Masago is a common sushi ingredient that has gained popularity over the years thanks to the availability of Japanese cooking in America. Distinguished by its color, texture, and unique flavor, masago is praised for its versatility and health benefits alike. It boasts a concentrated dose of protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients like B-12, selenium, and magnesium.
What is masago, exactly?
Also known as smelt roe, masago is a type of fish egg that comes from capelin, a foraging fish which is the primary source of food for larger fish like Atlantic cod and even animals like seals. Humans don’t typically eat capelin (it is a main ingredient in fish feed), but the eggs offer a sweet and savory flavor — as well as a bit of crunch. You can often find sushi rolls covered with the bright orange roe. They are often used in flavoring dipping sauces, too.
The best aspect of masago roe is the impressive micronutrient profile, especially considering the minuscule caloric profile. Besides the aforementioned vitamins and minerals, masago also boasts a nice vitamin D profile. Most people suffer from vitamin D deficiencies and don’t even realize it. Besides sunlight, the best way to consume vitamin D is via foods like fish or fish oils.
Obviously, then, masago is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of heart-healthy fat associated with a variety of benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids help support heart function, plus they have also been shown to protect brain health, reduce inflammation, and aid in weight control as well.
Are there any downsides to eating the eggs?
In short, no, there aren’t many downsides to eating masago. If anything, it is relatively high in sodium, packing in about 10 percent of the daily recommended value into a single tablespoon. That’s not great news for people who have high blood pressure or heart problems, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as you’re drinking lots of water.
The more likely issue with eating the roe is that sushi, in general, can easily get unhealthy in “Americanized” restaurants. Mayo-based sauces, lots of carbs, fried toppings, farmed fish instead of fresh, and potential parasites can all contribute to a less-than-stellar nutritional profile for stateside sushi.
Although sushi is the most popular way to enjoy this delicious delicacy, the potential uses of masago extend way beyond raw fish rolls. It is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine and can be used to whip up seafood pasta, poke bowls, or stir fry dishes. Add a bit of roe to mayo and hot sauce for a spicy dipping sauce, too.