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Salmon Roe: Nutrients, Benefits, and Downsides

Salmon roe is the eggs of salmon. Like caviar — or sturgeon eggs — salmon roe is high in protein and a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals like selenium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B12, and D.

It’s a delicacy in Japan and other countries, where it’s eaten in small amounts on its own or enjoyed atop sushi, flatbread, or biscuits.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of salmon roe, including its nutrients, health benefits, and downsides.

Salmon roe — also called red caviar, salmon caviar, and ikura — is the eggs of salmon. The eggs are harvested unfertilized from various varieties of this species (1).

However, salmon roe isn’t considered true caviar, which must come from sturgeon.

The roe is extracted either by a “no-kill” C-section method or by killing the fish and removing the roe sacks. Also called skein, the roe sacks are rubbed against a sieve to separate the surrounding membrane from the eggs.

Harvested eggs are then washed, weighed, salt-cured, and graded for sale.

Salmon roe is a Japanese sushi delicacy but may likewise be enjoyed in other cultures atop salads, pancakes, flatbreads, and crackers. Plus, you can eat it on your own in small amounts.

Summary

Salmon roe is the unfertilized eggs of salmon. It’s often served on sushi in Japan or in other countries atop salads, pancakes, flatbreads, or crackers.

In general, fish roe is a good source of nutrients like phosphorus, selenium, folate, and vitamins A, B12, and D. It’s also rich in choline, which supports nerve and liver health, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may support eye health (two, 3, 4).

Just 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of salmon roe provides (5):

  • Calories: 25
  • protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Calcium: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Iron: 3% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 10% of the DV

Keep in mind that specific nutrient information on salmon roe is limited. Most salmon roe likely provides more fat than the example above (5).

Nonetheless, some research indicates that salmon roe is a good source of vitamin E. Other studies suggest that it contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in higher concentrations than in the head and skin of salmon (6, 7).

Summary

Salmon roe is a good source of vitamin E and heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Like other fish gnaws, it may also provide several essential minerals and vitamins.

Although specific nutrient data for salmon roe is limited, its high omega-3, vitamin A, and calcium contents may confer health benefits (6, 7).

Here are several potential health benefits of salmon eggs.

May improve heart health

Salmon roe is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (7).

These fats have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential and may improve heart health by lowering risk factors of heart disease, such as blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels (8, 9, 10).

Most dietary intake of omega-3 comes from seafood and fatty fish like salmon, although you can also take supplements (8, 9, 10).

Keep in mind that specific research on salmon roe’s effects on heart health is limited.

may aid vision

Vitamin A is integral for eye health. It has antioxidant effects and protects against night blindness and permanent blindness, which may occur if you’re deficient in this vitamin for long periods (eleven, 12).

Salmon roe packs 10% of the DV for this vitamin in just 1 tablespoon (15 grams), so eating it as part of a balanced diet may support good vision (5).

May support bone health

Salmon roe also offers some calcium, a mineral that’s essential for bone health. Just 1 tablespoon (15 grams) supplies 2% of the DV (5).

Most of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones in a mineralized form with phosphorus. This gives bones their density and strength (13).

Vitamin D is known to enhance the uptake of calcium from foods and also support overall bone health. Although salmon roe’s vitamin D content is unclear, mixed fish roe contains small amounts (14).

Pair salmon roe with vitamin D-rich foods like salmon flesh, cod liver oil, or cheese to optimize your calcium absorption (fifteen).

Summary

Although nutrient data for salmon roe is limited, it may support heart, eye, and bone health.

Despite salmon roe’s health benefits, you should be aware of a few potential drawbacks.

May cause allergic reactions

Several reports note allergic reactions to fish roe, including salmon roe. In fact, fish roe is the sixth most common food allergen in Japan (16).

Symptoms range from mild abdominal pain, itchy throat, and coughing to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis and hospitalization (1, 16).

An allergic reaction to salmon roe is possible in persons who usually tolerate fish and other seafood. As such, you should immediately seek medical help if you notice any of these symptoms (1).

An allergist can also conduct a skin-prick test to assess for salmon roe allergy.

May cause foodborne illness

If improperly processed, fish roe may lead to food poisoning.

E. coli is a harmful bacterium and common cause of foodborne illnesses affecting thousands of people in the United States each year (17).

It has been shown to migrate from seafood to humans, leading to symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain (18).

Research shows that even small amounts of E. coli in salted salmon roe can cause infections (19).

May be high in sodium

Although you can eat raw roe, it’s often salt-dried or cured and packaged for sale.

The curing process introduces high levels of sodium. Just 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of salt-canned salmon roe packs 13% of the DV for sodium (5, twenty).

Excess intake of sodium is associated with elevated blood pressure and increased heart disease risk. If you’re watching your sodium intake, be sure to only eat salmon roe in moderation (twenty-one, 22).

Keep in mind that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that adults consume no more than 1 teaspoon (2300 mg) of sodium per day (23).

Summary

Salmon roe may cause mild to severe allergic reactions, as well as food poisoning. Salt-cured varieties are especially high in sodium.

Salmon roe refers to the fish eggs extracted from various species of salmon, including:

  • king or Chinook salmon
  • salmon-pink
  • sockeye or red salmon (referred to as red caviar)
  • coho or silver salmon
  • atlantic salmon
  • chum salmon

Although salmon gnaws may be called caviar, true caviar comes only from sturgeon.

Summary

Salmon eggs can be extracted from many types of salmon, including King, pink, sockeye, coho, and chum.

Here’s how 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of salmon roe compares to other fish roes (5, 24, 25, 26):

Salmon roe may contain less protein and more carbs than sturgeon, herring, and mixed fish roes.

It’s the richest source of vitamin A among these fish roes and boasts more calcium than herring and mixed fish roes — but less than caviar.

Keep in mind that nutrient info is limited and may depend on the product.

Summary

Salmon roe is higher in vitamin A than many other fish eggs, though it’s lower in protein. It’s also a good source of calcium compared with herring and mixed species fish roe.

Traditionally, salmon roe—and fish roe in general—is used as a topping in Japanese delicacies, as well as other regional foods. Here are some basic recipe ideas:

  • Sushi: topping for sushi rolls, such as avocado roll with red caviar
  • Bliny: a thin pancake made with buckwheat and topped with butter and fish eggs
  • Appetizers: sprinkled atop flatbreads, crackers, and small salads

You can also eat small amounts of salmon roe on your own.

Summary

Salmon roe and fish roe in general are used as a topping for sushi, to make blini, in appetizers such as flatbread, crackers and salads, or may be eaten alone in small amounts.

Salmon roe is the unfertilized eggs of salmon.

Its high omega-3, vitamin A, and calcium contents may improve heart, vision, and bone health, though most packaged versions are quite high in salt.

This delicacy is widely considered healthy if eaten in moderation, though you may want to avoid it if you’re watching your sodium intake.

Enjoy small amounts of salmon roe on its own or as a topping on sushi, flatbread, crackers, or salad.

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