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Is Sushi Healthy?

This is what dietitians really think about your favorite meal.

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Sushi platterEvgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

What is sushi?

The Japanese word “sushi” refers to seasoned rice, not fish, according to Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The delicious dish itself includes small balls of seasoned sticky rice garnished with vegetable, egg or raw fish, Malkani says. Now that you know what sushi is, have you ever wondered what wasabi really is?

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Preparing sushianatoliy_gleb/Shutterstock

Is sushi healthy?

Generally speaking, Alyssa Pike, RD, manager of nutrition communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation, says sushi is healthy. “There are several ways to make sushi, but often it contains ingredients like tuna and salmon, which contain omega-3’s and protein,” she says. Many sushi rolls have cucumber (high in vitamin C, K and fiber), avocados (full of monounsaturated fats), a seaweed wrap (high in iodine, fiber) and ginger (contains gingerol, an antioxidant) on the side, Malkani says. On a broader scale, sushi also includes all three macronutrients—carbs, fats and protein—giving your body a tasty variety of fuel.

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Miso soupLisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Sushi sides are also healthy

The answer to “is sushi healthy” depends on your specific order and whether or not the restaurant is reputable, says Malkani, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle. But an extra boost of nutrition definitely comes from the typical sushi sides. “Sushi is also often accompanied by nutrient-dense, plant-based whole foods that promote health, like edamame, salad, seaweed, tempeh, tofu, miso and steamed vegetables,” Malkani says. So…what exactly is miso soup?

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Eating sushiRido/Shutterstock

Only eat at restaurants you trust

There are potential health risks with eating raw fish including salmonella and Vibrio vulnificus poisoning, as well as parasites like roundworm, tapeworm and flatworm, according to Malkani. “Commercially freezing raw fish at a temperature of four degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of three days destroys the majority of these parasites,” she says. Anyone eating sushi should only order from trustworthy or reputable restaurants. “Choosing reputable sushi restaurants that are known for high-quality, fresh ingredients, and food safety and preparation practices can help reduce your risk of foodborne illness,” Malkani says. It’s also safe and easy to make your own sushi at home with kits like this one.

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Sushi and soy sauceartemisphoto/Shutterstock

Opt for fish lower in mercury

One of the main reasons why people ask “is sushi healthy” is because of mercury poisoning. And there is a potential risk of consuming too much mercury if you eat lots of sushi often—but it depends on what you order. Malkani says you can manage your risk by limiting pieces of larger, long-living fish like swordfish, shark, bigeye tuna and king mackerel and, instead, choosing smaller prey options like salmon, shrimp and cod. Pregnant women should especially avoid raw fish and fish high in mercury, Pike adds. Make sure you also know the best fish to buy besides tuna, halibut and mahi mahi.

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Soy sauce and chopsticksnortongo/Shutterstock

Use soy sauce sparingly

You probably love bathing your sushi in soy sauce. But, sadly, this beloved condiment can pack quite a punch of sodium. One tablespoon of soy sauce can have up to 1,024 milligrams of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 2,300 mg a day if you are trying to lower your blood pressure. To avoid belly bloat, next time you reach for the soy sauce try a low-sodium brand or limit yourself to one small pour from the bottle.

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Tempura shrimp and sauceShaiith/Shutterstock

Avoid too much tempura

Is sushi healthy if it’s fried? Ordering vegetable tempura is like dropping a battered green bean into a fryer. A typical serving of vegetable tempura can have almost 1,600 calories, with 60 percent of that coming from oil absorbed by the veggies. Shrink your portion by ordering a plate to share among a group of friends. Limit katsu and agemono dishes, too, as they are also fried and therefore have more fat and calories, Malkani says. On the other hand, here are the health benefits of seafood.

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Different sushi lined upLisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Watch your serving size

If only the bite-size nature of sushi allowed you to order an unlimited supply! It is important to watch your serving size. One shrimp tempura roll, six to eight pieces, has 508 calories. If you order two rolls, that adds up to almost 1,000 calories. Be wary of your calories and consider ordering a serving of sashimi, soup, salad or any low-calorie vegetable dish, to fill you up without adding on the calories.

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Organic Brown Rice in the bowl on the wooden table; Shutterstock ID 280020284DONOT6_STUDIO/Shutterstock

Order the brown rice

Is sushi healthy if it has white rice? Brown rice is a better option as it has more fiber and nutrients than white rice, Malkani says. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who ate brown rice had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. So next time you buy sushi from the supermarket, reach for the brown rice rolls like these. Many restaurants will also prepare brown rice rolls if you just ask. The pros of brown rice might not be shocking, but these 20 food facts might change how you eat sure are.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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