Kimonos, geishas, and sushi are some of the most popular symbols of Japanese culture that dates back to centuries. In recent times, a great deal of enthusiasm for emerging fad diets has enabled sushi especially to garner worldwide attention. But is sushi really just a fancy way to eat rice and seafood or is it really healthy? Studies say that sushi can be fairly healthy but it doesn’t come without serious health risks.
What Makes Sushi Healthy?
The following ingredients in sushi make it not only aesthetically appealing but also quite good for health when in moderation.1
The white, short-grained, sweet rice used to make sushi varieties is mixed with a dressing made of rice vinegar, sugar, salt, konbu, and sake. It is rich in amylopectin that gives the rice stickiness to hold the sushi together. It has almost nil fiber content but is rich in carbohydrates and iron.2
The green vegetable wrappers used in maki and temaki varieties of sushi are called nori. It’s an edible seaweed farmed and processed to prepare sushi. If you want to choose nori of high-quality look for the ones with no holes in it. Researchers have found that nori has high iodine content, ability to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and is rich in fiber, iron and proteins.3
Sushi demands the use of fish (both raw and cooked) hence it’s best to ensure that the fish being used is fresh and of superior quality. If ocean fishes are used, they aren’t cooked, however, if freshwater fishes are used, then they are often cooked. The most often used varieties of fish include tuna, salmon, red snapper, mackerel, and yellowtail.
Other seafood ingredients in sushi include caviar, squid, octopus, sea urchins, shrimps, and eels. Long-term studies have proven that seafood is high in iodine, omega-fatty acids, vitamin D and protein hence can significantly reduce the chances of heart disease, cancer and thyroid disorders.4
The green colored paste served as a dip alongside sushi is a wasabi. It has a pungent and spicy flavor and hence should be taken in tiny amounts. It is made from the grated stem of the Eutrema japonicum plant that belongs to the same family as cabbage, horseradish, and mustard.
It’s rich in beta-carotenes, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates that give it antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.5
Gari or sweet pickled ginger is used to cleanse the palate while you are moving from one piece of sushi to the next. The mighty ginger has proven antimicrobial and pain-reliveing properties. It also aids in digestion and is good for your overall health.6
Soy sauce is a popular dipping sauce used with sushi. As it has a powerful flavor that can overpower the taste of the sushi itself, some sushi lovers don’t prefer it. The high-sodium content in soy sauce is also one of the reasons why it’s avoided.
The Risks Associated With Eating Sushi
There are many different types of sushi made with a wide-range of ingredients. However, rice remains common across all varieties. Researchers worldwide have raised the below health concerns regarding sushi.
- Sushi rice has a high glycemic index that makes it unfit for people with insulin resistance as it can spike blood sugar levels and lead to Type 2 diabetes7
- Studies have proven a close link between parasitic infestations among raw fish eaters.8Therefore, people with weak immunity like children, pregnant women, and elderly adults shouldn’t consume sushi
- Predatory fishes are more likely to be contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals which when consumed can lead to heavy metal poisoning9
- The pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce are interesting condiments but are best consumed in tiny amounts. Their high-sodium content makes them an unhealthy food choice for people suffering from hypertension. Studies have even proved that wasabi in large amounts can cause liver toxicity10
Ultimately, it’s best to have sushi from a trusted restaurant that has strict guidelines for purchasing and preparation practices.mSushi is not the most healthy food and requires a lot of discretion before consumption among pregnant women, kids and the elderly. To get the most out of your sushi, choose brown instead of white rice. Prefer cooked fish instead of raw and go easy on the condiments. Sushi or any food choice for that matter is good when eaten mindfully with moderation.
|↑2||Nutritional Data for Rice, white, short-grain, cooked. SKIPTHEPIE.ORG|
|↑3||Nori: A Nutritious, Protein-Rich Seaweed That Wraps Sushi. SpiritFoods|
|↑4||Fernandes, Ana Carolina, Caroline Opolski Medeiros, Greyce Luci Bernardo, Michele Vieira Ebone, Patrícia Faria Di Pietro, Maria Alice Altenburg de Assis, and Francisco de Assis Guedes de Vasconcelos. “Benefits and risks of fish consumption for the human health.” Revista de Nutrição 25, no. 2 (2012): 283-295.|
|↑5, ↑10||7 Wonderful Benefits Of Wasabi.Organic Facts|
|↑6||Mashhadi, Nafiseh Shokri, Reza Ghiasvand, Gholamreza Askari, Mitra Hariri, Leila Darvishi, and Mohammad Reza Mofid. “Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence.” International journal of preventive medicine 4 (2013).|
|↑7||Hu, Emily A., An Pan, Vasanti Malik, and Qi Sun. “White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review.” Bmj 344 (2012): e1454.|
|↑8||Nawa, Yukifumi, Christoph Hatz, and Johannes Blum. “Sushi delights and parasites: the risk of fishborne and foodborne parasitic zoonoses in Asia.” Clinical infectious diseases 41, no. 9 (2005): 1297-1303.|
|↑9||Bloomingdale, Arienne, Lauren B. Guthrie, Sarah Price, Robert O. Wright, Deborah Platek, Jess Haines, and Emily Oken. “A qualitative study of fish consumption during pregnancy.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 92, no. 5 (2010): 1234-1240.|