Is Sushi Good For You?
Is sushi good for you? Yes. (And no.) Like most types of food, it depends on what you order.
At a quick glance, sushi seems like a healthy option. Fish, especially salmon, trout, and tuna, is a healthy, high-protein choice, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in cardiovascular health, brain function, and younger looking skin. (Hooray!)
However, beware! One wrong turn on the menu and your “healthy” meal may become a nutritional dead end: the wrong sushi choices might contain twice the daily recommended amount of sodium, might cause a skyrocket in carbs (not the good kind), and may have relatively no significant vegetables. Uggh. In addition, traditional sushi white rice is a refined carbohydrate that spikes your blood sugar level and makes you feel hungry immediately after the sugar crash. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, sushi rice is made with rice vinegar (okay) and sugar (not okay – about 1 tablespoon of sugar per cup of cooked rice). No wonder it tastes so good!
So now what?
5 Health-Conscious Sushi Rules:
1. For a healthier alternative, ask that your sushi be made with brown rice. It’s higher in fiber, which keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time, and doesn’t throw you onto that sugar roller coaster. If brown rice is not available, opt for sashimi (raw fish without rice) instead of maki sushi (rolls).
2. Order your rolls wrapped in nori, the seaweed wrap that’s offered on many – but not all – rolls. In contrast to the rice paper wrap used on some sushi rolls, nori is loaded with vitamin A, B-6, and vitamin C, as well as plenty of important nutrients, such as Iodine.
3. To boost your intake of vitamins as well as fiber, look for sushi rolls that contain vegetables as well as seafood.
4. Skip the soy sauce (or ask for a low-sodium alternative), but load up on the wasabi (the spicy green stuff), which contains antioxidants. Remember, spicy foods help boost your metabolism. Hooray! And eat all the pickled ginger you can. It has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
5. Watch your mercury intake. Certain fish contain high levels of mercury, which can cause memory impairment, hair loss, and headaches. Mercury, in high doses, is toxic and causes inflammation in our bodies. Steer clear of swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and shark. Tuna, a fish favorite among sushi-goers, has a moderate amount of mercury. The FDA recommends no more than 12 ounces per week.
Like ALL food choices found at all restaurants, eating healthy is about finding the healthy version of what’s offered on the menu. Some of these are no-brainers. For example, a fresh piece of tuna on brown rice is obviously a healthier option than Crispy Rice & Spicy Tuna (which is deep-fried white rice and chopped tuna mixed with spicy mayo). And most things are okay in moderation. But use common sense, folks. Moderate amounts of shrimp are good for you. But a deep fried mound of shrimp tempura? Not so much.