Popular belief would dictate that sushi is a very healthy meal. After all, fish is one of the healthiest options when it comes to protein. But, is sushi good for you? Let’s analyze this delicacy.
We’ve suddenly gone crazy about sushi! Americans are eating more and more of it each year. While some may just be jumping on the bandwagon because of sushi’s recent popularity, most believe they are reaping the health benefits of a new “super food”. It’s a known fact that fish and seafood offer phenomenal nourishment and can also assist in weight loss. However, not all sushi is created equal and some choices may be doing more harm than good.
Why Sushi is Good For You
Since sushi is made up primarily of fish and seafood, it’s a high-quality protein. Fish and seafood are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatory compounds that contribute to cardiovascular and brain health as well as hair and skin conditioning.
Ginger and wasabi are a large part of the sushi dinner. These ingredients also contribute to good health. Their immunity characteristics help ward off nausea and bacteria. While most wasabi served in America is faux wasabi made from its cousin, horseradish, it still offers some of the same health benefits as that of true wasabi.
Another ingredient in many versions of sushi is seaweed. Seaweed contains a good quantity of iodine which is mandatory for a healthy thyroid. Seaweed also contains vitamin A that assists with hair and skin health as well as a slew of other health benefits.
Why Sushi is Bad For You
As with most foods, there’s also a bad side. Sushi can contain high amounts of sodium. In some instances, the sodium level in one serving can be half of the recommended daily allowance. That’s a lot of salt! Not only is that a lot of salt, it can also be a health risk, especially for those that have certain health conditions such as high blood pressure.
Many breeds of fish used to make sushi are on the high end when it comes to mercury content. Too much mercury can be harmful to vital organs. Swordfish, mackerel and many species of tuna typically weigh in heavy on the mercury scale. It’s even recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that we avoid these fish.
The whole rice thing associated with sushi should be another concern. Traditional sushi rice is white rice. White rice is high in carbohydrates which may throw a monkey wrench into your dieting goals. Additionally, sushi rice is made with rice wine vinegar and sugar. That little ball of white fluff contains more calories that one might think.
Is Sushi Good for You? We Can Make it Work
There you have it…the good, the bad and the ugly of sushi. So, is sushi good for you? Should it be avoided? Not necessarily, to both questions. Sushi can offer a healthy diet option, but only with due diligence. A better understanding of the basics of sushi will make a difference similar to that of eating a Big Mac and fries or a fresh garden salad.
Here’s a few healthy tips when ordering sushi:
- Salmon, shrimp, eel, octopus and trout, are your best bet. They’re lower in mercury and contain more protein than other fish.
- Choose salmon, tuna and trout if higher omega-3 fatty acids are desired.
- Refrain from the sauces. Although they taste phenomenal, they’re typically high in calories.
- Tempura rolls should be avoided. They’re high in calories as well as sodium.
- Skip the white rice and order brown rice. Brown rice is more of a whole grain than that of its white counterpart. It’s high in fiber and lacks the sugar and calories that’s found in traditional sushi rice.
- Choose your sushi restaurant wisely. A clean, well established restaurant with a good reputation is paramount. Do they employ skilled sushi chefs? Sushi is raw fish and as such, requires proper handling and storage to avoid the risk of food borne illness from pathogens.
- The biggest secret to enjoying a great sushi experience with all the health benefits is to stick with sashimi. Sashimi consists of high quality thin-cut fish served without rice.
So, the answer to the question, is sushi good for you is…it depends.
For anyone who strives for a healthy diet knows, homework is essential. We know from studying that healthy options are available even at fast food joints. The same applies to sushi. There are healthy alternatives as well as those that aren’t.
Moderation is also key. Sushi every day may seem like the world’s healthiest diet, but once analyzed…it doesn’t fly. Incorporating wise menu selections of sushi into a well balanced diet is a healthy and tasty option. The rules of moderation would dictate that a weekly intake of sushi is fine and healthy. Twice a week would also be OK , if you have a thing for sushi.
In closing, it should also be noted that sushi, or any raw fish and shellfish should be avoided by pregnant women, persons with a weakened immune system, kids under 5 years of age and adults over the age of 65, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
See ya at the sushi bar!
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