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This amazing post was written by Dr. Nadia Kumentas, Toronto-based Naturopathic Doctor. You can get in touch with her and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

When I go for dinner with friends sushi is one of our all-time favorite options – but is sushi healthy? The answer is it depends! If in your case going for sushi means eating 2-3 rolls with a tempura appetizer then, not so much.  You’d be eating almost 3 cups of white rice, and a high calorie, deep fried appetizer.  If it means going for a low carbohydrate, high protein meal of sashimi, edamame, and some miso soup then, sure!

Usually, when people think of sushi, they think of “maki” or rolls. Rolls consist of:

  • White sticky rice
  • Veggie or/and fish filling
  • Seaweed wrap (nori)
  • Occasional toppings: roe, fish, mayo/sauce, avocado, pickled ginger
  • Dips: Soy sauce, wasabi, teriyaki sauce

Follow this guide for the healthiest sushi options and learn how to choose the best sushi rolls for your health on any menu.

The Guide for The Best and Worst Choices You Make Next Time You Eat Sushi

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Here’s a guide for the best and worst choice you can make for your next outing to make the healthiest shushi choices!  

Protein

Best Choices

  • Salmon, mackerel, or tuna for high protein and a healthy dose of omega 3’s
    • You can’t guarantee that the fish served at each restaurant is wild caught; however, some restaurants do have eco-conscious fish options which are the best choice.  If they aren’t, just remember sushi, in general, should be eaten in moderation.

Worst Choices

  • Eel usually served in a sugary brown sauce
  • Imitation crab is highly processed with lots of additives and artificial coloring  

Sauces

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Best Choices

  • Low sodium soy sauce in moderation
  • Tamari is another great gluten free option, but watch for the sodium content
  • Wasabi is a combination of horseradish, Chinese mustard and green food coloring with almost no actual wasabi present. Use in moderation or avoid if you are looking to avoid all artificial coloring

Worst Choices

  • Regular Soy Sauce: Almost 1000 mg of sodium per tablespoon, go with the low sodium option if available.  Most soy sauces also contain gluten
  • Teriyaki sauce is typically high in sugar

Rice

Did you know that each sushi roll contains about one cup of white rice in it? That’s two full cups of rice for two rolls!

Best Choice

  • Brown rice is a much better choice if it is an option, but watch out – sometimes they will add sugar to make it sticky for rolling, taking away some of its healthy appeal.
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Worst Choice

  • White short grain rice is high in refined carbohydrates, this sticky rice, will send your blood sugar levels up and turn into fat quickly

Best and Worst Menu Choices

The Best

  1. Miso Soup: Starting with miso soup is a very good idea. It will help you to start to feel full sooner and provides a nice dose of nutrients from the fermented soy.
  2. Sashimi: Salmon (Sake), Tuna, or mackerel are all great options for protein and healthy fats.
  3. Salad: wakame or green salad with dressing on the side is a good way to sneak some iodine, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin C
  4. If you have to satisfy your maki craving these are the best sushi rolls:
    1. Salmon avocado roll (sans mayo)
    2. Tuna roll, salmon roll, or shitake mushroom roll
    3. Or: Ask if they can make your roll without rice! Depending on the restaurant this may or may not be an option.

My current favorite sushi meal is ordering a miso to start, then a wakame salad (seaweed salad) with 1-2 orders of salmon sashimi and put it on top. Delish!

The Worst

  1. Dynamite rolls or any tempura rolls.
  2. Most “spicy rolls” or spicy tuna or spicy salmon are mixed with spicy mayo which adds extra empty calories.
  3. Eel and avocado roll tends to be a high-calorie option due to the sweet teriyaki sauce they use for the eel.
  4. “Fancy rolls” or house specialty rolls – these tend to pack on the extra toppings and fillings like tempura, spicy mayo, cream cheese, etc.
  5. Tempura (veggie or protein) – avoid this fattening deep-fried appetizer

Is Sushi Healthy?

As you can see, sushi can be a very healthy meal, if you choose the healthiest sushi ingredients and avoid some of the worst health offenders on the menu. Keep this guide in mind the next time you go out for sushi to curb your cravings while still having a healthy, delicious meal.

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Dr. Nadia Kumentas ND
Co-founder at Affect Health
Nadia Kumentas is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor, tea drinker, yoga doer, animal lover, and plant enthusiast. She is also the co-founder of Affect Health, a professionally formulated medicinal tea company. "
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