Americans are eating more and more sushi with each passing year. Not only are they hoping to reap the overall health benefits of fish (including support for heart and brain health and decrease in inflammation, as well as nourishment for skin and hair), but they also think it’s good for their waistline. However, sushi isn’t always as healthy or as slimming as people want to believe.
The most common misconception is thinking that no matter what you order, sushi is healthy. However, that is not the case. Sushi is the classic example that size does matter.
Sushi is deceptive, because, while it seems you are exercising portion control, you actually end up eating a lot of rolls — the most popular form of sushi in this country — to fill you up. Your mind thinks that ordering only three rolls is appropriate, but, in reality, you’re actually ordering 18 to 24 pieces.
Depending on the type of roll, this can add up to well over 1,000 calories, because you are consuming a lot of rice per roll (about one-third
Despite how many rolls you order and how much rice you eat, you probably still end up hungry about an hour after the meal. Why? Mainly because the disproportionate ratio between carbs and protein (in this case rice to fish) will leave you unsatisfied. Another reason is that your body may be playing a trick on you. Soy sauce tends to be high in sodium; even the low sodium soy sauce contains a hefty dose. So you may leave dinner feeling full, but your body may not have had enough to drink (and we’re not talking sake bombs). This can make you very thirsty, so your body’s desire for water may be masquerading as the need for more food.
There are more than enough options at a sushi restaurant that can be filling and healthy if you pay attention to how and what you order. Try starting with a salad (dressing on the side) and have edamame or miso soup to help fill you up so you don’t overeat during the meal. You can also start off the meal with an appetizer, such as chicken yakitori or sashimi, but avoid tempura whenever possible. When ordering rolls, try to get hand rolls, as they tend to be lower in calories. Limit the number of crunchy rolls, tobiko, those with mayo and cream cheese (like a Philly roll) and the fancier rolls with lots of fish and toppings, as these can be high in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories. No matter the roll, try to request brown rice whenever possible. Brown rice has more fiber (which will help fill you up and keep things moving), and it can help keep your blood sugar stable as well. Brown rice also contains magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin E, while also having fewer calories. If you want to limit the rice, there’s always sashimi (rice-less sushi) or other entrées, like a teriyaki dish.
Ginger and wasabi are great ways to spice up your rolls. Not only do they help enhance the flavor, but they also have anti-inflammatory and immunity properties and can help fight bacteria and nausea. However, don’t get confused between pickled ginger slices and ginger dressing, as the dressing tends to be very high in calories.
Although sushi can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, certain fish are high in mercury, and this can be problematic. Too much mercury can be harmful to your brain, heart, kidneys and other vital parts of your body. That’s why it’s best to avoid ordering too many rolls with tuna, including yellowfin, bluefin and ahi. Instead, try to stick with those lower in mercury like salmon, eel, crab, trout, octopus and sea urchin.
Even though the sea may supply most of our sushi, don’t forget that veggie rolls can be a great, healthy and tasty choice. Rolls full of cucumbers, spinach, asparagus and avocado are lower in calories while containing important nutrients. They are also usually a lot cheaper than non-veggie rolls, so your bill will be a lot easier to digest!
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Excerpted from “Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?: And 99 Other Answers to Your Everyday Diet and Nutrition Questions to Help You Lose Weight, Feel Great and Live Healthy,” published by Skyhorse Publishing (available Tuesday).