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Saturday, June 15, 2013


Is pickled herring good for you?

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by W. Diane Van Zwol

Created on: July 05, 2008
Pickled Herring: A Good Source Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids And Vitamin D
Pickled herring is good for you! It is also considered to be a delicacy in many parts of the world, including Scandinavia, Iceland, Holland and Japan, to name just a few countries.
My initial encounter with pickled herring came about when I visited Holland, in the spring of 1967. At the crowded market place in Groningen, in northern Holland, there was a street-side pickled herring stall, where the herring could be purchased and eaten on the spot.
Dozens of tourists and Dutch people, some still wearing wooden shoes, stood in line to buy the delicacy from the elderly Dutch gentleman, behind the counter. With their guilders (the Dutch currency at that time), tightly clutched in their hands, they waited patiently to be served. Then one by one, they would hold their pickled herrings up, throw their heads back and consume them. (I wondered if some people even took the time to chew the herrings!) For me, this was something totally new and different. It certainly sparked my interest in herring!

The herring is a small, oily fish belonging to the genus Clupea. The North Atlantic Ocean, Baltic Sea, North Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean, are all places where herring thrive as huge schools of fish, swimming in the shallow temperate waters. They are generally caught in the spring, as they head towards the shore. (1)
There are approximately two hundred different kinds of herring that have a single dorsal fin lacking a spine. In the Baltic Sea, their size is approximately fourteen to eighteen centimeters in length. These are the ones that I saw when I was visiting Holland. They are much larger in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. (2)
Herring has been a staple food in many countries of the world for over 3000 years.
Pickled herring is only one way that herring is prepared for human consumption. Herring can also be eaten raw, fermented, or cured. (3)
"Why is pickled herring good for you?"
Pickled herring contains Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, as well as vitamin D.
While there is growing concern about PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxin in herring, it appears that as long as the fish are small, or under seventeen centimeters, there does not seem to be a major health risk. If they are larger herring, then limited consumption of herring is recommended. (4)
Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in growth and development, heart health and circulation, etc. Vitamin D is important for calcium and phosphorus absorption, bone formation and a healthy immune system. (5)
Perhaps another reason that herring are good for people has to do with the reality that these fish feed on phytoplankton, when they are young. It is filtered through their gills as they swim. Phytoplankton releases oxygen and diminishes carbon dioxide. At this time, there are an increasing number of studies being done on phytoplankton, with respect to human health. (6)
How is pickled herring prepared? The preparation of pickled herring involves a curing process, which uses salt to extract water. Then the salt is removed. In the pickling stage, the flavorings consist of vinegar, salt and a sugar solution, with spices like peppercorns, bay leaves and onions. Other flavorings like mustard, onion and garlic, may also be used. (7)
In Scandanavia, pickled herring is served at Christmas time and Midsummer, with dark rye bread, crisp bread, or potatoes. In Iceland, a pickled herring, or blald, may be given to a child for a holiday treat. The Dutch have a soused herring, or rollmops. The rollmops are pickled herring fillets rolled around a gherkin, or onion and held together with a skewer. The Jewish use pickled herring in a forshmak salad. In Japan, it is in the cuisine of Hokkaido. (8)
While I was In Holland, I was actually quite fascinated by the fact pickled herring were being sold at the street-side stall, in the market place. Gradually, I have come to understand their tradition more fully and realize that to the Dutch, the pickled herring is a very important part of their diet and their economy.
Pickled herring is good for you because of the Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. It was also fun to watch the Dutch people and others enjoy this delicacy in their Groningen marketplace!
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.
(8) Ibid.


by Jane Allyson

Created on: July 08, 2008
On the whole, many people would all be in agreement that pickled herring is extremely good for you. It is high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D and it can be found all over the world and is considered to be quite delicious.
However, although the fish itself may be an enjoyable food to eat, and be beneficial to the health, the manner of its preparation may also have adverse affects on certain members of the population.
Pickled herrings contain a compound called tyramine. It is formed during the aging of protein-rich foods and has been linked to certain factors such as headaches and hypertension.
This compound is an amino acid and past research has shown that consuming food containing tyramine, may trigger headaches, caused by a lowering of the serotonin levels in the brain, and interfere with proper dilation of the blood vessels.
With the benefit of modern research, some experts now believe that tyramine is not the villain it has latterly been portrayed to be, however, it doesn't hurt to be on the safe side, and it may be wise to avoid foods such as pickled herrings and other foods containing a high concentrate of tyramine, until test results become much more conclusive.
Certain drugs that are used for depression and Parkinson's disease (known as Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors) can interact with tyramine and cause a rapid acceleration in blood pressure.
It is very important that when taking medication such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine, tranylcypromine, and selegiline, that a close eye is kept on the dietry intake. It is absolutely essential that foods such as pickled herrings, cheese, and Chianti wine, are to be avoided when taking MAO inhibitors as it can lead to potentially life threatening situations caused by elevated blood pressure and intracranial bleeding.
The possibility of an interaction between some MAO inhibitors and certain smoked, aged or pickled fish, will depend on the amount of tyramine present. It is important to keep away from foods containing high levels of tyramine during drug therapy and for at least a month after coming off the medication.
So in answer to the question of whether pickled herring is good for you, I would have to conclude that although the health benefits of consuming this delicious fish is well known and widely accepted, there is a certain section of the population that would find it most unbeneficial to eat.

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"ment al disorder." Encyclopdia Britannica from Standard Edition. (2008)

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