So often our favorite indulgences are guilty pleasures, but the health benefits of sushi make it one dish that can be both enjoyable and nutritious.
According to Organic Facts, sushi abounds with beneficial properties. Some ingredients have been touted for their ability to help lower blood pressure, reduce “bad” cholesterol levels, help regulate hormone balance, help increase metabolism, and even help prevent certain types of cancer. Others are said to aid in digestion and blood circulation, and in building stronger bones and strengthening the immune system.
While there are a few gotchas to be aware of, a wise choice in sushi can be loaded with a wide variety of nutrients in every layer, from the outer wrap to the delicious inner morsels.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most commonly used ingredients:
- Nori is very low calorie but contains protein and is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and niacin. It’s a source of folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, and iodine which is necessary for proper hormone function.
- Rice is a fiber source and is also gluten-free, which is a major concern for many people today.
- Rice vinegar contains antibacterial properties.
- Vegetables add a variety of nutrition. Avacado is one of the most popular and is a good source of healthy fat.
- Ginger Root contains an antimocrobial and antiviral agent and works as a natural antiseptic that is said to boost the immune system and help ward off colds. It’s also known to aid digestion and has been used to treat sea sickness and other minor stomach ailments.
- Soy Sauce is made from soybeans, which are high in protein, magnesium, potassium and iron. In this case your product choice is important, so see more about soy sauce below.
- Wasabi contains vitamin C and antibacterial properties. Granted, it’s quite spicy, but the faint of palette can take heart because it doesn’t take much to reap the benefits.
As a bonus, the traditional way to end your meal is with green tea, which only adds to the healthy benefits. In addition to antioxidants, it contains tannins that are good for your digestive tract. (For lots more great reasons to drink green tea check this out at WebMD.com.)
What About Those Gotchas?
The healthiest sushi rolls are those that remain closer to traditional Japanese. Stay away from deep fried crunchy rolls or added tempura bits, and don’t use any mayonnaise based sauces or those that include cream cheese.
As for portion control, a proper serving size is 6 pieces, or one roll. Just because the ingredients are rich in nutrients does not mean they are calorie free. Instead of overindulging, you can start of with a bowl of miso soup and enjoy a salad with your meal.
About Soy Sauce: One problem with soy sauce is the extremely high salt content. Lower sodium options are available, so always go with those when you can. Equally as important is to find a brand that is non-GMO. A tremendous amount of soy bean crops come from seed that has been genetically modified. Fortunately, people are becoming much more conscious of what they eat, and there are now brands of soy sauce available that are organic and GMO free.
About Raw Fish: Personally, I stick to veggie-only sushi because I’m squeamish about raw fish. Based on what I’ve read, my advice is don’t eat raw fish anywhere, ever.
Chefs who are specifically trained in this art are supposed to know exactly what is required in handling raw fish to avoid risks of contamination by parasites or bacteria. For that reason, experts warn anyone who makes it at home to use only fully cooked fish, or substitute other ingredients that don’t pose risks.
In addition to that, there are other health risks with certain types of fish, raw or cooked. Some, such as shark and swordfish, are rated high in mercury content, and even tuna may have moderate levels. One place you can learn more is in the article “2017 EPA-FDA Advice about Eating Fish and Shellfish”. For further reading, below is a short list of other articles that include information about the risks involved in eating raw fish.
Make Your Own Sushi
Is sushi healthy if you make your own at home? Again, the answer depends on whether you choose ingredients wisely. If the idea of using only cooked fish in your homemade rolls doesn’t appeal to you, don’t let that stop you because there are tons of delicious vegetables you can use. Some, like avocados and shiitake mushrooms, are standard fare in restaurants, but you can get creative and use your own healthy favorites. You’ll find that you can reap some excellent benefits when you make sushi at home, including:
- You control the salt content, in both the ingredients and the sauces.
- You can avoid processed foods such as the “fake” crab often used in commercial products.
- You can avoid any GMO ingredients, additives, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals.
- You control calorie content by using less rice and more veggies.
California Rolls are a great choice for making at home as they can be super healthy. Sea vegetables have been a mainstay in the Japanese diet for centuries because of their concentrated mineral content. They are rich in folate, magnesium, vitamin K, and other nutrients, and according to the online magazine Shape, they are said to be a powerful healing food.
The only catch is that making your own sushi rolls might be more difficult than you think. A good chef makes it look so easy, and maybe it is for some talented people. Others buy a bamboo mat and dive in, only to end up frustrated with a mess that doesn’t vaguely resemble what they intended.
One of the best ways for rank beginners to get started is with a good sushi making kit. SushiQuick makes an excellent product that comes with everything you need, and it’s designed to make the entire process as easy as possible even for those with zero experience. (Click image to see it on Amazon.)
To find out more, read our complete review of this sushi making kit, or click here to see it on Amazon. This could even make a nice gift for those who love this Japanese treat, or for healthy eaters who might like to try something different.
To sum it up, it’s easy to see how sushi is indeed one treat for your taste buds that can be beneficial to your health. It’s all about making good choices, and you can have even more control over what goes into your sushi when you make it yourself at home.
More Information Related to Sushi and Eating Raw Fish
Nothing in this article is intended to be interpreted as the “final word” on food safety. No one at The Healthy Kitchen Shop claims to be any kind of expert on nutrition and/or any sushi-related topics. You should always perform due diligence before preparing or consuming anything that could in any way affect your health and well being.
The list below is by no means complete. These links are provided only as a way for you to get started doing your own research to learn what you need to know about risks related to the consumption of raw fish.
- “2017 EPA-FDA Advice about Eating Fish and Shellfish”
- The Myth of Sushi-Grade
- Sashimi: Is It Okay to Eat Raw Fish?
- Why sushi is good for you
The above list does not cover everything you need to know. Those are just some examples to get you started, but you must do your own thorough research to find accurate information from trusted sources.