The exact nutrition data for sushi is hotly debated, and it can range vastly depending on the type of sushi and with what ingredients it is prepared. Though many advocate sushi as a healthy food, some caution against the risks it carries, such as parasitic infections.
West or East?
Western Sushi is not necessarily the same as Japanese cuisine. Much of western sushi uses fatty fish, while eastern sushi often uses leaner fish. It’s important to note this difference, as western sushi is often somewhat higher in calories and fat, though still a very healthy choice next to many American foods.
Low Calories, Low Fat
As sushi is made with very fresh and very natural ingredients, it is both low on calories and on fat (even the western sushi that is often made with fatty fishes like salmon, or oil laden avocado). Most sushi rolls contain under 70 calories, are filling and don’t pack on the weight.
Why is this so? It’s because of what sushi actually is: fresh fish and vegetables. The average sushi piece contains four distinct parts:
- A filling: raw fish, shellfish or vegetables
The average Japanese person eats roughly 100 grams of fish per day. It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids and other active enzymes. Even fatty fish are still packed with vitamin-B and selenium.
Rice is a staple that provides protein, but you must be careful. Sushi is often made with sticky white rice, which not only has the nutrients leeched, but is also full of sugar and carbohydrates, making it sticky so it holds together. For certain diets, this amount can be unacceptable. Sometimes sushi is also made with brown rice, and while this has more nutrients, brown rice contains an acid, which can block your body’s intake of calcium and iron.
Wasabi is a paste ground from a root, though in some western dishes it’s actually dyed horseradish, as wasabi is very difficult to grow. True wasabi is a palate cleanser and is known to aid cancer prevention, as well as tooth decay.
Lastly, seaweed binds it all together, a plant rich in iodine, copper, calcium iron and magnesium. It has a highly concentrated mineral content, making it a very healthy food.
Some things that can add unhealthy calories to your sushi dishes are the added ingredients that many sushi chefs use to make the sushi extra tasty. Be aware of any additional sauces, as many of these are laden with calories and excessive sodium. Also, when ordering a spicy roll, such as spicy tuna or spicy yellow tail, keep in mind that the “spicy” sauce mixed into your sushi is basically spicy mayonnaise (or another type of fattening sauce). Therefore, order these dishes in moderation.
Another Japanese option that is detrimental to your waistline is tempura. Tempura is basically a fancy word for “fried,” so stay clear of that shrimp tempura roll (or any crunchy roll) if you are trying to lose weight.
As we are talking about raw fish, there are some things of which it is necessary to be mindful. Sometimes raw fish can contain parasites, worms or bacteria harmful to your health. Due to this threat, it it’s advised that pregnant women stay away from sushi, or opt for vegetable rolls rather than those containing fish or shellfish.
Likewise, harmful substances of mercury are occasionally found in sushi-making fish, so it’s wise not to eat sushi every day.
You can avoid these threats by eating at a reputable sushi restaurant, where sanitary standards are very high. It is also important to make sure the fish is fresh, refrigerated and doesn’t sit out in the sun — all things which can prevent bacterial and parasitic growth.
Sushi is a very healthy food, but like most foods, should be eaten in moderation. Too much sushi can be a bad thing, especially if you are carefully monitoring your carbohydrate intake. Though eastern sushi is less fattening than western sushi, the possibility of parasitic and bacterial infections is always present, so use caution when enjoying this natural and healthy food.