Fish Egg Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Caviar

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Fish eggs, also known as caviar or roe, are usually considered an exotic luxury in the United States, but that may be changing as more people develop a taste for the salmon roe often found at sushi restaurants. Fish eggs are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids (eating them is almost like taking a fish oil supplement). But they also have a lot of cholesterol and are often cured with salt, meaning they are high in sodium.

It's not always easy to find nutritional information for fish eggs, as many roe suppliers are located outside of the United States and may not have to provide a nutritional label. However, when most of us eat fish eggs, we eat only a very small amount as a garnish, so the roe doesn't significantly change the calorie count or nutritional value of a meal.

Fish Egg Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 tablespoon (16g) of sturgeon roe (fish eggs).

  • Calories: 42
  • Fat: 3g
  • Sodium: 240mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.6g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 4g

While the above provides a solid starting point, there can be nutritional differences between fish egg varieties. For example, herring roe has only 20 calories and 1 gram of fat per tablespoon. Trout caviar has roughly 50 calories per tablespoon, and 3 grams of fat.

Carbs 

The amount of carbohydrates in fish eggs varies by species, but regardless of type, roe is not a significant source of carbs. If you eat 1 tablespoon of sturgeon roe, you'll consume less than a gram of carbohydrate. There is no significant fiber and no significant sugar in fish eggs.

The estimated glycemic load of fish eggs is zero. Glycemic load is an indicator of how a food affects your blood sugar levels and it takes serving size into account.

Fats 

There is a small amount of three different types of fat in fish eggs: 

  • Saturated fat: There is a small amount (about 1/2 gram) of saturated fat in sturgeon roe, and even less in herring roe. Saturated fats are considered to be less healthy fats as they may contribute to heart disease. But the amount of saturated fat in fish eggs is not likely to make a difference in your total daily consumption. 
  • Polyunsaturated fat: You'll also consume just under 1.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat when you consume a tablespoon of sturgeon roe. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, also called PUFAs, have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, so they are considered to be healthy fats. But roe boosts your polyunsaturated fat intake only minimally.
  • Monounsaturated fat: Lastly, you'll get just under 1 gram of monounsaturated fat from a single serving of sturgeon roe. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are believed to increase your HDL cholesterol or "good" cholesterol. Health experts recommend that you replace less healthy fats (such as saturated fats and trans fats) with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that 15–20% of your caloric intake come from monounsaturated fatty acids.

Protein

You'll get a boost of protein in fish eggs, although the amount you get will vary slightly on the variety you choose. For example, sturgeon roe provides 4 grams of protein per serving, while herring roe has 3 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

A single serving of sturgeon roe provides 133% of your daily dose of vitamin B12, which can help you to maintain a healthy metabolism and strong heart health. You'll also benefit from 79 milligrams of choline (or 18% of your target, if you follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet). Choline supports healthy fat and cholesterol transport in your body and serves other important functions as well.

Sturgeon roe also contains magnesium (48 milligrams or 15% of your recommended daily intake) and selenium (10.5 micrograms, roughly 19% of your recommended daily intake).

Health Benefits

Fish eggs fit well into certain specialty diets, such as the Paleo diet and other low carb eating plans, because they are a source of healthy fat. One serving of fish eggs provides 439 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA and 608 milligrams of DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, fats that must be consumed in your diet because your body does not produce them.

Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis

Researchers believe that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish eggs may help to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Promote Brain Health

The EPA, DHA, and DPA (another fatty acid) found in fish eggs can help fight cognitive aging and decline, and improve brain health and repair.

Support Eye Health

Both DHA and EPA are also important for visual development (in babies) and retinal functioning (in children and adults). People who don't get enough omega-3s in their diet may have an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome.

Decrease High Blood Pressure

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish eggs help to reduce blood clotting and inflammation in the body and also may help dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure.

Allergies

Managing an allergy to fish eggs or fish can be complicated. Fish is a common allergen, and according to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (ACAAI), it is possible to be allergic to one type of fish and not to another. It's also possible to be allergic to finned fish, but not shellfish, and vice versa. And it is possible to develop a fish allergy in adulthood, even if you had no symptoms as a child.

If you suspect that you have an allergy to fish or fish eggs and experience symptoms such as hives, skin rash, difficulty breathing, headaches, stuffy nose, or nausea after ingesting them, consult your healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis. 

Adverse Effects

Fish eggs are relatively high in cholesterol and can be high in sodium, both of which can be detrimental to your health. They are also high in purines, which is a problem if you are prone to gout.

Varieties

There are as many varieties of fish eggs as they are fish, and you'll see many of them sold under different names at the fish market or grocery store.

Caviar 

Usually made exclusively from the eggs of sturgeon fish, these eggs are cured and then placed in tins for aging and storing. In North America, the term "caviar" is used to describe only roe that comes from sturgeon. But in Europe, the word may describe fish eggs from other sources. There are different types of caviar that come from different types of sturgeon. These include ossetra, beluga, sevruga, and Siberian caviar.

Roe

The term for female fish eggs, roe may come from a variety of fish, including trout, whitefish, salmon, or even carp and shellfish. Fish eggs may vary in size, texture, and color. 

Because there are many different types of caviar, there are different price points for the product. Many caviar connoisseurs only buy the very finest fish eggs that can cost a hundred dollars or more per ounce. But there are also many less expensive fish eggs—including shelf-stable varieties—that you'll find for under $10.

When It's Best

Although fish come into season at various times of year, roe is usually processed and preserved with salt, so it is available year-round.

Storage and Food Safety

To store caviar, keep it in the coldest part of your refrigerator. When you pull it out to serve, keep it on ice to prevent warming. Try to serve the roe in its original container. Transferring the delicate eggs to a serving dish may damage them, and they are best enjoyed intact. Throw away any unused caviar after two or three days.

How to Prepare

When you serve caviar (or any fish eggs), use a spoon that is not made of metal as it can add a metallic taste to the delicate flavor. Pearl caviar spoons are sold in many markets, but you can also use a plastic or wooden spoon.

Many fish egg lovers enjoy roe on top of blini (small pancakes), toast, or a cucumber slice with a dollop of creme fraiche. You'll also see fish eggs used as a garnish on dishes served in many restaurants, or as a major component in some sushi rolls.

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Article Sources

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