How healthy is sushi?
Futomaki, Nigiri, Uramaki...whatever your favourite type of sushi roll, did you ever stop to think that sushi may not actually be a healthy choice? Enjoying delicious, inventive Danish-Japanese sushi rolls at a sushi restaurant in Greenwich last week, we wondered how healthy a choice it was really - could something which tastes so good really be bad?
With the average sushi lunch containing up to 1,050 calories, it's often common for 'Westernised' sushi rolls to contain more carbs and calories than you might expect. A typical sushi roll with rice and fish usually contains between 290 and 350 calories and as many carbs as 2.5 to 4 slices of bread - that's a whole lot of carbs! What else do you need to know next time you're heading out for sushi, or ordering in?
Eat more fish
We should all be eating two portions of fish a week, according to government recommendations, and one portion of fish should weigh 140g. So if you're thinking that chowing down on sushi for lunch is going to be a great way to get more fish into your diet, hold up! The average weight of fish in a sushi roll is just 5g. So you'd need to eat a lot of sushi (and a lot of carbs and calories!) to actually make a difference. Popular sushi boxes from M & S and Boots contain between 5g and 36g of fish. If you're trying to eat more fish, sashimi is a healthier choice - raw or seared slices of salmon or tuna, without the rice. It's low in processed carbs but packed with protein and omega-3s.
White sushi rice, often heavily processsed, accounts for up to 75% of the typical sushi roll and this processing causes loss of essential vitamins, minerals and fibre. A lack of fibre can cause many of us to still feel hungry even after eating a substantial amount of sushi. The average sushi roll also contain quite a lot of sugar and sugary rice vinegar, added to the rice as seasoning.
Not quite five-a-day
Although vegetable sushi contains cucumber, peppers and avocado, the tiny amount of vegetables won't contribute much towards your five-a-day, and the seaweed wrappers don't benefit your body's nutritional needs much either. You'd need to eat several boxes of sushi for any of the veg it contains to count towards your five-a-day.
Did you know that many take-away sushi boxes (and some restaurant sushi) are also loaded with salt? One piece of salmon, prawn or tuna sushi from Yo Sushi contains 1/4g of salt, whilst a California Roll contains almost 1/2g of salt. So treat yourself to 4 Nigiri and 4 California Rolls and you've already reached almost half of your daily recommended salt intake. Smoked fish such as mackerel or salmon, sushi rice and pickled vegetables and ginger all contribute to sushi's high salt content, not to mention the soy sauce, which contains almost 3g salt per tablespoon serving.
A moment on the lips...
Is sushi really a healthier option than a McDonald's, if you're trying to lose weight? A Yo Sushi Mixed Sushi Box contains 755 calories - that's more calories than in a Big Mac and small fries from the popular burger chain. Add to that the fact that sushi doesn't contain a whole lot of protein and fibre, responsible for helping you to feel satiated, and it's easy to see why many of us don't feel satisfied after eating a serving of sushi. Western rolls often include high-fat ingredients such as mayonnaise and cream cheese, adding even more calories to the mix, and sushi is low in calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Bad news for coeliacs too - if you're on a gluten-free diet then you might not be able to enjoy sushi, as many rolls contain soy sauce (check the labels or ask in restaurants). You can subsititute the soy dipping sauce usually provided with tamari, wheat-free soy sauce, but make sure soy isn't added to any of the rolls you're ordering.
Sushi isn't quite as healthy a choice as we've been led to believe, but then most of us don't eat sushi everyday. As an occasional substitute for a sandwich or a treat when eating out with friends, sushi is fine to indulge in - unless you're avoiding carbs, in which case sashimi is your best bet! There are some sushi restaurants serving non-traditional options which contain other grains such as quinoa and even grain-free sushi rolls, or you could always make your own rolls at home; it's really fun! If you need any inspiration, we have some healthy sushi recipes for you to try.