Is Sushi Healthy or Not?

            There is no doubt that there are many health benefits to eating sushi - that is the authentic and high quality kind that you find at the best Japanese restaurants worldwide… or in Japan. Unfortunately, most sushi that is sold in the western world is catered to the tastebuds of the western people. This means that there is usually something inside the sushi that is deep fried (or the entire roll itself is deep fried) or there is a ton of sugar/sodium loaded sauces inside or on top of sushi. The truth is that most of the sushi that is being consumed is not of high quality standards that you would find at authentic Japanese restaurants. Not to mention much of the fish has lost its flavor from being frozen for too long and therefore, chefs put on so much sauce (on top of the soy sauce that you use at the table). If you are too careless with what kind of sushi you eat, you will find yourself feeling hungry and craving more sugar, as sushi can be high in carbs without any proteins or veggies. Here are some facts about sushi that will make you think twice about eating some:


  1. Sushi rice is more than just rice. Ever wonder why sushi rice tastes so good? Its because there is rice vinegar and sugar that is mixed into the rice. On average there is about 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of rice vinegar per two cups of sushi rice. Not to mention your typical sushi roll is predominantly rice which is the equivalent carb content of two slices of bread. We always tend to focus on the bad qualities, so it’s important to mention some of the good qualities here. Rice by itself is a good source of carbohydrates which releases energy gradually. This is beneficial if you are athletic and are constantly on the move. In addition, it is very low in saturated fat, has no cholesterol or sodium, as is high in thiamine . Thiamine is what helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy which causes it to be burned rather than stored. This definitely explains why Japanese have an obesity rate that is 10 times less than here in the US because they eat rice every day at almost every meal. So why do people say that white rice is bad for you?? Because brown rice has slightly improved nutritional value and is giving white rice a bad reputation. The aforementioned rice vinegar actually has many health benefits and has been used in Japan for thousands of years. In fact, vinegar in general has been used globally for many antibiotic purposes. It reduces blood pressure, increases body’s ability to absorb nutrient, reduces high blood sugar and does much more.
  2. Soy Sauce. Unfortunately, many western world sushi eaters don’t eat sushi with minimal soy sauce and, instead, bathe their sushi in it. Soy sauce is incredibly high in sodium content and should be used sparingly.
  3. The rice used in sushi is short grain rice. White short grain rice is a simple carbohydrate, which means it will raise blood sugar levels when eaten by itself. Depending on the ingredients you put in your sushi roll, it can come out to be decently healthy. For example, cucumbers, avocado, and raw fish are all high in healthy fats and protein and will make a completely satisfying meal.


Here are some ways you can make the healthy choice for sushi:


  1. Try Sashimi - Sashimi is not exactly sushi… Sashimi is just raw fish without the rice and additional ingredients. Not everyone will love it because it doesn’t have the fusion of different flavors from the sauces but you will really be able to appreciate the different flavors of fish with a bit of wasabi and a touch of soy sauce. Not to mention this is a much lower calorie option. Many people who choose to eat sashimi ask for a bowl of rice on the side. This also allows you to monitor your rice intake.
  2. Say “no to Tempura. Tempura is a Japanese word that describes a food that has been deep fried, usually vegetables or shrimp/fish. Most popularly, shrimp tempura is an ingredient inside sushi rolls, so next time say you’d like to leave it out.
  3. Ask for Brown Rice. Believe it or not there are people that actually ask for brown rice in their sushi roll… the only problem is that brown rice is not sticky like sushi rice so it definitely will not taste the same and may disappoint you.
  4. Avoid Sauces. Avoid the heavy mayonnaise and/or sugar based sauces as they are the primary reason that makes sushi unhealthy. Some sushi rolls also contain cream cheese, which is completely unnecessary and are just a high calorie addition to your meal that is just as delicious without them.
  5. Stay away from the “fancy rolls. Many westernized Japanese restaurants will offer “fancy” rolls that will have 10 different ingredients in them. These are actually not traditional Japanese and are much larger with more calories than the real Japanese sushi. Save yourself some calories by going for the smaller and more traditional rolls! You may find yourself enjoying the simplicity of them much more compared to the blend of 15 different ingredients/condiments.
  6. Ask the chef to add less rice. Traditionally, sushi does not have a monolithic amount of rice. Many restaurants here, however, tend to add more rice so that is more filling. Unfortunately, this means you’re tacking on more calories as well. So, next time you decide to order sushi, ask for less rice. 


Erika Alexandra


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