Is sushi "healthy"?
One thing that was contested was whether sushi is healthy, everyday food. Sushi seems kind of healthy, since it doesn’t weigh down your digestive system much. And fish is healthy - right? Sure it is, notwithstanding the mercery problem in certain types of fish.
However, sushi is not necessarily that healthy, and the culprit is not the fish. It’s the rice.
Here’s a sushi set that would be considered a small or ‘regular’ option on a sushi restaurant menu.
This set, which would be a small portion for an adult, is about 500 calories. Calorie wise that’s not too bad for a meal. However, most of those calories come from white rice that’s flavored with salt, sugar, vinegar and a little umami. Most people dip their sushi in some soy sauce, which adds more sodium, and may have a bowl of miso or clear soup too - more sodium. So while the fish itself maybe healthy, you’re eating a lot of refined carbohydrates and taking in a lot of sodium too. You probably want to add a salad or other vegetable side dish to round it out a bit.
The thing is though - I don’t know about you, but I like to order bigger portions of sushi than that usually! So I estimate that when I go out for sushi, I’m probably eating at least 800 calories or so, most of it from white rice. As a diabetic I can’t do that all the time for sure. (And to be totally honest, I probably eat a whole lot more than that when I hit my favorite sushi spots. I do love sushi!)
Sashimi is a different story of course. If you mix up your fish selection and do not just indulge in high-mercury fish like tuna, a sashimi meal can be fairly healthy - especially if you don’t have to worry about sodium. Still, the cost of good sashimi does prevent it from being an everyday dish for most people.
I did skim over the mercury factor, but it is a growing concern. And I haven’t even touched the subject of over-fishing and some species of fish being endangered - not directly related to our health perhaps, but something to be concerned about for sure. So all things considered, I don’t really think that sushi in particular can be considered everyday food, and even sashimi needs to be eaten in moderation.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. (But be nice. And yes, I am a genuine Japanese person, believe it or not!)
(Incidentally, the sushi set pictures abouve may look a bit strange, because it’s actually a plastic model of a sushi set used at a Japanese hospital to educate patients about healthy eating. I wrote about how these are used some time ago. See: How plastic food models are used for nutrition education. I think that seeing a lifesize, realistic model like this really makes the point very well.)