A 180IU 120IU Mackerel
Vitamin A RAE 54µg 36µg Mackerel
Vitamin E 1.37mg Herring
Vitamin D 214IU Herring
Vitamin D 5.4µg Herring
Vitamin C 0.4mg 0.7mg Herring
Vitamin B1 0.159mg 0.112mg Mackerel
Vitamin B2 0.412mg 0.299mg Mackerel
Vitamin B3 6.85mg 4.124mg Mackerel
Vitamin B5 0.99mg 0.74mg Mackerel
Vitamin B6 0.46mg 0.348mg Mackerel
Folate 2µg 12µg Herring
Vitamin B12 19µg 13.14µg Mackerel
Choline 83.3mg Herring
Vitamin K 0.1µg Herring
Tryptophan 0.267mg 0.258mg Mackerel
Threonine 1.045mg 1.01mg Mackerel
Isoleucine 1.099mg 1.061mg Mackerel
Leucine 1.938mg 1.872mg Mackerel
Lysine 2.19mg 2.115mg Mackerel
Methionine 0.706mg 0.682mg Mackerel
Phenylalanine 0.931mg 0.899mg Mackerel
Valine 1.228mg 1.187mg Mackerel
Histidine 0.702mg 0.678mg Mackerel
Cholesterol 75mg 77mg Mackerel
Saturated Fat 4.176g 2.615g Herring
Omega-3 - DHA 0.699g 1.105g Herring
Omega-3 - EPA 0.504g 0.909g Herring
Omega-3 - DPA 0.106g 0.071g Mackerel
Monounsaturated Fat 7.006g 4.79g Mackerel
Polyunsaturated fat 4.3g 2.735g Mackerel

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Mackerel Herring
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet Equal
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet Equal

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
217%
Mackerel
169%
Herring
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
64%
Mackerel
62%
Herring

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Mackerel
Mackerel is lower in Sugar (difference - 0g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Mackerel
Mackerel contains less Sodium (difference - 32mg)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Mackerel
Mackerel is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 2mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Herring
Herring is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 1.561g)
Which food is cheaper?
Herring
Herring is cheaper (difference - $7)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Herring
Herring 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.

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Mackerel - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175120/nutrients
  2. Herring - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175117/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.