Sushi is well-loved all over the world and is a favorite for many people, but is it actually healthy for you? And if so, which types are healthier?
What is sushi?
Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that usually consists of a slightly vinegared, short-grain rice with fish and vegetables wrapped together. There are a few types including Sashimi, Temaki, Nigiri, Uramaki, and Maki. Raw or cooked shellfish, fish, and tofu are added for protein and avocado and seaweed balance the dish. Sushi is most often served with ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce on the side to compliment the dish.
Sushi can be a healthy meal, but it depends on which dish you have. Sushi with salmon and tuna can be great for you because they both have oily fats containing omega 3 fatty acids, an essential component of a healthy diet. There are also a lot of vegetables in the dish like cucumber, avocado, and aubergine, and all of these contain vitamins B1 and B6 as well as potassium and are a great source of fiber. Avocados also contain vitamin E and monounsaturated fat, which is very important for maintaining healthy levels of good fats. A key ingredient in a lot of sushi dishes is seaweed, which has a plethora of beneficial nutrients too. It is used to wrap the sushi and contains high levels of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and iodine with added protein.
The unhealthy part of sushi is the sticky rice, because what makes it sticky is a mixture of sugar, salt, and vinegar. Soy sauce is also very high in salt and just one teaspoon can contain 15 % of the recommended daily intake. There are also other unhealthy ingredients like mayonnaise or deep-frying batter. These can all drastically increase the amount of saturated fats in a meal. Many people are also very concerned with consuming raw fish, but unless you are nursing, pregnant, or under the age of 16, there are generally no negative effects. However, avoiding swordfish, shark, and marlin is a good idea as these species have a high mercury content that is toxic to humans.
The biggest problem people see when eating raw fish is that it may have high levels of mercury. Many studies have shown that people who consume large amounts of sushi tend to have higher levels of mercury in their blood when compared to those who don’t. Some fish, like Spanish Mackerel, and Bluefin Tuna, have been tested and have more mercury than salmon. There is also the debate of whether farmed or wild fish is better in this regard but currently, there isn’t enough evidence to prove which is better. The NHS recommends that we eat two portions of fish a week to get natural oils so you shouldn’t cut out fish altogether.
Overall sushi can be a healthy meal if consumed with control. Avoid mayonnaise and deep-fried sushi and only have a little soy sauce. Portion size is also very important, between 8 and 10 pieces is advised but any more and you risk consuming too much salt. Adding some beans or miso soup is a great way to fill up your plate without being unhealthy.