Health Benefits of Herring

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 17, 2020

Herring is a white fish that hatches in freshwater but spends most of its life in the ocean. Herring can be found in oceans around the world, though the vast majority of herring are caught in the waters near Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Herring is a nutritionally dense food that you can add into many recipes from cuisines around the world. Whether you can make herring the star of a dish or use it as a protein-packed snack, herring may offer some great health benefits.

Health Benefits

Health experts at the American Heart Association and elsewhere have suggested that everyone eat fish twice a week if possible. 

Fish carry many nutrients that are hard to find in other foods, such as omega-3s f atty a cids, which are essential for muscle function. Yet the vast majority of Americans don’t eat anywhere near the recommended amount of fish each week, if they eat fish at all. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits you can enjoy by adding fish like herring into your diet. 

Improve Heart Health

One reason nutrition experts recommend eating more fish is because it has been shown to significantly reduce the risks associated with heart disease. The omega-3s found in herring can also help regulate your heartbeat. 

Support Fetal Brain Development

Omega-3 fatty acids are also crucial for fetal brain development. One study showed that the children of women who ate two or more servings of fish per week during pregnancy tended to test better in intelligence, behavior, and development. 


Herring is an excellent source of lean protein. A single three-ounce serving of herring contains a whopping 20 grams of protein. In addition to its high protein content, herring contains many other key nutrients, such as: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin D
  • Selenium

Nutrients per Serving

One three-ounce serving of grilled or baked herring contains:

  • Calories: 173
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Cholesterol: 65 milligrams
  • Sodium: 98 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams

Things to Watch Out For

In general, fish is safe to eat, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This includes herring, which has a low mercury content compared to some other fish. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that water pollution in certain areas can affect the quality of your fish. While store-bought fish is safe to eat, it’s always a good idea to check local advisories before eating locally caught fish, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to Prepare Herring

Most herring that’s purchased in stores will be processed in some way before it gets to you, whether it’s frozen, smoked, canned, or salted. The natural oils found in herring’s skin make them sizzle when cooked.

Herring are relatively small and have many small bones in them. These bones can be eaten, and can actually provide a good source of calcium. However, if you don’t like bones in your herring, you can cut the herring open and debone it before you cook it. To do this, use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the head, tail, and fins of the herring. Next, cut the herring open and use a rolling pin to gently flatten it. At that point, you can use a knife to gently pull the spine and small bones away from the fish. 

Once your herring has been deboned, your options for cooking it are endless. Herring can be pan-fried, grilled, sautéed, boiled, or broiled. Some great ways to enjoy herring include: 

  • Seasoned with lemon juice
  • Crusted with oats and pan-fried
  • Stuffed and baked in the oven
  • Grilled with onions

Show Sources


ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “The Herring.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Fish: Friend or Foe?”

University of Rhode Island Environmental Research Center: “River Herring.” 

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Visualize Your Portion Sizes.”

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