Eat More Mackerel to Enjoy Its Essential Health Benefits
Mackerel is a name for various species of fish found mostly in the Scombridae family. The most common types of mackerel include Cero, Atlantic, King, Sierra, Wahoo and Spanish mackerel. These fish are known for their slim shape, numerous finlets and oily meat that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, which provide numerous health benefits. If you’re looking to get more nutrients from the food you eat, learn more about why you should include mackerel as part of your regular diet.
Mackerel Is Packed With Nutrients
This particular fish is a significant source of essential nutrients your body requires to stay healthy. These beneficial components demonstrate exactly why you should eat mackerel:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Mackerel has very high levels of these unsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and are important for proper metabolism and function of your heart, lungs and immune and endocrine systems.
- Protein: Mackerel is rich in protein, with a serving size of 3 ounces of fish containing approximately 21 grams. Protein is a necessary component of muscle building and repair. Because your body doesn’t store protein, you need to replenish this nutrient, making mackerel an excellent choice for meals.
- Nutrients: Abundant nutrients are found in mackerel, which include calcium, potassium, selenium and magnesium. These nutrients help maintain proper function of your body and are important for your heart, bones, teeth, nerves, muscles and metabolism.
- Vitamins: Mackerel is a good source of vitamins like niacin (vitamin B3), choline, folate, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B12. All of these vitamins provide numerous health benefits and help with proper body functioning.
Health Benefits of Eating Mackerel
The wide variety of nutrients with which you’ll fuel your body by eating mackerel can help keep you healthy in a number of ways. These are some of the numerous health benefits you can enjoy by eating this type of fish:
- Cardiovascular health: The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids found in mackerel are known to promote a healthy heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis. These unsaturated fatty acids help reduce triglyceride levels and balance cholesterol in your body by increasing the levels of "good" cholesterol particles, known as high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and lowering the levels of "bad" cholesterol particles, known as low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Omega-3s can also improve circulation and reduce blood clotting. In addition to the omega-3s found in mackerel, the high levels of potassium have been shown to help lower blood pressure.
- Metabolic health: The omega-3 fatty acids found in mackerel can support a healthy metabolism and lead to better blood sugar control. Omega-3s have also been shown to reduce visceral fat in people’s bodies and lower the risk of diabetes. Mackerel is high in protein, which also boosts your metabolism and makes you feel full longer. Therefore, adding mackerel to your diet can promote weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight.
- Arthritis symptoms: Oily fish like mackerel contain many anti-inflammatory compounds and thus have been known to reduce the pain, stiffness and swollen joints associated with arthritis. This makes mackerel a good alternative to pain medications, and it has even been suggested eating this fish can make other medications more effective.
- Cancer risks: Mackerel is very high in antioxidants and other nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and selenium. Therefore, it may help you fight and prevent cancer by reducing the free radicals and inflammation in your body.
- Mental health: Regularly consuming omega-3-rich fish like mackerel has been shown to reduce the risk of depression and improve moods. It can also make antidepressant medications more effective. Several studies have also found a correlation between omega-3 fatty acids and a reduced risk of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease. Some cases even displayed an increase in brain activity and enhanced memory.
- Immunity: Mackerel can help strengthen your immune system and improve your overall body functions due to the vitamins and nutrients it contains. It also contains many antioxidants, such as selenium, which protect against oxidative stress in your body.
- Bone health: Many nutrients found in mackerel, such as calcium, iron, selenium and magnesium, are required to maintain bone mineral density. Eating this fish often can prevent osteoporosis and keep you feeling strong.
- Healthy skin and hair: Nutrients with antioxidant properties, such as omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, in mackerel reduce oxidative stress in skin cells, thus limiting the appearance of wrinkles and age spots. They’ve also been shown to alleviate certain inflammatory conditions of the skin, including eczema and psoriasis. Other nutrients in this fish, including protein, iron and zinc, help make hair shiny and strong and eliminate scalp conditions, such as dandruff.
One important thing to note is that, although mackerel may be a healthier alternative to other meats, it also poses a health risk to pregnant people due to its high mercury content. If consumed frequently, mackerel can have an adverse effect on fetal nervous system development and can also pose a significant health risk to the expectant parent. Pregnant people should be especially cautious of the variety called King mackerel.
Mackerel Buying and Cooking Tips
Mackerel is delicious in a variety of preparations. If you’ve never shopped for or eaten this fish before, follow these useful tips for adding mackerel to your diet to make the most of this new-to-you protein:
- Fresh mackerel should not have a strong odor and should be kept on lots of ice because it can spoil quickly.
- If you’re buying a whole fish, check for bright and clear eyes, moist skin and shiny scales.
- Look for mackerel filets or steaks with the softest, most translucent meat.
- Marinate mackerel with a vinegar- or citrus-based sauce to impart a stronger taste to the fish.
- Mackerel can be baked, broiled, grilled or pan-fried. Brush, baste or fry it with a small amount of butter for a tastier dish.
Medical content reviewed by Kelsey Powell, MS, Medical Sciences