Is sushi healthy? - Everything you need to know about Maki, Nigiri & Co nutritionally | SUSHIYA sansaro

Is sushi healthy - everything you need to know about maki, nigiri & co in terms of nutritional physiology

Table of contents
Sushi is on everyone's lips - the seemingly quick and uncomplicated snack from Japan delights gourmets and gourmands alike. But is sushi also healthy? What do you have to watch out for if you want to eat healthy sushi or maybe even have allergies? On this page you will find interesting information about the health value of various sushi ingredients. 

Nutrition experts consider sushi according to different criteria than restaurant patrons. They look at protein and vitamin content, minerals, fat or cholesterol content, and carbohydrates. They look at calorie content, nutritional value or blood sugar levels. They also ask about the balance of important nutrients.

The health value of Sushi is undisputed, as long as sushi is enjoyed in moderation. The classic Japanese cuisine, which is known under the term Washoku The Japanese cuisine, which summarizes the Japanese cuisine, lives precisely from a balance, is also called a cuisine of harmony. Sushi is only one part of the versatile Japanese cuisine and also not a daily meal in Japan. 

The culinary variety of even Japanese home cooking provides a balanced intake of nutrients. 

Other topics related to sushi:

Where sushi actually comes from - the History of sushi

How to eat sushi - all about sushi etiquette

Not only sushi without rice - all about sashimi

What makes Japanese food so special - Washoku World Heritage Site

Sushi from a nutritional point of view

Nutrition experts advise against frequent sushi consumption, especially for pregnant women and people with thyroid disorders or diabetes. More on this later. 

From a nutritional point of view, some ingredients for sushi should be looked at more closely. Therefore, in the following we deal with rice, seaweed, fish, Soy sauceginger or other sushi ingredients. All in all, moderate sushi consumption cannot be given a bad report card. The content of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, proteins, vitamins or minerals is a plus. 

How many calories does sushi have?

This question cannot be answered across the board in view of a richly stocked menu. Maki rolls, by their very nature, have a different calorie content than nigiri or inside-out rolls. The calorie content depends on what you order. 

Western mayo creations can be real calorie bombs

In terms of calories, fatty mayonnaise toppings or cream cheese fillings, which are virtually unknown in Japan and are only often used in the Western world, are particularly significant. 

Tuna preparations or fried shrimp can also be calorie bombs. The sugar content of some ingredients should also be considered.

The main part of the calorie content is generated by rice and, where present, possible toppings and dressings with mayonnaise creations or chili perversions. 

The calorie content of such "un-Japanese" deep-fried sushi contents or sauce-rich sushi dishes is quite considerable.

The three basic ingredients of sushi

1. leavened and fermented rice

The main basis of sushi is rice, traditionally it is polished white rice. This is prepared with rice vinegar, sugar and salt. The taste of a sushi roll lives above all from the delicate combination of the mildly seasoned rice with the respective ingredient. 

However, a disadvantage is that the carbohydrates from polished rice go into the blood more quickly compared to unpolished rice. White rice drives up the blood sugar level. The subsequent drop in blood sugar ensures renewed hunger within a short time. White rice also does not score highly in nutritional value. If you eat it only rarely, however, there is nothing wrong with it.

2. raw fish and seafood

Typical for sushi preparations are tuna, salmon, mackerel, freshwater eel as well as seafood such as shrimp or crab meat. Here, a distinction must be made between real crab meat and imitation crab meat (surimi).

The fish used are rich in animal protein. Proteins and amino acids are essential and vital nutritional components. The same applies to the components iodine and vitamin D as well as the unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. All of the above are theoretically healthy for now. Fish such as mackerel and salmon score points for their exceptionally high vitamin D content. Latent deficiencies of this "sun vitamin" have become normal due to the wearing of membrane clothing and potent sunscreens with a high sun protection factor. 

Basically, always a good tip: the cheaper a sushi meal turns out (compare "all-you-can-eat" offers), the more likely it is that farmed fish of the cheapest variety was used.

3. nori seaweed

Sushi rolls are usually (except for rare special creations) wrapped with nori seaweed - except for Uramaki, Inside-Out rollswhere the nori is on the inside and the rice on the outside. 

The seaweed leaves hold the filling of the sushi roll together. They also increase its nutritional value. Nori algae score high in vitamins A, B12, C and E. They also contain zinc and small amounts of iodine. Algae wrappers also contain vegetable proteins as well as dietary fiber. However, the absolute amount of algae in an average sushi meal is not appreciably high.

What are the health risks of eating sushi?

Undoubtedly, under certain conditions there are certain health risks that you should know. Precisely because fresh, raw fish is handled, you should therefore get sushi only in high-quality restaurants. 

Not influenceable by the quality of the respective restaurant are of course the risks, which are given by your own individual organism. Such health risks are mostly due to possible intolerances, diseases or allergies.

Bacterial infestation due to inadequate cooling

Bacterial contamination does not occur in freshly processed, properly refrigerated and processed sushi ingredients. However, bacterial contamination cannot be ruled out in frozen ready-made sushi or delivery service providers. The most common reason: a break in the cold chain. 

A Norwegian study found that 71 percent of 58 sushi samples from various grocery stores were contaminated with bacteria. For shoppers, this meant gastrointestinal problems and other consequences. Poor compliance with the cold chain was identified as the cause. Lack of hygiene during processing can also pose a health risk.

Individually, however, we have never had a bad experience with the shelf life of sushi. After all Sushi was originally invented as a method of keeping fresh fish for longer without refrigeration. Of course, this is a subjective individual experience: in general, fresh fish should be kept chilled at 2 degrees Celsius.

Cholesterol levels are often underestimated

If we take an average sushi serving weighing 100 grams as a basis, it consists of about 4 grams of fat, 1.2 grams of saturated fatty acids, 1.4 grams of unsaturated fatty acids and 1.4 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also contains 20 milligrams of cholesterol. Depending on the type of sushi, these values may vary. Whether the cholesterol in sushi poses a health risk also depends on the amount consumed.

Tamari as a gluten-free soy sauce alternative

For people who suffer from celiac disease or who want to eat a gluten-free diet due to an intolerance to gluten in grains, gluten-free tamari soy sauce offers an alternative. 

Tamari consists only of water, soy and salt. Normal soy sauces are made from soybeans, wheat, water and salt. In our restaurant sansaro we therefore offer an alternative to our Organic Shoyu an organic tamari for an additional charge - because it is of course much more expensive to buy.

Gluten in sushi rolls

Sushi rolls are basically gluten-free. However, surimi may contain small amounts of starch. Whether this contains gluten varies.

Glutamate powder - not included in sushi

Monosodium glutamate is known as a flavor enhancer under the name "glutamate". Fact: The controversial substance occurs naturally in dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, fish, potatoes, peas, corn, chicken and beef, soy or fish sauce. In general, protein foods are the most common natural carriers of glutamate. A certain amount of glutamate is therefore already absorbed via such foods.

In sushi cuisine, soy sauces and mackerel in particular are potential glutamate carriers. However, this is the naturally occurring glutamate. Monosodium glutamate, on the other hand, has come under criticism because the food industry and many Chinese restaurants use glutamate powder wastefully. In a high-quality sushi restaurant, however, monosodium glutamate has no place in the kitchen.

Pickled ginger sometimes causes problems

Pickled ginger is a standard garnish for sushi dishes. It is well known that ginger is a metabolism activator. It has an antibacterial effect, aids digestion and contains potassium as well as magnesium and manganese. From a Japanese culinary perspective, ginger is merely a very minor flavor neutralizer between different sushi. For reasons of etiquette, pickled ginger should in no way be thought of as a sort of "side salad." This would also not be clever from a health point of view, because pickled ginger, as sold in most sushi restaurants around the world, contains relatively many preservatives and additives.

Iodine may influence thyroid disorders

Some sushi rolls are not served without nori seaweed coating. However, the proportion of algae is rather small. Therefore, the nutrient richness of nori seaweed is rather marginal from a nutritional point of view. However, nori seaweed is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. In terms of vitamins, vitamins A and B1, C and E are represented. The natural salt content in the algae does not have a negative impact as long as large quantities of algae are not consumed. 

However, the iodine content of nori seaweed can be relevant. If a guest has hyperthyroidism or Hashimoto's syndrome, they should consult their doctor about eating seaweed before visiting a sushi restaurant. If necessary, it is advisable to pay more attention to Sashimi and Nigirithan on Makimono (rolls). This is more typical of authentic Japanese sushi enjoyment anyway.

Food coloring is found only in wasabi

In upscale Japanese cuisine, food coloring is generally not used. However, the spicy wasabi horseradish, which is served with every sushi dish, can be problematic. 

In fact, most of the time they are not real wasabi preparations. This would be delicate green, not so spicy and very complex in taste. Rather, we are dealing in the majority with "fake" wasabi pastes. These consist of powdered horseradish, mustard and green food coloring. The fact is: even in Japan, up to 95 percent of the wasabi pastes used are served as imitation or "Seiyō Wasabi". 

The reason: real wasabi horseradish is difficult to grow. Wasabi that grows wild needs two years to be harvested. Wasabi also only grows on the banks of streams and rivers, requiring very fresh, running water and a special mix of sun and shade along the course of the river. Genuine wasabi therefore has rarity value and is extremely expensive. To make real wasabi paste, a restaurant would have to buy the wild wasabi at prices ranging from 140 to 350 euros per kilo. Especially abroad (i.e. outside Japan), real wasabi is therefore hardly ever used: it is extremely expensive to export - and its taste of subtle ethereal pungency is often much thinner, less intense than international customers are used to from the wasabi-merretich paste often used instead. 

The makers of this spicy horseradish paste make do by adding a small amount of real wasabi to the paste and using food coloring to help the green shade, which is too light. 

Wasabi imitations are also recommended for another reason: real wasabi paste must be prepared fresh and eaten immediately, otherwise it quickly loses its flavorful appeal. 

In our restaurant, we offer the fresh, real wasabi from time to time for special occasions - but this has its price.

High sodium content affects blood pressure

Many people love Japanese dishes with teriyaki or soy sauce. Soy sauce is also part of the sushi meal. But be careful if you suffer from high blood pressure. With one teaspoon of soy sauce, you already consume 15 percent of the daily recommended salt dose. Soy sauces made in Japan using traditional methods are no exception when it comes to salt content. 

Although soy sauces contain antioxidants, proteins or amino acids in addition to the salt content. They are therefore relatively low in calories. While the soy sauces traditionally produced in Japan are generally to be preferred, the industrially produced supermarket soy sauces are often added with sodium glutamate, preservatives and colorants. It pays to look at the ingredients list. Sparing use of soy sauces is recommended for patients with high blood pressure.

At the sansaro restaurant, we have been using a homemade soy sauce since we opened in 2007, based on the Japanese-made Ark organic shoyu arises.

This soy sauce already costs twice as much as the "conventional" soy sauce that they get in almost all other Japanese restaurants - but for us, organic is the way to go and we have been using organic for years with more and more ingredients. To our knowledge, this is unique in Germany.

Rice vinegar could cause intolerances

Typically, rice fermented with rice vinegar is served alongside ginger pickled in vinegar. Those who generally do not tolerate vinegar or fermented foods well may experience digestive problems as a result. Such intolerances are individual. It is true that rice vinegar is generally well tolerated. But here, too, the amount consumed determines digestibility. Since mayonnaise can also contain vinegar, you should keep an eye on the dose of vinegar consumed.

By the way: at the Sashimi there is classically no pickled ginger with it, but instead finely chopped white radish "Tsuma. How finely cut this radish says a lot about the skill of the cooks.

Salmonella contamination can be avoided

Most cooks are aware of the risk of salmonella contamination from raw eggs or spoiled animal ingredients. Freshly prepared sushi rolls pose minimal risk of salmonella contamination. Ultimately, it is up to the care of the chef to determine if there are any risks associated with the use of raw fish or eggs. In our restaurant, we emphasize the most careful hygiene and quality of workmanship. If you have any doubts, you can order a sushi speciality with fully cooked tuna or one of our diverse vegetarian sushi varieties.

Heavy metal contamination in fatty fish species

Waters contaminated with heavy metals also pollute the sea creatures that we would like to consume one day. Fatty fish are particularly contaminated with mercury. With sushi, however, the mercury risk is comparatively small. 

Somewhat more contaminated are the popular bluefin tuna and others of its kind, as well as mackerel. If you eat a sushi meal with fish once or twice a month, you are not putting yourself at risk. The risks can also be reduced by ordering avocado maki or other sushi rolls containing vegetables instead of fish.

Again, it is recommended: eat sushi like the Japanese, not like the Germans! So not only salmon, salmon, salmon with tuna, avodado, tuna and avocado - but try the many different nigiri, try white fish, tamago (egg drop), try our combinations with organic quail egg. Just get involved with the variety to get a versatile diet and versatile taste experiences.

Wasabi paste is a digestive aid

The light green, spicy wasabi paste is traditionally served with many sushi dishes. From a botanical point of view, however, there is no relationship between the horseradish we know and the radish-like wasabi plant. 

However, wasabi paste is still effective as a digestive aid. Real wasabi paste is made from dried wasabi leaves and root ingredients. The abundant mustard oil glycosides have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. However, as explained elsewhere, we rarely have to deal with real wasabi in Japanese cuisine. It is difficult to cultivate. It is extremely expensive as a botanical rarity. 

Even in Japan, wasabi pastes are made from tiny amounts of real wasabi, horseradish, mustard oil and food coloring. Instead of food coloring, chlorophyll or spirulina powder can also be used for coloring. At the latest, this is how every insider recognizes the imitation wasabi. Even imitation wasabi paste is not harmful to health.

Sugar causes the blood sugar level to rise

Unfortunately, a sushi meal is not sugar-free. Sushi rice is made not only with rice vinegar, but also with added sugar. About one tablespoon of sugar is processed per cup of rice. Sugar also plays a role as an ingredient in the preparation of surimi. For diabetics, the blood sugar level can therefore rise sharply as a result of a sushi meal. 

If you want to consciously eat sugar-free, you should avoid sushi altogether. Frequent sugar consumption is associated with obesity, diabetes, bad cholesterol levels, liver disorders, high blood pressure and other diseases of civilization. You can reduce the sugar content of your sushi meal by choosing your dishes carefully. Or increased Sashimi eat.

Sushi poses risks during pregnancy

Sushi dishes with raw, only superficially cooked or smoked fish contain increased risks for pregnant women. These primarily affect the unborn child. Bacterial contamination and nematode infestation pose particular risks. While healthy people usually survive such unpleasant experiences well, this is not the case during pregnancy. 

Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely to develop listeriosis or toxoplasmosis than others when eating sushi or sashimi with raw, undercooked and smoked fish. The reason: In pregnant women, the immune system is weakened. The risk of miscarriage increases by eating sushi with raw fish. The risk of transmission increases as the pregnancy continues. In the third trimester, the risk is very high at 60 percent.

The mercury content in sea fish is also harmful to the unborn child. Whether the levels of harmful substances found in nori seaweed are harmful to pregnant women has not been adequately clarified at present. However, pregnant women can safely enjoy sushi rolls without raw, undercooked or smoked fish. Sushi with cooked-through fish and vegetarian sushi preparations with avocado, cucumbers, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, egg omelet, scallions, mangoes or cooked chicken meat can be ordered without any problems. 

In this case, even the omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for the development of the unborn child.

It must be said that in Japan pregnant women also eat sushi or raw fish all the time. According to some experts, this has to do with a certain habituation: if you have eaten a lot of raw fish all your life, you can also eat a little raw fish during pregnancy without any problems. We will revise this article in depth and shed more light on the subject with Japanese sources. In the end, everyone has to think and pay attention a little bit for themselves.

Sharing pleasure in Japanese

SUSHIYA is passionate about Japanese cuisine and culture. In our restaurant sansaro you can encounter the fascinating Japanese cuisine or have it delivered to your home. On our homepage, Facebook and Instragram we always give insights into news and interesting topics.