There are few foods that we associate more with Asia and Japan than Sushi, and if you are travelling to Japan then probably you are looking forward to the thought of getting to eat lots of it in fancy, hip and unusual restaurants. What maybe adds to this excitement too is the idea that sushi is also very healthy, and in fact it’s true that these raw fishes and rice have a lot of health benefits. However they also carry with them some warnings and it might not be the super food that you think it is. Here then we will look at some of the health pros and cons of sushi and whether it’s really all that good for you.
The main ingredient in many types of sushi is raw fish. This includes lots of raw tuna as well as other fish like prawn and salmon. These oily fish right away carry with them may great health benefits and are high in cancer-fighting and skin-preserving antioxidants. These fight free radicals and thereby can help to prevent cell damage that could otherwise eventually lead to cancer.
At the same time oily fish are high in omega 3 fatty acid, which is known for being very good for the brain as well as serving a number of other crucial functions in the body, and they are great sources of lean protein. All this is very well and good, but there are some downsides too – for instance these fish are also known for being relatively high in heavy metals such as mercury which can be poisonous in high doses. At the same time, the mass production of sushi often means that worms infesting the fish can bypass quality control – not a problem for most of us as they are killed off by the freezing process, but something which can cause an aggravated stomach in those who are sensitive. Tuna and salmon can also contain a range of industrial chemicals such as dioxins and pesticides that get dumped in the ocean and that are more likely to make it into our dinner when the fish is uncooked.
A piece of good news is that sushi also contains a range of steamed vegetables. Not only are these vegetables of course high in a range of vitamins and minerals, but because they’re steamed they will also contain no fatty oils and manage to hang onto more of those health benefits. The seaweed that is used to wrap up the sushi – nori – is high in iodine which helps to encourage correct hormone function and is also high in calcium, iron and magnesium.
Preservatives and Calories
There’s more bad news though – and that’s that sushi you buy in supermarkets is laden with preservatives to keep it fresh and colourful. This means copious quantities of salt (which also adds to the sugar) which of course can place strain on the heart. Meanwhile sushi is actually quite high in calories – a single California roll for instance will give you around 400 calories – more than an average sandwich from Tesco.
Worth noting however is that part of the problem here is that these foods are preserved and presented in a Western friendly manner when you get them in supermarkets – something that won’t be a problem if you’re travelling to Japan. Likewise it’s also important to bear in mind that issues regarding heavy metals aren’t just a problem for sushi, but rather will be a problem for people eating tuna on their sandwiches too. As for calories – the entire menu in Japan will be much lower in calories than what you would encounter in the West so it’s hardly comparable when you eat a few sushi rolls that are high in complex carbs.
In conclusion? When you’re out here make sure to enjoy your sushi and don’t worry about health effects – but when you get back home don’t binge on it thinking it’s miracle health food…
Sarah McPherson is a travel blogger and has travelled extensively across Europe. She works for Port Stephens accommodation and shares her adventurous experiences through her posts.
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