Is Sushi Healthy?
The answer to that question is yes, and no, and relies on how you look at it and what you choose to eat.
Raw salmon and tuna contain heart-healthy Omega-3 fats that are said to be one of the reasons Japan has the greatest number of known centenarians.
Sushi rolls made with raw fish or uncooked vegetables are your best bet. Topped up with edamame or a salad it definitely qualifies as a nutritious meal.
Seaweed (the green stuff that's wrapped around your sushi) is high in iron and fibre, and is said to have anti-cancer benefits and hormone regulating properties. But it's also loaded with sodium which can lead to high blood pressure.
Rice provides the basis of a sushi rolls and is made by adding vinegar and sugar, so although sushi comes with a healthy dose of minerals (from the seaweed), good fats (from raw fish) and high protein (from the fish and rice), if you're counting calories, sushi isn't necessarily the super healthy food that you might have thought it was.
Sushi roll calories
Here are some of the most popular Sushi Train choices and their calorific value:
Chicken and Avocado roll 712kJ/169 calories
Tuna Avocado roll 639kJ/152 calories
California roll 525kJ/125 calories
Salmon Ngiri 481kJ/114 calories
Aburi Salmon (grilled) 586kJ/139 calories
Aburi Scallop 424kJ/101 calories
Unagi 350kJ/83 calories
Corn Salad Ship 593kJ/141 calories
Tuna Salad Ship 550kJ/131 calories
Who doesn't love a California roll. A juicy crab stick, avocado, cucumber and mayo make a delicious bite. However, one Go Sushi California roll will load you up with around 20g carbohydrates, 7.3g sugar, 613mg sodium 2.7g fat and 509kJ/122 calories.
Have three of those for lunch and you can see how it soon adds up.
Before you know it you've downed 60g carbs, 22g sugar, 8g fat, 1838mg sodium (almost half the recommended daily intake), and 1527kJ/366 calories.
The fat and calories are reasonable and could be considered healthy, but the sugar and sodium are fairly high. And that's before you dip it in soy sauce or finish off with a green tea ice-cream.
At first glance, a bento box seems like a healthy option with teriyaki chicken, seaweed salad, boiled rice, miso and Japanese pickles. Sounds like a balanced meal, right?
Let's look a little closer…
According to fitness app My Fitness Pal, a chicken teriyaki bento box contains 3612 kJ/860 calories, 120g carbs, 6g sugar, 23g fat and would take 2.2 hours of cycling to burn off.
Don't know about you, but two hours of exercise to burn off a healthy lunch sounds a bit steep.
Compare it with a Big Mac at 2364 kJ/563 calories, 44g carbs, 9g sugar and 33g fat – ok, that's without fries – and the comparison begins to make sushi look like it should be classed as a 'sometimes food'.
The healthiest way to eat sushi
If you want to eat healthy food that's good for you, and you love sushi, all you need to do is stick to some simple rules:
- Raw salmon
- Raw tuna
- Seaweed salad
- Avocado or cucumber rolls
- Brown rice
- Vegetable dishes
Stay away from
- Sushi covered in mayo or teriyaki sauce
- Deep fried chicken (karaage)
- Sushi made with tempura
- Soy Sauce
A simple way to keep your sushi meal as healthy as possible is to order edamame when you arrive and ask for cooked dishes without the sauce (you'll save hundreds of calories by reducing the sugar and salt intake).
The nutritional value of sushi makes it a worthwhile option but try and limit yourself to 3 or 4 plates.
And, if you opt for a bento box, just remember you're effectively eating the equivalent of a Japanese Big Mac.