Is sushi really healthy or not?
N.B. This blog is also available in Finnish and you’ll find it here
Couple weeks ago, I published a photo of my sushi dinner and it started an interesting debate whether sushi is healthy or not. Yes and no, the answer is difficult and not as clear-cut! You might think you are making a healthy choice and a favor to your body when having sushi instead of burger, for example, but the truth may be quite the opposite…
The problem in this case is, that the range of foods that can be labelled as ‘sushi’ is really wide, and all of these ‘sushi items’ aren’t on the same line when it comes to nutrition. At its simplest, sushi can be just veggies and some rice, perhaps a bit of heart-healthy fish and other seafood, but if you don’t choose carefully, you’ll end up filling your tummy with calorie-loaded sauces, mayonnaise and cream cheese, fried foods and refined carbs from that white rice.
However, depending on the choices you make you can end up eating a healthy and satisfying meal or packing yourself with calories worth of a greasy hamburger meal. Check these tips and avoid the pitfalls!
Forget mayonnaise. Sushi rolls with creamy sauces, cream cheese and mayonnaise fillings aren’t traditional sushi anyway, so forget them and save A LOT of calories.
Choose sashimi over maki. Each sushi roll (which means about 6 pieces) contains normally over 2 dl of white rice (2,4 dl has about 240 calories), and that adds up the extra calories easily, because who becomes satisfied with only six pieces? Go for sashimi, opt those at least part of your meal, as it’s only raw fish without any rice or seaweed.
Order salmon and tuna. If you want to maximize the health benefits of sushi, you should choose salmon or tuna filled rolls. Those are rich in omega-3s, the fats that protect the heart and play a role in brain function. Salmon and tuna rolls both are also lower in calories when opting the ones without mayo or other sauces.
Veggie rolls are always a good choice. Including vegetarian choices on your meal is profitable as those usually are a lower calorie option than ordinary sushi, and more nutritious plus filled with fiber. Also try to choose the ones with sea vegetables to add some powerful healing nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, and folate into your meal.
Brown rice instead of regular white rice. Have you ever wondered why sushi rice tastes so good? Well, traditional sushi rice is made with sugar (!!!) and rice vinegar, to get its “stickiness”, and you probably already guessed that it’s not that healthy ingredient. White rice is also basically only empty calories, so if you eat sushi often, you should consider brown rice. Brown rice contains a lot more fiber than white rice, which is important for maintaining healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. It’s also a great source of manganese, selenium, and magnesium. Must admit that this is not my first choice when ordering sushi, but for me sushi is a rare treat, not a daily lunch choice 😉 .
Try to minimize the sodium. One of the biggest problems while eating sushi, is that the sodium in a sushi meal can add up quickly. Even the sushi roll itself may contain tremendous amounts of sodium and when you dip it in the soy sauce, the amount of it spikes up.
To avoid this, consider ordering sashimi instead of nigiri (because the rice can be fairly high in sodium). If maki rolls are your thing, avoid the ones made with salty sauces (for example the ones with spicy or brown sauce) or pickled vegetables and choose instead rolls made with raw fish and vegetables like cucumber and avocado. Also, don’t dip the rice in the soy sauce, dip the fish! You’ll get less salt and it’s actually the proper form to eat sushi 😉 .
What’s your favorite type sushi?