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Sushi Selection Pros & Cons: Navigating the Nutritionals of Popular Sushi Varieties

y Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Sushi is more than just a meal, it’s a culinary art form that has been perfected over centuries in Japan. The combination of fresh fish, vinegared rice, and seaweed has captivated the taste buds of millions around the world, making sushi one of the most popular dishes in international cuisine.

While sushi is generally regarded as a healthy food, not all sushi is created equal. Some varieties may be packed with unhealthy ingredients and be high in calories, while others can provide a wealth of beneficial nutrients.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the best and worst sushi options for your health, helping you make better and more informed choices the next time you indulge in this beloved Japanese cuisine.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor regarding your nutrition. Additionally, eating uncooked, raw, or undercooked food is not recommended as it may cause you to get sick.

Sushi Varieties That Are Good for You

If you’re looking for healthy sushi options, there are several choices that are both delicious and nutritious.

1.      Hosomaki Rolls

Hosomaki rolls are a healthy sushi option with only one ingredient in the center, wrapped in rice and seaweed. They’re lower in calories and often contain fewer added sauces than larger sushi rolls. They’re also a good source of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Varieties include tuna, salmon, cucumber, and avocado.

2.      Sashimi or Nigiri

If you’re looking for healthier sushi options, nigiri or sashimi can be great choices. Nigiri is a simple sushi dish consisting of a single piece of fresh fish placed on top of a small, molded clump of rice. On the other hand, sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish served on its own. Both nigiri and sashimi are typically lower in calories and fat than other types of sushi, such as rolls with added sauces or mayonnaise.

Popular fish used for nigiri or sashimi are:

  • Sake (salmon)
  • Maguro (tuna)
  • Uni (sea urchin)
  • Hamachi (yellowtail)
  • Ikura (salmon roe or fish eggs)
  • Amaebi (sweet shrimp)
  • Unagi (eel)
  • Saba (mackerel)

3.      Rainbow Roll

A particular sushi roll can be a good source of protein and fiber, with multiple types of fish packed into it. With 21 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, this roll can be a filling and satisfying option. However, while the fatty fish and avocado in the roll offer plenty of healthy fats, those trying to lose weight may want to consume this roll in moderation.

By limiting portion size or pairing the roll with a side of vegetables or a broth-based soup, you can enjoy the nutrients of the roll while keeping calorie intake in check. Even indulgent sushi rolls can be part of a healthy and balanced diet with a few simple modifications.

4.      Vegetable Roll with Brown Rice

Vegetable rolls can be an excellent sushi option if you prefer something other than seafood. Many restaurants offer plant-based rolls like avocado and mixed vegetable rolls that are packed with fiber and lower in calories than other sushi rolls. You can add tofu or pair vegetable rolls with edamame beans for protein or enjoy them with sashimi or cooked seafood for a complete meal.

Sushi Varieties That Are Not Good for You

Now, for the not-so-healthy options. Below are some sushi varieties that you should avoid, as these may not be as healthy as the ones mentioned above:

1.      Philadelphia Roll

The Philadelphia roll is a sushi roll that may seem healthy at first glance, but in reality, it’s not. While it may contain healthy ingredients like salmon or avocado, the main ingredient in the Philadelphia roll is, unfortunately, cream cheese, which is high in cholesterol and saturated fat and low in nutrients. Unless the roll is made with low-fat cream cheese, it’s best to skip it if you’re looking for a healthier sushi option.

2.      Prawn Tempura

Prawn tempura is a type of sushi that may be tasty, but it’s not the healthiest option. While shrimp can be a great source of protein, it doesn’t have the same nutritional value as other types of sushi, like salmon, and it can be higher in sodium. Tempura involves battering and deep-frying the shrimp, which adds extra calories and unhealthy fats. This preparation method is also used for vegetables, which can also be high in calories and fat. For a healthier sushi option, it’s best to choose simple rolls with fresh fish and vegetables or sashimi.

3.      Unagi/Eel Sauce Rolls

Unagi, or eel, sushi rolls, and eel sauce rolls are not the healthiest sushi options. Eel is high in calories and fat, and the eel sauce used to flavor the rolls is often high in sugar and sodium. These types of sushi rolls should be enjoyed in moderation as a treat rather than as a regular part of a healthy diet.

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