Are Canned Kippers Good for You? Here’s What You Need to Know

Canned kippers are a popular seafood option that many people enjoy. However, there is often confusion surrounding whether or not canned kippers are actually good for you.

Some people believe that canned kippers are a healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while others argue that they are high in sodium and other unhealthy ingredients.

So, are canned kippers good for you? The answer is not simple, as it depends on a variety of factors.

kipper snack with crackers
Canned kippers and crackers. Credit: canva

What Are Canned Kippers?

If you’re not familiar with kippers, they are a type of fish that has been smoked and cured. Kippers are usually made from herring, but they can also be made from other types of fish.

Canned kippers, as the name suggests, are kippers that have been canned for preservation. Here are a few things to know about canned kippers:

  • Canned kippers are a convenient way to enjoy the flavor and nutritional benefits of kippers without having to prepare them yourself.
  • They are usually sold in small cans and can be found in many grocery stores and online retailers.
  • Canned kippers are usually packed in oil or water and may contain additional seasonings or flavorings.
Are Canned Kippers Good for You? Here's What You Need to Know
Canned Smoked Kippers (Source: Fudio/Canva)

Are Canned Kippers Good for You?

The answer is yes! Not only are they a convenient and tasty source of protein and healthy fats, but they also offer a range of important vitamins and minerals.

However, canned kippers may come with some potential risks, including high levels of mercury and sodium, as well as the presence of other toxins. Remember to enjoy canned kippers in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Nutritional Value of Canned Kippers

Calories and Macronutrients

Canned kippers are a relatively low-calorie food, with a 3.5-ounce serving containing just 149 calories. They are also a good source of protein, with each serving containing 20 grams. However, they are relatively high in fat, with each serving containing 8 grams of fat, including 2 grams of saturated fat.

Vitamins and Minerals

They are particularly high in vitamin B12, with each serving providing 190% of the recommended daily intake. They are also a good source of vitamin D, with each serving providing 25% of the recommended daily intake.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Canned kippers are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health and brain function. A 3.5-ounce serving of canned kippers contains approximately 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Calories: 149 per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Protein: 20 grams per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Fat: 8 grams per 3.5-ounce serving, including 2 grams of saturated fat
  • Vitamin B12: 190% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Vitamin D: 25% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Calcium: 10% of the recommended daily intake per 3.5-ounce serving
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: approximately 1.5 grams per 3.5-ounce serving

Sources: Nutrition Advance, USDA

Benefits of Canned Kippers

These small fish are packed with essential nutrients that can benefit your heart, brain, and joints. Here are some of the benefits of canned kippers:

Heart Health

Canned kippers are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3s can help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve heart rhythms.

In addition, kippers are low in mercury levels, making them a safe choice for regular consumption.

Brain Health

Studies have shown that omega-3s can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, kippers contain essential oils that can help protect the brain from damage and improve overall brain health.

Joint Health

If you suffer from joint pain, canned kippers might be a good addition to your diet. These fish contain high levels of nutrition, including vitamin D, which is essential for bone health. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in kippers can help reduce inflammation, which can alleviate joint pain and stiffness.

Other benefits of canned kippers include:

  • They’re high in protein, which can help you feel full and satisfied.
  • They’re low in calories, making them a great choice for weight loss.
  • They’re an affordable and convenient snack that can be enjoyed on the go.

Potential Risks of Canned Kippers

In this section, we’ll explore some of the risks associated with canned kippers.

Mercury Levels

According to the FDA, some types of fish, such as catfish, pollock, pink salmon, and sockeye, are generally low in mercury and can be eaten more frequently.

However, other types of fish, such as king mackerel, swordfish, and albacore tuna, are higher in mercury and should be limited to one or two servings per week. 

Sodium Content

A 136-gram can of kippers packs a whopping 1,100 milligrams of sodium – more than half of the daily recommended intake for most adults, as per the NCC nutrition database.


Canned kippers may also be contaminated with other toxins, such as PCBs and dioxins, which can be harmful to human health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits on the amount of these toxins that can be present in fish and seafood.

It’s important to choose canned kippers that are sourced from areas with lower levels of contamination, such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Northwest.

kipper sandwich with crab and salmon
Kipper sandwich. Credit: canva

How to Incorporate Canned Kippers into Your Diet

Salad Toppings

  • Add canned kippers to your favorite salad for a healthy and flavorful protein boost.
  • Top mixed greens with a kippered herring filet, sliced red onion, and fresh dill. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice for a simple and satisfying meal.
  • For a heartier salad, add sliced celery and canned pink salmon to your greens, along with the kippers. This salad is loaded with omega-3s and other essential nutrients.


  • Spread whipped or softened cream cheese on whole grain crackers or crostini, and top with a kipper filet for a quick and easy snack.
  • Make a kipper dip by mixing cream cheese, hot sauce, and chopped red onion. Serve with whole grain tortilla chips or crunchy celery sticks for a healthy and satisfying snack.
  • Create cracker stackers by layering a kipper filet, sliced red onion, and cream cheese between whole-grain crackers.


  • Make a kipper salad by mixing canned kippers with sliced red onion, chopped celery, and fresh dill. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice for a light and refreshing meal.
  • Try a kipper sandwich by spreading guacamole on whole grain bread, and topping with a kipper filet, sliced red onion, and fresh dill.
  • For a more substantial meal, make a kipper and shrimp stir-fry. Saute canned kippers and shrimp with sliced red onion and your favorite veggies, and serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy snack or a flavorful meal, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy this nutritious canned seafood.

Are Canned Kippers Good for You? Here's What You Need to Know
Assorted canned fish. Credit: canva

Canned Kippers vs. Other Canned Fish

How do they compare to other canned fish options?

Canned Salmon

It is important to look for wild-caught salmon, as farmed salmon may contain higher levels of toxins and pollutants. Canned salmon can also be high in sodium, so it is important to choose low-sodium options when possible.

Canned Tuna

Albacore tuna, in particular, can contain high levels of mercury, so it is recommended to limit consumption to no more than once a week. Light tuna is a safer option, but it is still important to choose brands that test for mercury levels.

Canned Sardines

Like kippers, canned sardines are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, they can be high in sodium, so it is important to choose low-sodium options when possible.

Canned Herring

Canned herring is another type of smoked fish that is similar to kippers. However, like kippers, it can be high in sodium.


Let’s summarize what we have learned about canned kippers and their health benefits:

  • Canned kippers are a type of smoked fish that is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium. These nutrients are essential for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases.
  • Seafood, in general, is a great source of protein and healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies and other oily fish are also rich in these nutrients and can be a great alternative to canned kippers.
  • When choosing canned kippers, it is important to look for high-quality products that are low in sodium and free of additives or preservatives. Red salmon is another type of canned fish that is nutrient-dense and can be a good option for those who do not enjoy kippers.
  • Japanese cuisine often includes a variety of seafood, including kippers. Incorporating Japanese-inspired dishes into your diet can provide a range of health benefits, including improved heart health and better brain function.
  • While canned kippers can be a healthy addition to your diet, it is important to consume them in moderation. Excessive consumption of canned fish can lead to an increased risk of mercury exposure, which can be harmful to your health.

By choosing high-quality products and incorporating a variety of seafood into your meals, you can reap the health benefits of these nutrient-dense foods.

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