It can be a difficult balance to eat healthily yet stay within a household budget. It can be even trickier to find a foodstuff that meets such criteria but which also tastes great and can be enjoyed by all the family.
Well, two fish which most definitely tick all the right boxes when it comes to nutrition, taste, value and healthy eating are the humble herring and mackerel. Abundant around our coasts and sustainably caught, the health benefits for regularly eating these delicious fish are most compelling.
Much of the herring and mackerel we catch are destined for export markets around the world, and while this is great news for the Scottish balance of trade, we believe that there is huge potential to grow the UK market for these fish.
But it will, in many ways, take a bit of a sea-change in how we buy seafood, and we are grateful for work by Seafish and Seafood Scotland in helping to promote fish consumption at home.
Health experts recommend we should eat two portions of fish every week, one of which should be an oil-rich fish such as mackerel or herring. This means there is every scope for households to keep their favourite staples of cod and haddock on the menu, but supplement this once a week with Scottish mackerel and herring.
Available as fresh, canned or smoked fish, Scottish caught mackerel is packed full of heart-healthy omega-3, minerals and vitamins. Omega-3 is a type of ‘good’ fat found in oily fish and plays an essential role in keeping the heart healthy and aiding brain function and development. A recent study also found that fish oil during pregnancy may help to reduce childhood asthma.
Mackerel is such a versatile fish in the kitchen and is perfect for grilling or baking. Canned mackerel is ideal for a quick and easy meal or as sandwich filler, whilst smoked mackerel is great with salads and makes fantastic paté.
According to Seafish, grilled mackerel has higher omega-3 levels than any other commonly eaten fish and is also a good source of vitamin B6, selenium and niacin, which are all important for our health.
All of the above health benefits also apply to herring, which is also a good source of Riboflavin, Potassium and Iodine.
Experts agree that replacing some of the saturated fat in our diet with unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats can help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Oily fish such as mackerel and herring can help with this as much of the fat they contain is unsaturated. For example, 71 per cent of the fat in herring is unsaturated, and 77 per cent in the case of mackerel.
The omega-3 fats found in oily fish are also known to play a role in helping to maintain normal blood pressure – yet another good reason to make sure you eat the recommended once a week serving of such fish.
Mackerel and herring are also great sources of Vitamin D. Our bodies make this vitamin in sunlight, but in Scotland’s climate this is not always so easy, which is why both these fish are so important for a healthy diet.
Herring is a fish that went out of fashion in the kitchen but it is now coming back with a bang, thanks in part to endorsements from leading chefs. Traditionally, they have been eaten as kippers (cold smoked fish) or fried as herrings-in-oatmeal. But it is a fish that is also great for grilling or baking whole. The fish can be likened in some ways to a large fresh sardine – and when cooked over a barbecue, the taste is equally sublime.
Of course, a great alternative way to eat this fish is as marinated herring. Virtually, every supermarket now stocks marinated herring and they can come in a variety of sweet cured flavours, including dill, sherry and mustard. There are no fiddly bones to deal with and they taste superb. For the future, we believe there is good potential for innovative processors to develop new flavoursome cures.
And with all Scottish caught mackerel and herring carrying the Marine Stewardship Council eco-label for the sustainability of the fishery, these are both fish that consumers can buy with a clear conscience.