Tuna vs. Mackerel — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison
Tuna contains 13 times more Vitamin A and more Vitamin B1, calcium, iron, and magnesium, while mackerel is high in Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, and phosphorus. Tuna is also lower in saturated fats.
Table of contents
As the most commonly used marine food, fishes are also delicious with many health benefits. In this article, you can find the main nutritional differences between mackerel and tuna also their impact on human health.
The term "mackerel" refers to several different species of pelagic fish. Mackerels are primarily members of the Scombridae family and live near the bottom of oceans or lakes. These fish are blue-green in color and average 30 cm in length.
Tuna, also known as a tunny, is a member of the Scombridae family's Thunnini tribe. Tuna is related to mackerels and kingfish in this family.
Raw tuna tends to be darker in color when compared to raw mackerel due to the higher level of myoglobin and iron. Raw mackerel has grey and greasy colors. When cooked, mackerel and tuna lose color, becoming different light pink or white shades.
Taste and smell
Mackerel usually has a salty and a bit sweeter taste. Since it contains high amounts of oils, its taste may be described as oily too. When cooked, it has an oily and fishy odor.
In contrast, tuna has a meaty flavor, similar to beef steak. It has a mild, delicate taste. The fresh varieties may have a fishy smell.
Mackerel contains more calories than tuna. This fish contains 262 calories per 100g, whereas tuna contains 184 calories per 100 g. Both are considered moderate-calorie foods.
Tuna contains 13 times more Vitamin A. It also has more Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2, and B3 than mackerel.
Tuna falls in the range of the top 12% of foods as a source of Vitamin B3 and Vitamin A. Mackerel is high in Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin C. Two ounces of mackerel contain your daily B12 requirement.
Mackerel contains more calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.
On the other hand, tuna is higher in phosphorus and copper and lower in sodium.
As the chart below shows, tuna contains a little bit more water, while mackerel is richer in fats. Tuna is also higher in proteins. Please, read the detailed information in the sections below.
The fat content of mackerel is higher than that of tuna.
Mackerel has 17.81g of fats per 100g, falling in the range of the top 18% of foods as a source of fats.
Tuna contains four times less fat: 6.28g per 100g.
Mackerel contains two times more cholesterol than tuna. Mackerel has 75mg per 100g, while tuna contains 45g per 100g. Those with any cardiovascular problems should consume these fishes in moderation, as cholesterol can have harmful effects.
Fat Type Comparison
Both tuna and mackerel have no carbs.
Tuna provides more protein than mackerel does. Tuna falls in the range of the top 4% of foods as a source of protein, containing 29.91g per 100g.
Mackerel has 23.85g of protein per 100g. Both of these fishes are excellent sources of this micronutrient.
Both tuns and mackerel are good sources of healthy nutrients, from omega-3 fatty acids to Vitamin D and proteins.
According to research, omega-3 fatty acids may help balance blood pressure and lower the risk of developing heart disease. To avoid cardiovascular problems researchers recommend eating two servings of fatty fish per week to avoid cardiovascular problems, equivalent to 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-triglyceridemic, hemostatic, and anti-atherogenic properties, which may improve the hearts' structure and function. Tuna is higher in omega-3-DHA and omega-3-DPA, while mackerel is richer in omega-3-EPA.
Tuna and mackerel have high levels of gamma-tocopherol (gT), which has anti-inflammatory properties and is beneficial to the cardiovascular system  .
First of all, these fishes have no carbs, which means they will not raise your blood sugar levels after eating.
Besides, research suggests that fish oil may reduce the risk of impaired glucose tolerance and hepatic steatosis. Because of their positive effects on lipoprotein concentrations, omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish and omega-6 fatty acids from linoleic acid are recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes. Incorporating fish oil into your daily meal or diet can help improve metabolic features associated with type 2 diabetes  .
Vitamin D and calcium supplements are essential nutrients for bone health.
Mackerels are high in calcium, providing about one-third of the daily requirement for the average person in each serving. They are also high in Vitamin D, which is essential for this process because it allows your body to absorb calcium .
Good Eye Health
One study shows  that omega-3 fats may reduce inflammation, improve dry eye symptoms, and reduce abnormal vessel growth in those with diabetic retinopathy. Similar studies have found that the high antioxidant content of sardines reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration .
Blood mercury levels above 100 ng/ml are associated with clear signs of mercury poisoning in some people. The amount of mercury in fish and other seafood varies according to species and environmental pollution levels.
Larger tuna species, such as bigeye and albacore, have higher mercury levels. Smaller tuna fish, such as light tuna and skipjack, have lower mercury levels. As mercury level depends on tuna varieties, it is better to count the amount you consume.
Since king mackerel contains a high amount of mercury, it is best to avoid eating it .
Although sodium is an essential mineral our body needs, it is better to control sodium intake to less than 2,3 mg daily. Too much of it may raise blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke; also, it can cause kidney stones.
Mackerel contains a high amount of sodium: 4450mg per 100g, so be mindful of mackerel consumption .
Research indicates that 0.4% of adults in the United States are allergic to marine food. Most fish muscles contain the protein parvalbumin, which can cause allergies. Hives, skin rashes, headaches, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing are common symptoms. Both mackerels and tunas have omega-3 fatty acids, which can cause gastrointestinal upset and a fishy aftertaste. However, this is dose-dependent, and it is better to consume them in moderation to avoid allergic reactions .
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Glycemic Index||Equal|
|Lower in price||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||757µg||54µg|
|Omega-3 - DHA||1.141g||0.699g|
|Omega-3 - EPA||0.363g||0.504g|
|Omega-3 - DPA||0.16g||0.106g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet||Equal|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet||Equal|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
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.
- Tuna - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173707/nutrients
- Mackerel - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175120/nutrients
All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000-calorie diets.