Fish consumption is associated with a lower incidence of CVD and decreases in risk factors for atherosclerosis. Although fish contains other interesting components than fish oil, few studies focus on total fish composition and the influence food preparation might have on health-beneficial components. In the present cross-over intervention study the effect of a 6-week herring diet compared with a reference diet on CVD risk factors was investigated. Thirty-five healthy, but overweight, men (mean BMI 28·3 kg/m2) were randomised to a 6-week herring diet (150 g baked herring fillets/d, 5 d/week) or a reference diet (150 g baked lean pork and chicken fillets/d, 5 d/week). Diets were switched after a 12-week washout period. Plasma total cholesterol, TAG, HDL, HDL2, HDL3, LDL, C-reactive protein, IL-6, IL-18, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, oxidised LDL, oxygen radical absorbance capacity using perchloric acid (ORACPCA), whole-blood fatty acids, bleeding time and blood pressure were measured at the beginning and end of each dietary period. HDL was significantly higher after the herring diet period compared with after the reference diet period: 1·04 v. 0·99 mmol/l. TAG decreased after both diets, with no significant difference between the two diets. ORACPCA values did not indicate lower concentrations of non-protein plasma antioxidants, and oxidised LDL was not higher after the herring diet than after the reference diet. To conclude, a 6-week herring-rich diet significantly raised HDL compared with a diet of matched lean pork and chicken dishes. No adverse effects on in vivo oxidation or serum antioxidants were found after herring intake.