Cooking & EatingHerring season is every year from June to September. We Dutch love to eat this fish (with onions) as a snack. But how healthy is such a herring really? This is what the experts say.

    We know the herring as Hollandse Nieuwe, maat herring, smoked herring and rollmops. The difference lies in the fat percentage of the fish, says Remke Nehrstede of the Dutch Fish Agency. Herring must have a fat percentage of at least 16 percent to be processed into Hollandse Nieuwe.

    ,,After September 30, you may no longer use the term Hollandse Nieuwe. Then the same herring is called buddy herring,” says Nehrstede. The herring that does not make it to Hollandse Nieuwe is processed into smoked herring, rollmops or is frozen in its entirety and exported.

    A herring becomes well fat if it can eat a lot of plankton, says food technologist IJsbrand Velzeboer. “The warmer the spring, so the warmer our climate becomes, the faster the herring is up and running. He should have reached his fat content by mid-June.”


    The only drawback of herring is the salt content. That is above 2%

    IJsbrand Velzeboer, food technologist

    Is herring really a healthy choice?
    “Yes,” says Nehrstede. According to the Visbureau, the full-fat herring is a real omega-3 bomb. This keeps the brain healthy and helps to prevent cardiovascular disease.

    “Herring is known for its omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids,” says Velzeboer. “These are all unsaturated fatty acids and that makes them healthy. It used to be said: herring in the country, doctors on the side. So that was the beginning of the healthier life. But if you eat a kilo of herring a day, you are of course exaggerating.”

    “The only drawback of herring is the salt content,” says Velzeboer. “That is above 2 percent. You have to watch out for that. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you should certainly not eat too much herring.”

    According to Velzeboer, you eat the best herring ‘fresh from the knife’. “Herring is extremely sensitive to oxidation, which makes it rancid and you can taste that right away. You should therefore never leave a herring in the sun and it should therefore actually be sold off the knife at the herring farmer. Or vacuum packaging, that is also in these days.”

    Can you eat herring during pregnancy?
    “Herring is a fermented fish,” says Velzeboer. “Herring is jawed, which means that you pull the intestines out in one movement. At the very back remains the pancreas that can split the proteins. This means that the herring becomes tender. And because you salt it, the spoilage bacteria don’t stand a chance. You have to freeze it for at least 48 hours at -40 degrees Celsius. That is now a requirement against the herring worm.”

    “Another argument why you can eat herring during your pregnancy is that it is a young fish,” Velzeboer continues. “This means that there are no heavy metals in it, because they don’t get the chance to build up, unlike a fish that is, for example, four or five years old.”

    According to the Nutrition Center, heavy metals are the collective name for metals such as cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic and tin. They can end up in food and then in your body and that can be harmful to health.

    Watch out for listeria
    The Nutrition Center does warn against harmful bacteria such as listeria. ‘Before the herring ends up at a stall or in a shop, it undergoes processing. The structure of the fish changes and the fish is slightly cooked. The herring is also frozen. All this ensures that potentially harmful bacteria are less active and partly die. But research shows that not all harmful bacteria die when brining (salting) and freezing fish,’ according to the organization.

    Do you want teach your child to eat fish? Parents of Nu explains the best way to do this.