Roe (eggs) of Marine Animals is the Best Natural Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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A study published on 7 August 2009 in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology found that the roe of marine animals is the best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the two types of omega-3 fatty acids:  1

  • Eicosapentaenoic acids (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acids (DHA)

Researchers at the University of Almeria (UAL) analyzed the eggs, or roe, of 15 marine animals, and found all of these contained high levels of these omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to the human body.  They showed that omega-3 fatty acids are present in all fish roe, but especially in the eggs of :

  • Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda)
  • Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)
  • Squid (Loligo vulgaris)
  • Cuttlefish (Sepia sp.)
  • Lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus)
  • European hake (Merluccius merluccius)
  • Salmon (Salmo salar)
  • Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) (gonads of male)

They also found that the three best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids are found in the roe of:

  • European hake (Merluccius merluccius)
  • Lumpsucker (Cyclopterus lumpus)
  • Salmon (Salmo salar)

The roe of these three fish reached EPA + DHA amounts higher than 30% of their total fatty acid content.

José Luis Guil Guerrero, director of this study and a researcher in the Food Technology Department of the UAL, stated:

“We have classified these eggs as unequivocal sources of Omega 3, and have proven that this appears at high concentrations in all the species studies.”

According to a 2005 analysis from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), both red and black fish roe (caviar) contains the following grams of DHA and EPA:  2

DHA/100 grams                         3,800 grams  (58%)
EPA/100 grams                          2,741 grams  (42%)
DHA+EPA/100 grams                 6,541 grams  (100%)
DHA+EPA/85 grams (3 oz.)         5,560 grams

Roe or hard roe is the fully ripe internal egg masses in the ovaries, or the released external egg masses of fish.  There are usually two types of roe:

  • Red roe
  • Black roe

Red roe

Red roe is found from primarily Pacific, Atlantic and river species of salmon.  In Japan, there are a number of varieties of red roe and include these three:

  • Masago is roe from the capelin fish.  It is very small in size and has a orange color
  • Tobiko is roe from the flying fish. It has a red-orange color, a mild smoky or salty taste, and a crunchy texture
  • Ikura is roe from salmon.  It is a reddish orange color and larger in size than Tobiko

All three types of red roe are most widely known for its use in creating certain types of sushi.

Black roe

Black roe or caviar (Persian: خاویار‎, translit. Khāviyār‎) is a delicacy consisting of salt-cured fish-eggs of the Acipenseridae family. Traditionally, the term caviar refers only to roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. 

There are a number of varieties of black roe from these areas:

  • Beluga
  • Ossetra
  • Sevruga  

Photographs of various Roe varieties

Figure 1.  Tobiko

Figure 2.  Masago

Figure 3.  Salmon roe

Figure 4.  Beluga

Figure 5.  Ossetra

Figure 6.  Sevruga