Green caviar, or sea grapes, look set to lead the health food market with their bountiful benefits. By Estelle Low
Unlike its fish roe cousins, green caviar is a type of seaweed. Photo: Meal Belly
You know caviar as the salted fish roe that’s commonly found on sushi and canapes. When bitten into, those mini black or orange pearls give you a burst of saltiness, or some say umami.
Now embrace a new kind: Green caviar.
The difference? Unlike its caviar cousins which hail from fish, green caviar is a type of seaweed that happens to have many beads growing on its stem. It looks exactly like salted fish eggs, hence the name green caviar.
Also known as sea grapes, green caviar used to be found only in countries like Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. But not anymore. This novelty food has made its way to our shores, thanks to globalisation and some entrepreneurial spirits.
You can now order it online via www.mealbelly.com, a local startup by Dirisa Tan. Four years ago, Dirisa had her first taste of green caviar when her dad brought it back from Vietnam. Loving it, Dirisa decided to make green caviar available in Singapore. Prices start from $3 for a 20g serving, and includes free shipping in Singapore.
She says: “Green caviar is not only versatile, but it’s also jam-packed with health benefits. It easily complements staple dishes like salads and soups, and is a healthy snack when eaten on its own or with a dipping sauce.”
Green caviar tastes lovely when paired with a savoury dip like miso sauce. Photo: Meal Belly
Wait, what does green caviar taste like?
True to its origin, green caviar will remind you of seawater: salty and slightly fishy. It can be a bit much to bear if you’re eating more than just a handful. Dip it into something savoury like Thai chilli sauce or miso sauce for a more palatable snack. Else, use it as a topping for soup, salad or rice.
What are the health benefits of green caviar?
1. Strengthens bones and joints
Green caviar is rich in protein, calcium and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in omega3 group. These nutrients are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Protects eyes and heart
The unsaturated fatty acids in green caviar also help to boost eyesight and memory, as well as reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack.
3. Lowers risk of hypertension and diabetes
Green caviar is rich in calcium, potassium and vitamin C, which can regulate blood pressure by reducing sodium and fluid build-up in the body. The high omega-3 fatty acid content helps to decrease insulin resistance, resulting in a lower blood sugar level.
4. Helps prevent thyroid goiters
A goiter is the abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland, which may cause coughing or difficulty in swallowing or breathing. Green caviar is rich in iodine, with a 100g containing about 1.8mg of the mineral. One serving of green caviar daily provides sufficient iodine to help prevent goiter.
5. Promotes radiant skin and silky hair
Similar to other types of seaweed, green caviar contains healthy fats that can protect cell membranes from free radical damage, thereby improving skin elasticity. It’s also a source of collagen and antioxidants, two beauty weapons that fight the negative effects of ageing to give you an all-rounded glow. For more complexion-enhancing foods, read this.
6. Fights cancerous cells
Seaweed contains Fucoidan, a natural compound with anti-cancer properties. Several studies have found Fucoidan to have significant anti-tumour as well as immune system-boosting effects. That’s why seaweed like kelp, kombu and wakame are on the superfoods list. That includes green caviar!
7. Keeps your weight in check
Green caviar contains a mere 4kcal per 100g, while offering tons of nutrition from its high iodine, zinc, omega-3, calcium, potassium and vitamin content. Now this is one award-winning snack!