Is Sushi Healthy? Here's What To Know

Is Sushi Healthy? Here’s What To Know

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Tamara
January 28, 2022
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Is it sushi night in your household? While you might assume that sushi is healthy because it contains omega-3-rich fish, it can become unhealthy depending on the ingredients and sauces it contains. 

How many calories are in sushi? An order of six pieces of sushi usually contains between 250 and 370 calories, but the amount depends on the fish that was used and its other ingredients.

With that in mind, let’s explore sushi in greater detail! Here’s what to know about sushi’s health benefits.  

What Is Sushi? 

What Is Sushi? 

Sushi is a roll of seaweed that’s filled with ingredients such as rice, fish, and vegetables. It can also be served with additions, such as ginger, soy sauce, or wasabi.

Sushi has its origins in Japan and it can be traced back to the 7th century when it was used as a way to keep fish healthier and fresher for longer.

Fish was cleaned, pressed between salt and rice, and then fermented for a few weeks before it could be eaten. 

Then, in the 17th century, vinegar was added to the rice and this improved its taste while reducing its fermentation time. By the 19th century, fresh fish was used in sushi and that’s how our current sushi foods came about. People also stopped fermenting fish.  

What Healthy Ingredients Are In Sushi? 

What Healthy Ingredients Are In Sushi? 

As you know, sushi can be prepared in a variety of ways and with different types of ingredients. Some popular sushi ingredients include the following healthy ones. 

  • Salmon or other oily fish: If your sushi contains oily fish, such as salmon and tuna, the sushi will provide a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Based on the fact that you should eat two portions of fish weekly because it’s good for the heart, sushi can form part of a healthy diet. Another thing that makes fish healthy is that fish is one of the few foods that contain Vitamin D naturally. 
  • Cucumber: This is another ingredient you’ll find in different sushi variations. It’s delicious and healthy since it contains a high water content, electrolytes, and vitamins such as Vitamin A and K. Cucumber is especially delicious when combined with a creamy ingredient, such as cream cheese.
  • Avocado: This healthy fat is a popular ingredient that you’ll find in sushi and vegetarian sushi variations. It’s a healthy source of monounsaturated fats to lower your cholesterol, and it also provides Vitamin E. 
  • Seaweed: This common sushi ingredient contains protein, fiber, iron, zinc, iodine, and Vitamin B12. 
  • Wasabi: This is an ingredient with a bold flavor and it comes from the stem of the Eutrema japonicum plant, which is related to horseradish and cabbage. Wasabi is healthy because it contains beta carotene, which gets converted into Vitamin A in the body. It also contains compounds such as isothiocyanates that are anti-inflammatory

What Makes Sushi Unhealthy?

What Makes Sushi Unhealthy?

Although sushi can be healthy, you have to be wary of some of its ingredients which can make it quite unhealthy to eat, especially on a regular basis.

  • Soy sauce: This is a common ingredient used in sushi to add a punch of flavor, but soy sauce contains a lot of salt.
  • Sushi rice: This rice has sugar, salt, and vinegar to make it sticky, so it’s also not good for you if you’re watching your sodium intake. It also contains a lot of sugar.
  • Mayonnaise: While delicious, mayo boosts how many saturated fats you’re eating, which can increase your bad cholesterol.
  • Wasabi: Although we featured wasabi in our list of healthy sushi ingredients, it can be unhealthy. Many restaurants serving sushi will use an imitation wasabi paste that’s made from mustard powder, green dye, and horseradish so it won’t have the same nutritional benefits as the wasabi plant. 
  • Raw fish: If you eat sushi that contains raw fish, this puts you at risk of bacteria and parasites, such as salmonella. If you’re going to eat raw sushi from restaurants, make sure you choose a reputable restaurant that follows food safety rules or opt for cooked fish instead. 

Tips For Eating Sushi

Tips For Eating Sushi

If you want to nip the unhealthy ingredients found in sushi in the bud and boost sushi’s nutritional values, here are some things you should bear in mind the next time you order sushi or make it at home. 

  • Choose sushi that contains brown rice: This contains more fiber than white rice, so it will make you feel fuller for longer. Brown rice is also a medium glycemic index food, so it doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike as white rice does.
  • Make sure your sushi contains lots of fish and less rice: This will boost your consumption of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and reduce your salt and sugar consumption.
  • Eat nutritious sides: Enjoy your sushi with healthy protein and fiber-rich foods. This will boost your meal’s nutritional value. 

Sushi Variations To Choose Vs Sushi To Avoid

Sushi Variations To Choose Vs Sushi To Avoid

There are many different sushi variations available, which can make it difficult to know which one to order for dinner on the spur of the moment.

So, we break down what sushi variations you should choose compared to sushi that’s best avoided. 

Best Sushi Variations To Enjoy 

  • California Roll: This is a classic sushi variation that includes avocado, cucumber, rice, and nori (seaweed). As long as you stay away from fatty sauces and dips that boost your calorie intake, the California roll is a healthy choice. 
  • Rainbow Roll: This sushi dish contains salmon, tuna, and sometimes other types of fish. It’s made with a California roll, so it’s filled with protein and healthy fats. Of course, make sure you eat it in moderation!  
  • Salmon Sushi: This is one of the best types of sushi to enjoy. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s even healthier when placed on hand-pressed rice or in a roll. Just be mindful of the sauces and any extras as they can increase your consumption of fat. 
  • Vegetarian Sushi: If you’re vegetarian you can enjoy healthy sushi by giving fish a miss. By ordering sushi rolls that are vegetarian and contain ingredients such as avocado, cucumber, onion, tofu, and mushroom, you can get a satisfying sushi dinner.
  • Tuna Roll: This sushi roll is filled with protein, plus ordering tuna is a nice alternative to salmon. Just make sure you avoid the spicy version of this roll as it will contain more calories and fat. 

Sushi Variations To Avoid

  • Philadelphia Roll: This mainly contains cream cheese which is delicious but contains a lot of cholesterol and saturated fats. What’s misleading about the Philadelphia Roll is that it contains small amounts of healthy avo and salmon, but it’s the cream cheese that makes it slip into the unhealthy sushi category.
  • Shrimp Tempura: Shrimp is not as healthy as fatty fish like salmon. What further makes this type of sushi unhealthy is that it’s usually covered in batter and then deep-fried, which makes it oily and filled with lots of fat.
  • Swordfish Sushi: Swordfish is a delicacy when enjoyed in sushi, but it’s a type of fish that contains high quantities of mercury. This is dangerous for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and it shouldn’t be given to children, but research has also shown that there’s a possible link between mercury consumption and heart disease. 
  • Mackerel Sushi: Although mackerel is considered to be healthy because it contains omega-3s and protein, it can potentially contain high quantities of mercury, so be careful when ordering it in sushi.
  • Dragon Roll: If you haven’t heard about a dragon roll, this contains eel, otherwise known as unagi, which has health benefits such as being rich in omega-3s and protein. The problem with a dragon roll is that it’s made with a sauce that’s high in calories. In addition, unagi is endangered. 

Why is pickled ginger served with sushi?

Pickled ginger is a condiment that’s a palate cleanser so you can refresh your taste buds between bites of delicious sushi. 

Should you avoid spicy sushi rolls? 

Adding spice to sushi rolls might sound delicious, but restaurants sometimes use bold flavors such as those in spices to mask the taste of fish that’s starting to become stale. So, it’s probably a good idea to avoid these sushi rolls. 

Conclusion

Is sushi healthy? If you love eating sushi, you might wonder if it’s good for you. In this article, we feature important tips that you should know about sushi, such as its health benefits, what sushi to eat, and which sushi variations you should avoid. 

Resources:

Tamara

Tamara is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. She has dedicated a large chunk of her life to researching healthy food recipes and diet plans, and also teaching people how to improve their eating habits. Using Eatomology, Tamara shares the very best diet plans, cookbooks, and more. Also, for those on a quest to improve their kitchen, Tamara shares some awesome and high-quality kitchen equipment recommendations as well as buying guides on her website.