What You Didn't Know About Sushi

Do you love sushi?  I do!  In fact, I love it so much that I could eat a lot of it. Daily! 

Not only does it taste great, but isn’t it a guilt-free food?  High in protein, oh-so-good-for-you (just think of all those heart-healthy Omega-3s!) and practically calorie-free, which translates into “I can eat as much as I want.” Right? 

Well, the good news is that traditional sushi can, in fact, be healthy and low in calories if you choose the right pieces and maintain portion control.  The bad news is that many of us don’t have the discipline to order correctly.  We order soup, salad, pieces, and a few spicy rolls to boot, all of which can add up, especially when you consider the rice and sauces used (and that’s excluding the sake and green tea ice cream). Depending on what and how much you order, a sushi dinner can run you 200-300 calories or easily set you back well over 1,000. 

If you’re wondering what constitutes a “sensible” sushi dinner, here 7 simple guidelines:

  1. Go Easy: stick to one basic roll and 6 sushi or 10 sashimi pieces, which puts you at around 600 calories.

  2. Minimize Sodium: to avoid water weight and bloating, skip the soy sauce. If that’s not an option, use the “low-sodium” kind and use less of it. Keep in mind that anything “miso” is also loaded with sodium and opt for salt-free edamame, or better yet…

  3. Skip the Edamame: just because it’s green does not make it a health food. Edamame are immature, green soybeans that are genetically modified (unless organic) and contain high amount of hormone-disrupting phytoestrogens and anti-nutrients called protease inhibitors, which can disrupt digestion and put you at risk for thyroid disorders, immune system breakdown, reproductive problems, and more.

  4. Skimp on Rice: ask for “light rice,” opt for sashimi or “Naruto” (i.e., rolls wrapped in cucumber instead of rice) to save a few hundred calories.

  5. White Over Brown: I know what you’re thinking.  This goes against everything you’ve read, but what no one’s told you is that brown rice is more difficult to digest and contains significantly higher arsenic levels. It also reduces the digestibility of dietary protein and fat, and contains anti-nutrients (like soybeans), which reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals. So if you’re going to have any rice, go for the white variety.

  6. Avoid Sushi “Americano”:  stick to traditional sushi and avoid its American bastardization, which includes spicy sauce (i.e., mayo that can sneak an additional 100 calories and 11 grams of fat into a simple roll), tempura and crunchy flakes (a.k.a. stuff that has been deep fried or breaded), and cream cheese (i.e., extra fat). Not only are these extra ingredients not healthy, but they pack on additional calories.  

  7. Make it a Weekly Treat: in theory, fish should be a staple of our diet, but in practice, many fish (especially deep sea fish) are loaded with mercury. Limit your sushi habit to once-a-week and try to choose low-mercury fish to avoid ending up in the hospital with mercury poisoning, like Jeremy Piven. 

The guidelines are simple:  stick to traditional and less is more.  As long as you can abide by these, you can still enjoy your raw fishy vice.