What are the Health Benefits and Dangers of Sushi?

A sushi-eating fad has arisen relatively recently in our country. Over several years, many typical restaurant menus have been revamped with traditional Japanese sushi, sashimi and rolls.

No longer are these delicacies only served at Japanese restaurants, but also at many restaurants, pubs and cafés where management felt that more diversity of choice would bring in more clients. Food from the modern Japanese kitchen can easily compliment food from many other countries, including Ukrainian, Russian, Argentinian and Thai cuisine.

Some restaurants even offer “Russian-style” sushi for their guests, made with herring, bacon or lard. The choice is vast! Only one question remains, why such a sudden interest in this exotic food? Is sushi just fashionable or is it also beneficial for our health?

Sushi on the table

The widespread interest in sushi is definitely related to fashion. However, this sushi fad didn’t actually come to us directly from Japan, rather it came from West to East. Yes, really! Japanese dishes first became popular in Europe and the United States and were then introduced to the Slavic countries. Even the name attests to that. According to Japanese phonetics, the dish should be named “susi”, but over time it has transformed through Western languages to become “sushi” in Russian.

As the fashion for eating sushi grew, many people learned how to eat with chopsticks and others began experimenting with alternative ingredients. However, nobody here makes sushi for breakfast, lunch or dinner as much as they do traditional borsch and dumplings. It seems to be more of a stylish dish that people eat during their leisure time when they fancy something more unusual.

Tastes differ

Some people dislike sushi right from the first roll, while others can’t get enough of it, meeting friends specifically to go out and eat Japanese food. But most people recognize that this Japanese food won’t ever overtake our “genetic memory”. Large portions of nutritious dishes have always been part of the traditional Slavic table.

Even if we don’t follow all of the modern trends toward healthy and organic food, aren’t we already healthy with our big slices of steak for lunch and our light traditional salads for dinner? Japanese traditions on the other hand tend to emphasize modest portions and minimal cooking and won’t ever be able to compete with our own.

A word on sushi’s nutrition shortage

Sushi and waist

Deriving sufficient nutrition from a Japanese sushi roll may be easy for a Japanese man, but it’s rather more difficult for a Russian. Sushi is a very low-calorie food and many consider it to be a suitable food for dieting — one portion of sushi contains just 350 calories and around 3-4 grams of fat. Although it’s unlikely to harm our health or our figure, such a modest portion of rice, fish and herbs can only provide a small source of nutrition.

What is beneficial?

  • seawater fish and the elements it contains can stimulate brain activity, as well as improving the function of our cardiovascular and digestive systems;
  • rice improves the process of digestion and is rich in cellulose, but remember that that it also has a high glycemic index;
  • soy sauce can help to prevent early ageing, improves microcirculation in the body, strengthens blood vessels, positively affects the nervous system and mental abilities of a man;
  • wasabi has antiseptic, antibacterial, and anticoagulative properties;
  • ginger is a great antioxidant, first of all, and also an immune stimulant;
  • sushi, in general, contribute to decreasing a bodyweight, lower a chance of cancer illnesses, and are a natural antidepressant.

What is harmful?

  •  Tuna fish meat, along with that of certain other long-living sea predators, often contains high concentrations of mercury and other heavy metals, so it isn’t advisable to eat tuna sushi more than once every three weeks.
  •  Soy sauce produced from low-quality raw materials can also contain heavy metals and toxins; you should be wary of counterfeit wasabi, in which the standard ingredient (the rhizome of Japanese horseradish) is often replaced by cheaper and more readily available kinds of usual horseradish, spices, and dyes.
  •  Seaweed is rich in iodine, which is required for a healthy human body, but too much iodine can cause dangerous disturbances to the thyroid gland. The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 micrograms, but one standard rolls contains approximately 90 micrograms, meaning that you shouldn’t eat more than two rolls at once.
  •  Seawater fish (sushi is prepared only from seawater fish) is a source of a huge amount of beneficial elements and they’re all absorbed by the body with Cutting fish into sushiminimal heat treatment. This is one of the strongest prerequisites for longevity in Japanese people — but ONLY in Japanese people! Please remember that Japan is a country consisting of islands. It usually takes no more than a few hours to deliver freshly-caught fish to the table. But think about how would you feel about eating fresh, raw fish if you live a substantial distance from the ocean. Such fish can transform from beneficial to harmful within a few hours, becoming a home for large amounts of helminths, parasites, and bacteria. Thus, in order to prevent the product’s infestation, it must be frozen for at least 12-36 hours, or salted, smoked or marinated. All sushi in our country comes from frozen fish, but even these dishes need to be eaten within a few hours hours after being prepared. That’s why they can’t be considered a sensible option for a lengthy food holiday.

In any case, the information provided here shouldn’t deter you from eating sushi altogether. This is more of a call to be more attentive to your intake.

  •  Only order sushi in reliable and trustworthy locations. It’s not a good idea to buy prepacked sushi from supermarkets, as the main purpose of sushi is to eat it shortly after it’s been prepared.
  •  Choose sushi and rolls that come from previously treated fish, i.e. smoked, salted or marinated fish.
  •  Don’t get into the habit of eating sushi too often. It’s regularity not constancy that is important here.
  •  When you do eat it, be moderate in your consumption. Don’t eat large amounts of sushi. Remember that Japanese people always eat them in small portions and that is one of the main reasons for their superior health.
  •  Be aware that sushi is a rice-containing product, particularly if you are contraindicated from eating products with a high glycemic index (during diabetes mellitus for instance).