A lot of people worry about how healthy and nutritious the food they choose to order or put on their plate is. Sushi is a food that traces its origin to China and Japan. Its humble beginnings can be traced back to common folk trying to preserve freshwater fish for the cold winter months. Raw fish was packed with rice and salt and allowed to ferment for months. When it was time to eat the sushi, they removed the fish and threw away the rice. Over time, the sushi rice became a key and integral part of sushi.
Like most food, how healthy sushi is depends on how it has been prepared. Conventionally sushi uses ingredients that are low in calories and fats. It is also high in nutrition. However, how healthy your food is depends entirely on the kind that you order and also on the quantity. If you opt for deep fried sushi rolls or the type that comes laden with sauces that are mayo based or use condiments that are high in salt, it is not really healthy. And so, if you must, it’s a good idea to save up such kind of sushi for an occasional treat.
Sushi is conventionally made in a size that can be eaten in a bite. In fact, traditionally it is something of a finger food, and is eaten with the hands. Over time people have started to use chopsticks. Moderation is the key to healthy eating, and this rule applies to any cuisine.
Go the Japanese Way
Research shows that the average Japanese eats a diet rich in rice, raw fish and vegetables. The meals contain about 30% fats which belong to the poly unsaturated variety, and are healthy for the human body. In contrast, Western cuisines on an average contain 40% fats in every meal. Interestingly, regular intake of fish places the Japanese the lowest when it comes to heart disease. Some scientists also believe that sushi protects the body against lung cancer. While the Japanese smoke as much as the British, occurrence of lung disease is only two thirds of that in the United Kingdom. Scientists attribute this to the regular intake of fresh fish and vegetables. It is also worth noting that Japanese cuisine makes minimal use of processed foods.
Nutritionists agree that the healthiest kind of sushi use salmon or tuna for topping. Both fish are low in calories, 40 and 42 per ounce, respectively. Fish is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which is great for your heart and brain. Vegetarian sushi is also a healthy option for you to consider. They contain vegetables rich in nutrients and fiber. Vegetarian sushi usually offers about 150-170 calories and only 5 g of fat per sushi roll.
How healthy your sushi is may also depend on the condiments and pickles you choose to accompany it with. For instance, a tablespoon of soy sauce offers 1000 milligrams of sodium which accounts for almost half your daily salt intake. The pickled ginger helps clear your palate before you have another roll or piece of sushi. It has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and is good for you. The pickled radish is also rich in antioxidants and wonderful to enjoy between sushi bites.
Fried sushi is not how sushi was meant to be savored and is best avoided. Sushi which uses mayo based sauces and cream cheese filling may claim to be fusion sushi but they are high in calories, and low in nutrition. Furthermore, this type of preparation overwhelms the natural flavor of the sushi ingredients. A good sushi chef aims to accentuate natural flavors rather than mask them. It is a good idea to avoid fried sushi or the kind that uses cream cheese, and mayonnaise. Instead you can opt for authentic sushi which features fish or vegetables.
Is it Safe to eat Sushi?
The safety of any food preparation lies in the quality of its ingredients and also the sterility of the environment where it is prepared. Sushi chefs spend years learning the art and science that goes into creating sushi masterpieces. If you are eating out, it is vital that you choose a restaurant that holds a good reputation. If you are cooking sushi at home, it is important that you opt for quality ingredients.
Sushi may use raw fish or fermented ingredients. It is critical that the fish is handled with care and all the requisite guidelines are followed. In sushi preparations that use raw fish, it must be ensured that the fish is fresh and of good quality. Good sushi chefs choose the fish themselves, in order to ensure that they use the very best pieces for the sushi they intend to prepare.
The Secret is in the Sushi Ingredients
Sushi rice: Rice is a staple part of the Japanese diet and also in many other parts of the Asian continent. It is rich in carbohydrates and offers the body some protein. Naturopaths have advocated the use of rice in dealing with digestive ailments.
The USDA nutrient database states that the sushi rice is more than 68% water. It is almost fat free and if the sushi is prepared without rich mayo sauces and isn’t fried, it is a far healthier preparation. Sushi rice is high in carbohydrates, but as it is served in individual portions it encourages people to limit their intake of food. If you wish to reduce your carbohydrate intake, you may like to try some sashimi instead.
Raw fish: Fresh fish is consumed on a daily basis in Japan. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and aids in better blood circulation and heart functioning. It is estimated that the average Japanese consumes at least 100g of fish in preparations such as sushi, sashimi and tempura. If fish is to be served raw, it is important to ensure the freshness and quality of the fish.
Seaweed: Seaweed has always been an integral part of Japanese cuisine. It is rich in minerals like iodine, copper, calcium, iron and magnesium, and used in many preparations. When seaweed is used for sushi, it is dried up. Seaweed sheets are used to wraps the sushi into small bite size parcels.
Soy sauce: This sauce is made from fermented soya bean and is believed to have antioxidants that help protect the body against cancer. As the sauce also contains high amounts of sodium, it is better to use only a touch of it in your sushi.
Wasabi: This green pungent paste is often served with sushi. It has a strong, hot flavor that is more similar to the sharpness of mustard than that of the fire of chili. Regular intake of wasabi can help prevent cancer and also blood clots in the human body. Scientists also believe that the condiment can be useful in preventing tooth decay.
While you may find bottles of wasabi sauce or paste in the supermarket, in good sushi restaurants the wasabi is prepared only after a patron places an order. This is done as culinary experts believe that the condiment loses its fantastic flavor if it is left uncovered. This also explains why the sushi chef might lightly touch the sushi rice with wasabi before placing the topping. The idea is to serve the wasabi covered, so as to preserve if its flavor.
Fish roe: This ingredient, especially cod fish roe, is sometimes used in sushi. It is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, but as it is also high in cholesterol, it should be consumed in small amounts only.
Making Sushi Choices
Sushi is a healthy food, but the choices that you make at a restaurant may not be entirely healthy. Some sushi rolls can contain as much as 500 to 100 calories, and you need to make your food choices with care. You may like to begin your meal with edamame, a high protein and low calorie appetizer. Do order yours with minimal or sans salt. Next, enjoy a wonderful seaweed salad or a portion of miso soup, rich in nutrition and high on taste. When you eat a meal that may be high in salt it is a good idea to drink small sips of water, which will help the body throw out the excess salt.
Avoid drinking wine, sake or sweetened drinks with your meal. Instead you could have a refreshing cup of green tea. If you wish to reduce your intake of carbohydrate, you can ask the sushi chef for options that use less sushi rice. You may also like to order some sashimi, which is essentially raw fish and is not conventionally served with rice. Avoid rolls that use mayo sauces or sweetened brown sauce. Instead opt for sushi that comes with a touch of wasabi and allows you to enjoy the lingering and subtle taste of the fish and vegetables. Avoid fried, crunchy sushi preparations. If you do give into temptation then do try to eat only one or two portions.
Sushi as a culinary delight is all about balance. This includes flavors, ingredients and much more. In the same direction you need to also keep moderation in mind when feasting on sushi. Enjoy every bite and taste, and take your time while you eat sushi.