Masago is a common name for smelt roe, and they are edible eggs of Mallotus villosus (Capelin fish) that belonged to the smelt family. It is often used to coat the outside of sushi rolls and in making sushi fillings. Commonly seen in orange, green, or red color, but it actually has a pale-yellow color. While cooking, they use food color to make it orange, green, or red. Masago is one of the most prized ingredients used in sushi. Although small in size, these small orange balls are capable of turning a simple sushi dish into something more extravagant and classy. They have a crunchy texture, and it tastes salty and sweet at the same time, with a hint of bitterness. Masago is high in nutritional value and has got some great health benefits as well. Some of them include:
- Protein: Masago is a rich source of high-quality protein. A small serving of around 28 grams can provide 6 grams of protein. This is the same amount of protein as found in a large-sized egg of around 50 grams. Adding foods like masago to your diet will aid you in eating less yet enough. In this way, the body will remain satisfied and one may lose weight.
- Selenium and Vitamin B-12: Masago is a rich source of selenium. Thus, it is a pretty powerful antioxidant for one’s body. Selenium is found in concentrated form in seafood. Therefore, it can reduce oxidative stress and can aid in improving the thyroid and immune system. A few studies have proven that selenium-rich food can help in enhancing the immune system and prevents mental decline. Masago is a rich source of Vitamin B-12 as well. Vitamin B-12 plays a vital role in energy production and improving nerve health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have lots of powerful health benefits. These are polyunsaturated fats. They are not just an integral part of one’s cell membrane but can help in regulating inflammation and control blood clotting. Studies have proven that omega-3 fatty acids help in lowering the risk of heart conditions that include coronary artery disease and heart failure as well. Fish and their by-products, such as masago, are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Mercury: Being a small forage fish, capelin has a low mercury amount when compared with other large fishes like mackerel and swordfish. Also, some studies have proven that fish roe has the lowest mercury count when compared to the other parts like muscle tissue and certain organs. That’s the reason why one can consume masago to keep their mercury exposure to the minimum.
- Masago is high in sodium content as well. When often mixed with salty ingredients like regular salt or soy sauce, the sodium content ultimately increases. For those who have high blood pressure or heart problems, cutting back on sodium is the key to keeping blood pressure in check. Overdoing it on the sodium can contribute to other health problems too, and a high intake of sodium has been associated with issues like stomach cancer and bone loss
- As masago is seafood, some people might find themselves allergic to it. They should avoid using any fish or their by-products. The fish roe contains vitellogenin that is considered one of the most allergic substances for one’s body. Fish roe is the sixth most allergic food material found ever.
- Masago is also most commonly used in preparing sushi, a popular food that has the potential to be laden with health problems. Besides, sushi is usually being filled with farmed fish, refined carbs, and questionable ingredients. The raw fish found in sushi also significantly increases your risk of parasitic infections and foodborne illnesses.
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Natural Resources Defense Council. Safe Sushi. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/sushi.pdf