Sushi has made quite the impression on the growing health-conscious public in being one of the healthiest foods to eat and a perfect way to indulge ourselves when eating out given its quirky sushi-go-round cafes and playful social aspects.
HOWEVER! Sveltethy is here to burst your bubble once again… sorry.
Don’t be fooled by sushi’s cute and innocent appearance…Although japanese cuisine is considered some of the healthiest in the world, ‘westerners’ have the tendency to fatten, sweeten, and salten foods to the point of making healthy things, well… unhealthy.
I went to our local grocery store yesterday to do some shopping, while on my ‘healthy choices’ endeavors I picked up a package of sushi made at their deli thinking it could be a quick and easy lunch for the afternoon. Hoboy… I looked at the ingredients of what simple avocado rolls had and its apparently packed with corn syrup, a series of other refined sugars, and strings of long unpronounceable chemical names amongst— and often before— the three ‘main’ ingredients. And I thought I was eating avocado, white rice, and nori… so much for supermarket rolls.
HOW TO EAT SUSHI MORE-HEALTHILY
- start with miso soup or a salad: starting with miso soup (although it is high in sodium) or a salad with fill you up a bit before you receive your plates of sushi, making you inclined to eat less of the stuff
- eat with chopsticks: eating with chopsticks, though it may be a conscious endeavor for many of us, will cause us to eat slower. Rather than scarfing up our food and left wanting more, chopsticks will make us delicately work for eat bite.
- sample some soba: having dishes with soba rather than the traditional white rice is a great high-fiber, high-protein alternative to the usual medium that japanese food is with served with.
- choose sashimi over maki: Sashimi is raw fish served without rice, whereas maki sushi is served with rice and wrapped in seaweed. Personally, I don’t like raw fish and only order vegetarian rolls, so I just stick with the brown rice requests instead.
- use reduced-sodium soy sauce: keep in mind, reduced-sodium soy is not low in sodium, but it has at least 25% less sodium than the regular sauce. Reduced-sodium soy still has around 600mg.
- eat the ginger!: The pinkish stuff on the side isn’t just a garnish. Ginger helps boost the immune system as an effective antimicrobial and antiviral agent. It’s also a great source of potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
- request brown rice: Brown rice, unlike white rice, is a hearty grain. Rich in fiber and protein, brown rice is also a good source of vital nutrients. White rice, like white flour versus whole wheat flour, is an ‘empty’ grain. Keep in mind however that brown rice, although heartier still has as many carbohydrates and sugars in it as white rice.
- opt for veggies: opting for veggie rolls over meaty ones is a great option. There are many vegetarian options at sushi restaurants and usually the ones I prefer personally. The rolls filled with fresh cucumbers, avocados, carrots and sea veg are powerful nutrient rich healing foods full of vitamin K, magnesium, folate, and healthy fats. (Don’t try to compensate for ordering vegetables by getting tempura veg… see why in dont’s).
- have some wasabi (if you can handle it): wasabi radish is packed with antioxidants. I know the stuff is spicy, but a little wasabi goes a long way (and is a good flavor enhancing alternative to soy sauce).
- choose mackerel or salmon over some* tuna: when ordering sushi or sashimi chose fish meats that are rich in omega-3s and unsaturated fats. Salmon is low in calories (40 calories per ounce) but also provides heaps of protein, omega-3, and vitamin D. Mackerel too is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, it is low in mercury, high in protein, and low in calories (40 calories per ounce). See don’ts for why not *tuna.
- sushi wrapped in nori: More commonly recognized as seaweed, nori is that thin black layer that keeps your sushi rolls together. Nori is dired seaweed and contains heaps of health benefits including being a great source of iodine; zinc; calcium; vitamins A, E, C, and K; fiber; and protein.
- manage your portion sizes: a traditional serving size of sushi is one roll, or six pieces. If you think you’ll still be hungry, try filling up on soup, salad, or edamame as alternatives.
- avoid mayo and cream cheese filled sushis: Not only are mayo and cream cheese drenched and filled sushis non-traditional, but they are also both high in fat and calories.
- drenching your food in soy sauce: One tablespoon of regular tamari soy sauce (made only with soy) has over 1,000mg of sodium in it when the daily recommended intake is about 1500mg. Even shoyu soy sauce (made with wheat and soy) has close to 900mg. Stick with reduced-sodium and use it sparingly— ginger or wasabi are healthier ways to add flavor to your sushi.
- no tempura (fried) foods: deep frying your vegetables or seafoods in batter, though totally delicious, fries away all the nutrients and replaces it with fats, greases, and salts instead…which is what makes tempura taste so good, but still… its counterproductive.
- avoid *bluefin tuna: When I say tuna, I mean red bluefin tuna. It is a popular sushi ingredient, but is also one of the unhealthiest fish to eat, raw or otherwise. It is higher in mercury content and other chemicals than most other commercial fish, and the overfishing of the bluefin has unfortunate environmental consequences as well. Thankfully, more and more restaurants are replacing the bluefin tuna with more common and inexpensive yellowfin or albacore tuna. These kinds of tuna have the same benefits as mackerel and salmon that I mentioned above and just with slightly more calories.
I probably just made all of you crave sushi with all these images (none of which are mine for the record) so don’t worry, not all hope is lost dear friends. Sushi (and other japanese delicacies), if done thoughtfully, are still very healthy foods. But these precautions need to be kept in mind before you go on a sushi binge, that’s all (:
Happy New Years lovers!
Make those healthy 2014 resolutions and stick with them!
May this be your sveltest year yet!