The health benefits of sushi

Once considered an esoteric dish, sushi has gone mainstream in North American restaurants and homes — and no wonder. This beautiful food is not just delicious and nutritious; it's also an art that has evolved over centuries.  Read on to learn the health benefits of incorporating sushi into your diet.

The health benefits of sushi

Technically, the word sushi refers to vinegared rice, but the word is commonly used to describe a variety of finger-sized foods that include raw fish on a bed of rice (nigiri) or rice seaweed rolls, both thin and in larger sizes, with fish and/or vegetables (maki). The foods can be eaten as is, or dipped into shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) before eating. Much care and attention is put into the creation of these beautiful foods.

1. An old art form

Sushi had its beginnings in the 7th century when Southesast Asia introduced the technique of pickling. The Japanese adapted this method when packing rice and fish. As the fish fermented, the rice produced lactic acid, which in turn caused the fish to be pickled.

After many improvements throughout the centuries, sushi has developed into a unique healthful food, and its popularity continues to grow.

2. Health benefits

Sushi uses simple, healthful ingredients — rice, seaweed, fish and vegetable — and it is low in fat and calories, so it's a great choice for those watching their weight or worried about cholesterol. Those watching their salt intake should go easy on the seaweed (nori) wrapped varieties and the soy sauce.

  • The bite-sized pieces encourage the diner to eat slowly and savour the meal.
  • A typical serving of sushi would consist of a variety of about 10 pieces of nigiri and thin rolls, which would contain about 450 calories.
  • As a general rule, nigiri ranges in calories from 40 to 100, with about 30 calories from the rice and the remaining from the various types of fishes or topping.
  • Two pieces of thin roll are about equal to one piece of nigiri, and thick rolls vary considerably depending on their ingredients.
  • One of the most popular, California roll, which contains fish and avocado, has about 40 calories per piece.

3. Caution

Although chefs trained in the art of preparing sushi usually maintain rigorous standards of freshness and cleanliness, eating raw fish carries certain risks. Both freshwater and saltwater fish can be intermediate hosts for parasitic worms. Many of the fish used to make sushi are chilled to a temperature that kills parasites; nonetheless, sushi-eaters should be aware that there is a risk of infection.

Because the fish used in sushi is uncooked, it should not be eaten by pregnant women or those with immune disorders, because of the small risk of exposure to bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes and parasites.

For most diners, however, these risks are considered minimal, as long as they eat in reputable restaurants. For anyone who prefers not to eat raw fish, there are many other options, including cooked crab, shrimp, eggs, tofu or vegetables.

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