If you’re looking for a delicious dinner out that has some genuine health benefits, you can definitely do a lot worse than sushi. Although it may be a stretch to call it a superfood (beware of hidden sodium, starches and calories) there are plenty of wonderful elements in sushi that can help you stay healthy.
You probably know that fish is a bona fide health food. It’s chock-full of healthy fats and can even help to lower your risk of cancer. The fish in sushi contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a wealth of benefits, including lowering triglycerides, improving heart health, helping with arthritis, combating depression, and lowering inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids may even help combat asthma, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease, although more research is necessary on these fronts. In addition to all this, fish is also a good source of protein. For example, four ounces of mackerel contains 25 grams of protein.
That spicy green paste served alongside your California roll could do more than add a kick to your meal. According to some, wasabi may be have antimicrobial properties, and could help with asthma, blood clots, cancer and even cavities.
Ginger, whether fresh or pickled, is often served next alongside sushi. It’s beyond dispute that it’s delicious, but ginger also has some beneficial health properties. In naturopathic circles, it’s used to treat upset stomach and morning sickness, and studies have shown that it can reduce vomiting and nausea. Ginger may also help with people with elevated cholesterol, and could help to reduce inflammation, although more studies are necessary to completely know its efficacy.
Nori is the blackish, dried seaweed used to wrap many sushi rolls. In Asian tradition, nori is reputed to have a number of health benefits. Recently, science has begun to support at least some of these claims. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that peptides derived from seaweed help to combat hypertension and may improve heart health. Additionally, nori has a lot of vitamins and nutrients, is high in fiber, and is low-calorie (although eating it wrapped around sushi does definitely increase the calorie count).
Sushi is traditionally served with white rice, but a large number of sushi restaurants offer healthier brown rice alternatives. Although brown-rice sushi doesn’t quite have the same smooth consistency as white rice sushi, it’s a whole grain food, with high levels of fiber, which can help cholesterol levels and aid in normal, healthy digestion. It also has more iron, magnesium, and B vitamins than white rice does.
Getting the Most from Sushi
While sushi can have many health benefits, it’s not a good idea to head to your nearest sushi buffet and load up your plate. A certain amount of moderation is necessary to get the optimal benefit.
Remember: Sushi is not always a low calorie food. Especially if you eat the special rolls that many American sushi restaurants offer, you can end up with a fairly high calorie count by the end of the meal. If you’re looking to keep your calorie count down, avoid rolls with fried ingredients, such as tempura shrimp. Similarly, be aware that some rolls have heavy, mayonnaise-based sauces or are filled with cream cheese that makes them calorie-dense. Order simpler, more traditional rolls keep your calorie intake down. Because sashimi does away with the rice altogether and just has raw fish, it is a very low-calorie, low carb and high protein food.
Also, be aware that some fish used in sushi has relatively high levels of mercury. This doesn’t mean you never should eat it, because this fish can have many other positive effects on your health. It may, however, mean that you shouldn’t live on an endless diet of sushi (as much of a dream existence as that would otherwise be). If you’re concerned about mercury, stick with sushi made from smaller fish, such as salmon and eel. Larger fish like tuna tend to have higher mercury levels.