Is sushi healthy?
People of all ages are enthusiastic about the popular food, but have you ever wondered about its impact on your health, or how much is too much?
Sushi is typically made of seafood, seaweed, rice and vegetables. It can be a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
“Omega-3s are essential oils that have anti-inflammatory benefits and support heart, brain and eye health,” says Kelly Whirity, a dietitian at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Omega 3 fatty acids are found naturally in some foods. You can get adequate amounts by eating a balanced diet that includes fish and seafood such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines. They are also found in nuts, seeds and plant-based oils.”
Depending on your choice of sushi roll, amount and frequency of consumption, sushi can be a healthy meal choice. But remember to be cautious of things like mercury, sodium and carbohydrate ingestion to maintain a balanced diet.
Whirity recommends following these safe fish tips when consuming sushi:
- Limit the consumption of fish that are known to contain higher amounts of mercury. The toxic organic compound works its way up the food chain. The general rule is the bigger the fish, the higher the mercury content. Avoid regular consumption of swordfish, shark and king mackerel.
- Watch out for high-sodium ingredients like spicy mayo and soy, which can exceed the typical recommendation of 1,500 milligrams daily. Even lessening your sauce usage is helpful to reducing sodium intake.
- Steer clear of carbohydrate overload. White rice, the usual addition to sushi, is considered a refined carb. Sugar and vinegar may be added to make it sticky. Consumption of sushi is often followed by more hunger because of the elevation in blood sugar. Try substituting with brown rice, a whole-grain option. If you can’t do without white rice, simply eat less of it. Choose a miso soup or edamame prior to the meal to help with satiety. Also, stick to restaurants where the fish-to-rice ratio is higher.
- Avoid raw fish and shellfish, such as sashimi, while pregnant. The FDA states that during pregnancy, women should not consume raw fish because of foodborne illnesses and mercury poisoning.
“In moderation, sushi is a healthy way to get essential acids and proteins, just be weary of overdoing it with other additions to your seafood,” says Whirity. “Portion control is important when consuming sushi since the rolls are compact; they can include high amounts of calories.”
To avoid empty calories, avoid mayonnaise-based sauces such as “spicy mayo” and battered or deep-fried additives commonly labeled “tempura”. Healthy alternatives for adding flavor include wasabi and ginger, which also aid in digestion.
When being mindful of the recommended diet factors, sushi can be a healthy meal choice for the average person.
About the Author
Allison Garetto, health enews contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she is pursuing a degree in communication and a minor in psychology. Allison is a vegetarian, artist and travel enthusiast.