Sushi has become a favorite meal option around the world, but is eating sushi good for you? Is it as healthy as it seems? The answer depends on a few factors.
In its original version from Japan, sushi can be quite healthy and nutritious. When the key ingredients are fresh seafood and vegetables, sushi is rich in vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease. A common Japanese diet of vegetables, raw fish, and rice has resulted in one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.
However, when sushi is westernized to include various sauces and ingredients to appeal to different palettes, it becomes rich in calories and fat. Many fusion restaurants include ingredients such as spicy mayonnaise, cream cheese, and fried bits of tempura, and when eaten in large quantities can defeat the purpose of going out for a healthy meal.
So, is eating sushi good for you?
To stay healthy the next time you go out for sushi, focus on some of these options:
- Vegetarian rolls are a great option because they are usually filled with cucumbers, avocados, and sea vegetables, all of which are low on calories, and high in vitamins, magnesium, and folate.
- Fresh sashimi, also known as raw fish without rice, is great for your diet. At sushi restaurants, especially those in the western world, salmon is a popular choice that is readily offered in numerous ways. It can be raw like sashimi or nigiri, minced to make tartare, or grilled. Without excessive sauces, salmon is a tasty and healthy choice that is low in mercury and calories, but high in protein and Omega 3. Shrimp and mackerel are also nutritious fish options that are low in mercury.
- Nori (seaweed), which is commonly used to hold sushi pieces together, is high in minerals and rich in iodine, magnesium, calcium, and iron.
- Wasabi and ginger, usually offered as a condiment to add to your sushi, also present a few health benefits. Wasabi, presented as a green paste, is rich in antioxidants, and ginger is known to aid digestion and boost your immune system.
Unhealthy sushi options that are better to avoid:
- Tempura consists of shrimps, fish, and vegetables that are deep-fried in tempura batter. Fried food should always be avoided especially by those with heart problems and weight issues. Likewise, crunchy rolls usually have tempura, either sprinkled on top, or inside the roll itself. Although their texture and flavor can be tempting, they are extremely unhealthy.
- The use of soy sauce should be limited, although it popularly goes hand in hand with sushi. This fermented soybean sauce is high in sodium, and should be avoided especially by those who have hypertension.
- Red bluefin tuna, which is beautiful in color and flavorful, is high in mercury. Healthier types of tuna include albacore and yellow fin.
Other factors to watch out for include keeping your rice intake to a minimum, and staying away from rolls with too many sauces.
Keeping these recommendations in mind will help make your sushi experience a healthy one!