Is Sushi Healthy?
How Healthy Is Sushi?
Sushi is delicious, Instagram-friendly, and — in the case of takeout — convenient, but is it healthy? It can be, according to dietitians. After all, sushi often incorporates nutrient-dense foods — avocados, seaweed, fresh vegetables. Of course, not every roll is created equal, and what you enjoy alongside those rolls makes a difference. If you want to make the healthiest sushi choice possible the next time you order, read on for advice from food pros.
Choose the Best Fillings
"To maximize the benefits [of sushi], choose pieces that are rich in omega-3s, the unsaturated fats that protect the heart and boost brain power," says Carol Ann Rinzler, author of Nutrition for Dummies. She suggests salmon and tuna, two of the healthiest sushi rolls to order, which are both low-calorie (40 calories per ounce for the salmon and 42 for the tuna), high in protein and omega-3s, and also deliver a big dose of vitamin D, a key nutrient in fat loss.
Incorporating "veggie rolls" into your Japanese meal is also a great option. "Many sushi restaurants include vegetarian choices on the menu with ingredients like fresh cucumbers, avocados, and sea vegetables," says Margaux J. Rathbun, certified nutritional therapy practitioner and creator of nutrition website Authentic Self Wellness. "Sea vegetables are also a powerful healing food full of nutrients like vitamin K, magnesium, and folate." (Intimidated by cooking with the superfood? Check out some creative ways to snack on sea veggies.)
Don't Skip the Accompaniments
You know that little pile of ginger that's always on your plate — it's not just a garnish! Eat it! "Ginger helps to boost the immune system as an effective antimicrobial and antiviral agent," says Rathbun. "It is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese." (Related: Can You Eat Sushi While Pregnant?)
The same goes for the wasabi. "Wasabi radish is packed with antioxidants like isothiocyanates, the sharp, smelly-when-heated compounds that give cruciferous veggies like broccoli their anti-cancer punch," Rinzler says. And you don't need much to reap the benefits. "A little wasabi goes a long way."
Eat Crunchy Rolls In Moderation
Rathburn says to stay away from the "crunchy rolls" that have been deep-fried to get that golden crust. "The less fancy the roll, the better," advises Rathbun.
Instead, "focus on ordering items that have been steamed or grilled," says Rathbun. "One of my favorite sushi choices would have to be sashimi because it's literally just the meat of the fish without any rice or extra ingredients."
Go with Whole Grains
Ask for brown rice sushi instead of white rice, suggests Rathbun. "There are ample amounts of fiber in brown rice, which is important for maintaining healthy digestion and regular bowel movements," she says. "Brown rice is also a great source of manganese, selenium, and magnesium." (Related: The Southeast Asian Cuisine You Haven't Tried—But Need To)
Not a fan of brown rice? Consider pairing sashimi with noodles instead. "Try dishes with soba noodles, made from the whole grain buckwheat," says Katie Clark, registered dietitian in San Diego. "Soba is a higher-fiber, higher-protein alternative to traditional white rice."
Pick the Right Dipping Sauce
Some rolls include mayo on the side or drizzled on top, but the condiment is high in saturated fat. "Ask for items that have no mayonnaise, which isn't traditional sushi anyway," suggests Clark. Another sauce that often comes with sushi, teriyaki sauce, can contain high fructose corn syrup and be high in sodium.
When choosing a condiment to dip in, Clark advises sushi diners to ask for reduced-sodium soy sauce. Just keep in mind that it isn't a low sodium food. It's simply 25 percent less salt than regular soy sauce.
If you're always tempted to scarf down your sushi, this tip is for you. Using chopsticks — if you're not super-skilled, that is — may help you eat more slowly than shoveling food in with the very-easy-to-use fork or spoon, says Clark. (Related: This Vegan Pad Thai Recipe Is Our Latest Meatless Dinner Obsession)
No matter what utensil you use, Pacing yourself by eating mindfully is the best way to actually feel full, stimulate healthy digestion, and enjoy your food the most.
Watch Your Serving Size
Janel Ovrut Funk, a Boston-based registered dietitian and blogger of EatWellWithJanelBlog.com, says that each sushi roll has about one cup of white rice in it, which can adds in calories (one cup has about 200 calories) if you're eating multiple rolls.
Be mindful of your portion size if you're trying to stay calorie-conscious, says Ovrut Funk. "If you're hungry for more, fill up on a salad and miso soup." A cup of miso soup has less than 75 calories, she says.