Is It Healthy: Sushi?

Sushi seems like a healthy choice; it's made fish, veggies and rice . . . but is it really all that good for you?

My husband and I make a weekly sushi lunch date.  It’s quick and easy to do in the middle of a busy work day and sushi is made with fish, veggies and rice, so it’s a healthy choice . . . or is it?

Yes?

Sushi can be a balanced meal with fish, veggies and steamed rice. Opt for fatty fish like salmon and tuna and get your daily dose of omega-3 fats or choose lean white fish or low-calorie shellfish like shrimp or scallops. Veggies like cucumbers and carrots are low in calories and avocado adds heart healthy monounsaturated fat. Many places now serve brown rice in their sushi rolls instead of white for an extra boost of fiber.

You’ll also get a healthy dose of sea vegetables like nori in sushi rolls and wakame in miso soup. These low-calorie veggies are packed with minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and iodine along with vitamins like E, C, A and various B’s.

No?

Deep-fried vegetables in the form of tempura—whether as an appetizer or in a roll—can bust your waistline. As can ordering numerous sushi rolls  -- all that rice can really add up. Some restaurants pack in as much as 1 cup of rice into a 6-piece roll, that’s over 200 calories alone! Add to that cream cheese, fried tempura or mayo-based sauces and the calories can double in a flash. And most people order more than one roll . . .

Don’t forget about the sodium overload. One tablespoon of soy sauce has over 1,000 milligrams of sodium -- that's close to 44% of your daily recommended maximum.

Then there's the issue of raw fish which can carry parasites and bacteria. If sashimi-grade fish is purchased and the fish is properly frozen, the fish should be parasite-free (they're easily killed at very cold temperatures).  Bacteria are another story; they can easily thrive on raw fish, which can lead to food poisoning (and its telltale symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps). This is the reason I steer clear of ordering it; I prefer vegetable rolls instead.

The last issue is the mercury found in fish. Regular sushi eaters can be at risk for mercury toxicity as suspected in Entourage star Jeremy Piven, who reportedly ate sushi regularly 1-2 times a day. Avoiding too much mercury is especially important for women of childbearing age, pregnant and lactating women and children as it can cause neurological damage. The FDA recommends these folks eat a maximum of 12-ounces of fish per week.

The Verdict?

Sushi can be a healthy choice if you’re conscious of what you order. Avoid fried dishes, high-calorie fillings, and switch to low-sodium soy sauce. Start by ordering 1 or 2 rolls, edamame, miso soup or other healthier options. You can always add on more food if you’re still hungry.

Tell Us: What’s your take on sushi?
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