Angela: Is sushi healthy or not? Hmmm… there is quite a lot to consider. For me there’s the Japanese food I would eat for a quick and semi-healthy lunch on the run and then there’s the Japanese dinner when I relax with friends and don’t stress too much about what is being ordered. What I take into consideration for the semi-healthy lunch on the run:
- Sushi rice is made with sugar and rice vinegar (on average 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tbsp of rice vinegar per 2 cups of rice). Typical sushi hand rolls are 60 – 75% rice and the equivalent carb content of two slices of bread.
- The type of rice used in sushi is short grain rice which spikes blood sugar levels.
- The protein amounts in sushi are very small – I recommend a palm size of protein with every meal. You would have to eat a lot of sushi to get that covered and then there’s all that rice you would eat along with it.
- As it’s low in protein and fat it’s low in satiety and you will be craving more sugar after lunch.
- I would avoid processed protein like crab sticks, anything fried as it would most likely have been fried in vegetable oil and anything with teriyaki sauce (full of sugar). I generally opt for things like fresh salmon, tuna or kingfish.
- Avoid Teriyaki sauce and Japanese mayo they are very high in sugar
- Seaweed salads – I have them depending on the establishment. Most places don’t make them on the premises and will be commercially made and will more than likely have added MSG.
- Avoid Tempura – they will be fried in vegetable oil. What you need to know when selecting cooking oils.
- Edamame (soybeans) – I will eat soybeans in their whole form from time to time but I do avoid all refined soy products (tofu, soy oil, soy milk). 90% of soy products are genetically modified in the US. There is a big debate on whether soy is a healthy food, there are lots of studies supporting both sides of the argument. My number 1 concern is that they contain natural plant oestrogens that mimic estrogen in our bodies and may cause hormonal imbalances. I would avoid if you are trying for a baby, pregnant or have any endocrine issues.
- It’s very salty – the sushi rice is made with salt and soy sauce is very high in salt. If you are on a low salt diet one to avoid.
- Soy sauce contains wheat – If you are wheat intolerant like me you can have Tamari which is a wheat free version of soy sauce.
When eating sushi I follow these rules:
- I take my own bottle of Tamari… I know – a little sad! I do it if it’s a planned dinner date… no one ever cares or blinks an eye lid
- Stick to sashimi
- Ask for my rolls to be rolled without rice (depends on the establishment)
- If having rice, I go for brown
- If white rice rolls are the only option I take some of the rice off
- Protein sources: I go for things like raw salmon and tuna
- I go somewhere that I know they have a high turnover so I know it’s fresh
- Have a seaweed salad if you think it’s MSG free. Seaweed is a good source of vitamins and mineral, protein and fibre
If you are not careful sushi can be a very high carb lunch without any protein or vegetables leaving you hungry and craving more sugar after lunch.
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