Nutritional Truths About Sushi

With a vendor on every street corner, sushi is an extremely popular, quick and easy lunch. Once touted as a number one choice for the health conscious, in recent times the healthiness of this lunchtime favourite has come into question. Fat-laden fillings, added sugar and high glycaemic index white rice can leave your sushi looking less like the healthy option you might have thought. Here are a few tips to make sure your sushi really is a healthy lunch option.

Is Sushi Healthy?

This all depends on the type of sushi you order! Given there is such a variety of ingredients to choose from, you want to ensure you’re making the most health conscious choice.

Oily fish such as salmon and tuna is a common ingredient that contains omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid.

Commonly used vegetables include cucumber, eggplant and avocado. Eggplants are a great source of fibre, vitamins B1 and B6, and potassium. Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E.

Seaweed is also used in sushi, both as dried sheets used to wrap around the rice or in salads. Seaweed is high in fibre and protein as well as being a source of minerals including iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

What is considered unhealthy sushi though? Well, sushi rice is often made 'sticky' with a combination of vinegar, sugar and salt, which will increase your total daily intake of sugar and salt.

Soy sauce is also very high in salt, so it's worth using in moderation. Just one teaspoon of soy sauce can have up to 15% of your recommended daily salt intake. Consider opting for wasabi as a healthier alternative to soy sauce.

Some varieties of sushi are made with mayonnaise, cheeses or deep fried in batter. This can dramatically increase the levels of saturated fats in your meal. Although tasty, battered fillings are higher in calories as is the case with creamy sauces.

Making the best choice.

Without getting too bogged down in calorie counting and what the ‘right’ choices are, here’s a breakdown of things to consider if you want to keep your sushi healthy.

  • Choose fish such as tuna, salmon and crab. These are higher in protein and filled with healthy Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Avoid fish that contains higher mercury levels including marlin, swordfish and shark. Those who are pregnant, nursing mothers and young children should avoid these.
  • Load up on steamed and fresh vegetables. They’re healthy, filling, rich in fiber and have minimal calories. You can also use veggies to fulfil that need for crunch instead of choosing battered food items. Crispy or battered fillings such as crispy chicken, tempura and fried tofu are higher in unhealthy saturated fats and calories overall.
  • Ask for brown rice over white. Brown rice is higher in fiber and more filling than white rice, leaving you less hungry afterwards. Even better, ask for no rice at all!
  • Opt for steamed, grilled, or raw options. This will make your sushi healthier and leaner. Consider sashimi as a lighter alternative to say, a hand roll.
  • The garnishes aren’t there just to look good. Ginger and wasabi are packed full of rich nutrients and antioxidants that can boost immunity and reduce inflammation.
  • Be mindful of the sauces in your sushi. Cream cheese, mayonnaise and soy sauce are common with sushi. These can be high in salt and sugar, however can be enjoyed in moderation.
  • Purchase from reputable sushi restaurants to minimise the risk of bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, and tapeworms. If not stored and treated properly, raw fish can become a breeding ground for these bacteria’s which will simply, make you sick.

So, is it healthy?

In short yes it can be! Ensure you are making the most health conscious decisions you can when it comes to ordering your lunch time sushi. As with anything, enjoy in moderation and either way you’re not going to see the scales tip over.