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All about “Mackerel”, a healthy fish

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Mackerel is a saltwater fish, highly prized for its flesh. It belongs to the same family as the tuna. It is very nutritious, inexpensive and can be consumed in various ways.

Characteristics of mackerel:

  • Rich in omega 3;
  • Source of vitamin D;
  • Source of group B vitamins;
  • Source of iron, iodine and selenium;
  • Rich in protein.

What is mackerel?

Mackerel identity card

  • Type: Seawater fish;
  • Family: Scrombidae;
  • Origin: Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea
  • Season: March to May;
  • Color: Blue and white.

Characteristics of mackerel

When fishing, the mackerel is over 30 centimeters in size, weighs between 500g and 1kg and is recognizable by its bluish green stripes.

Differences with nearby foods

Mackerel is close to sardines because they are both fatty fish. However they do not come from the same family, the mackerel being a scrombidae and the sardine a cupléide.

Word from the nutritionist

Despite its nutritional benefits, mackerel is a fatty fish. It is advisable to consume it once a week. One serving represents approximately 150g of mackerel.

Nutritional values

For 100g of fresh fillet mackerel:

Nutrients                                                            Quantities                                                            
Protein 18.1g
Fat 14.2g
Carbohydrates 0.2g
Water 66.4 g
Fibers 0 g
Vitamin B2 0.19 mg
Vitamin B12 4.9 µg
Vitamin D 6.44 µg
Phosphorus 190 mg
Magnesium 28.4 mg
Iron 0.48 mg

12 benefits of mackerel: why eat it?

  1. Mackerel is a fatty fish and its content of omega-3 fatty acids gives it indisputable health benefits. These act as precursors of chemical messengers promoting good immune, circulatory and hormonal functioning. Several studies have shown that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly from fatty fish) exerts favorable effects on cardiovascular health and reduces mortality from cardiovascular disease1. These fatty acids are known to act on several levels in the body, in particular by reducing blood pressure, blood triglycerides and the formation of blood clots, thus reducing the risks of atherosclerosis.
  2. Fish in general is an excellent source of complete proteins since it contains the nine essential amino acids (those which are not produced by our organism and which must come from our food). Proteins are used to form digestive enzymes and hormones, as well as to form, repair and maintain tissues, such as the skin, muscles and bones.
  3. Mackerel is an excellent source of phosphorus. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH. It is one of the constituents of cell membranes.
  4. Mackerel is an excellent source of magnesium for women and a good source for men, their needs being different. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.
  5. Mackerel is an excellent source of selenium. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.
  6. Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin B2. This vitamin is also known as riboflavin. It plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.
  7. Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also interacts in the DNA formation process, allowing normal growth and development.
  8. Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin B6. This vitamin, also called pyridoxine, is part of coenzymes that participate in the metabolism of proteins and fatty acids as well as in the synthesis (manufacture) of neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It also interacts in the production of red blood cells and allows them to transport more oxygen.
  9. Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin B12. This vitamin works together with folic acid (vitamin B9) to make red blood cells in the blood. It also ensures the maintenance of nerve cells and cells that make bone tissue.
  10. Mackerel is an excellent source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is closely linked to bone and tooth health, making calcium and phosphorus available in the blood, among other things for the growth of bone structure. This vitamin also plays a role in the maturation of cells, including those of the immune system.
  11. Mackerel is a good source of iron for men and a source for women, as their respective needs for this mineral are different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of animal origin (including fish) is very well absorbed by the body, compared to the iron contained in plants.
  12. Mackerel is a good source of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy of the food we eat. It also participates in several stages of the synthesis (manufacture) of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters and hemoglobin.

Choose the right mackerel

You can find mackerel year-round, fresh or frozen, whole or in fillets. It is also sold smoked, as well as canned, prepared with various sauces.

The different varieties

There are different species of mackerel, the most common being the common mackerel or blue mackerel. We also often find the Spanish mackerel also called spotted mackerel due to the presence of spots on its belly.

Keep well

In the refrigerator: this oily fish being likely to deteriorate quickly, it should be eaten the same day of the purchase. Otherwise, put it on a bed of ice in an airtight container in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

In the freezer for a few months: Whole mackerels are sometimes kept in a freezer bag filled with water, which would keep them in better condition.

Preparation of mackerel

How to cook it? How to match it?

  • Simply steam it and serve it with the sauce of your choice.
  • In a foil: cut the mackerel into pieces and put it in a sheet of aluminum foil. Brush the pieces with a little olive oil with dill and fresh fennel, crushed coriander seeds, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thin pieces of celery, green onion, red and green pepper, and drizzle with lemon juice. Close the aluminum foil and cook on or under the grill for ten minutes. Open the foil and add a little crème fraîche, then close and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Or cook fillets in foil after coating them with olive oil, garnished with a mince of dried tomatoes and olives and sprinkled with a drizzle of lemon juice.
  • Or even simpler: coat the two sides and inside of a whole mackerel with a good mustard, enclose it in a sheet of aluminum foil and bake for half an hour in an oven set at 180 ° C (355 ° F).
  • Romain wraps: mash the flesh of a smoked mackerel with feta cheese and stuff the vine leaves with this mixture. Put the twists side by side in a baking dish, cover with fish stock and bake for one hour in an oven set to 170 ° C (340 ° F). Serve as a starter.
  • In white wine: place mackerel fillets side by side in a dish. Heat white wine to which we have added a little vinegar, carrot and onion rings, julienned leek, chopped parsley, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, cloves, ground coriander seeds. Bring to a boil, cook for ten minutes and pour this hot broth over the fillets. Leave to cool, then marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
  • In black tea: put the mackerel in a gratin dish and sprinkle with an equal part mixture of black tea and a good vinegar (wine or cider). Cover and bake 45 minutes in an oven set at 180 ° C (355 ° F). Let cool and serve with a large slice of spelled bread or kamut.
  • Grilled: sprinkle the fish with a spoonful of salt and let stand for ten minutes before grilling five to six minutes on each side. Serve Japanese style with mixed lemon juice and soy sauce and, if desired, grated daikon (oriental radish). Or serve it with a sauce composed of a cooked and grated beetroot, with added yogurt, lemon juice, grated horseradish, cumin seeds, chopped parsley and pepper.
  • Hot smoked mackerel salad: quickly sauté fine cucumber sticks, chopped green onions, tomato wedges, strips of Chinese cabbage and crumbled smoked mackerel in sesame oil. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with lemon juice, vinegar and soy sauce. Garnish with dry roasted sesame seeds and serve.
  • Cold salad: steam the mackerel or poach it. Drain, remove skin and bones, crumble the flesh and let it cool overnight in the refrigerator. Mix with celery and onion slices and a half mayonnaise, half yogurt sauce. Add a dash of lemon juice and season with dill and chives, salt and pepper.
  • Pâté: mix smoked mackerel with lean cottage cheese in a mixer until it becomes a puree. Add lemon juice, Greek oregano and pepper, mix well and pour into a baking pan. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.
  • Stew: cook green beans, corn kernels, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes and chopped onion in a little water or aroma until tender , add canned mackerel, reheat and serve over rice or with potatoes.
  • Coconut ceviche: cut the mackerel into bite-size pieces and put in a bowl with lime juice, coconut milk, salt and pepper. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight, then drain and discard the juice. Put in a serving bowl with coconut milk and lime juice again, as well as a tomato and a finely chopped hot pepper.
  • Skewers: cut into pieces that we will thread on skewers. Brush with olive oil flavored with fine herbs and grill. Serve with skewers of grilled vegetables (mushrooms, onion, pepper, cherry tomatoes, etc.).
  • In tomato sauce: sauté garlic in olive oil, add crushed tomatoes, water, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook for five minutes, then add the mackerel. Continue cooking for about fifteen minutes, turning the fish once.

Side effects and contraindications

Very rich in purines

Mackerel is a food very rich in purines, substances that help produce uric acid. In people with gout, there is an abnormally high amount of uric acid in the blood, causing specific symptoms, such as joint pain. The purines in certain foods help to further increase the concentration of uric acid in the blood. People with gout should therefore avoid the consumption of foods, such as mackerel, which are rich.

Fish are among the nine most common food allergens in Canada. People allergic to fish react abnormally to the proteins present in it. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, it is possible that a person suffering from a fish or seafood allergy is also allergic to other species belonging to the same group. For example, a person allergic to mackerel could also be allergic to salmon, both of which are fish. On the other hand, a person allergic to one type of fish or seafood (crustacean or fish or mollusk) will not necessarily be allergic to the other types. It is strongly recommended that people allergic to these foods consult an allergist before introducing new ones into their diet.


Fish is the main source of mercury to which we are exposed. This metal is naturally found in the environment, but the discharges caused by industrialization make the consumption of certain fish less safe for health. Predatory fish have high levels of mercury. Other fish species, such as mackerel, have mercury levels below the Canadian standard of 0.5 ppm. They can therefore be consumed without danger to health. In addition, according to a study carried out by Health Canada researchers, the levels of various contaminants detected in fish sold in Canada are lower than the Canadian standard and therefore do not constitute a health risk.

History of food

The term “mackerel”, which was first written “makerel”, appeared in the language in the 13th century. If several authors derive this word from the Dutch medium makelâre, “broker”, which comes from makeln, “to traffic”, others think rather that the fish is so called because it is “made up”, ie – say mottled wide bands. The old meaning of the verb “to hide” is “bruised”, hence the idea of ​​spots or mottling.

A legend created out of thin air

According to legend, the mackerel escorts the herrings in their migrations, thus favoring the rapprochement between males and females, which would make them a sort of pimp fish. Hence, according to some, its name, which it would have borrowed from the man who trades in prostituting women. But according to modern linguists, this does not hold water, because the term mackerel to designate a man would not have appeared in the texts until 150 years after the mackerel fish.

Mackerel belongs to the scombrid family. The name refers to various fish belonging to several zoological genera each comprising several species. The two species of greatest commercial importance in North America are the common mackerel, or blue mackerel (Scomber scombrus), and the spotted mackerel, or Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus).

This fatty fish has been consumed for a long time in Asia, where we have found vestiges in ancient mounds of shells. The Romans knew and dressed it in various ways. They used it in particular to prepare their famous garum, a sort of liquor resulting from its fermentation with salt and whose modern equivalent is the Vietnamese nuoc-mâm sauce. On feast days, this very expensive condiment replaced the flavored salts, which were more commonly used.

In North America, various species of mackerel were also eaten by Native Americans. We know from the accounts of Jacques Cartier that, during his trip in 1534, he had met “200 men, women and children” belonging to the Huron tribe of Stadaconé (Quebec) and came to fish for mackerel along the peninsula of Gaspé.

The settlers will also draw on this resource. Along with cod, salmon and herring, it will, for a long time, be one of the most caught fish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the coastal waters of eastern Canada. Later, the Americans came to fish on a large scale in this region, until the mackerel stocks collapsed in the mid-1880s.

Although once again abundant in our waters, mackerel is not very popular with North American consumers, so much of the landings made in the Maritimes and Quebec are exported to Europe and Japan.

For further

Ecology and environment

Although mackerel have experienced periods of decline due to overfishing, experts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium believe the stocks in the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Atlantic are healthy and are currently one of the best choices in terms of conservation of species. Note that the fish are probably sentient beings.

This small fish is considered an eco-responsible choice, that is to say one that does not have a negative impact on the environment. By eating small fish at the bottom of the food chain, such as mackerel, this allows species at the top of the chain, which are more threatened and whose fishing techniques are harmful to the environment, to recover.

Some environmental organizations like GreenPeace, Seachoice or OceanWise have open red and yellow lists to guide consumers to make more sustainable choices. Mackerel is part of the green or yellow list, depending on the different species.

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