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Is Sushi Healthy? 10 Healthiest Sushi Rolls

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Healthiest sushi rolls
Health And Wellness

Which fish is the fattiest?

We all love our sushi takeout nights, but it's hard to tell when we're having a cheat day or staying true to our eating plan. Is sushi healthy? Well, sushi is made of fish and seaweed, which sounds pretty good to us. But, of course, a shrimp tempura roll and a Naruto roll have very different calorie makeups.

When ordering the healthiest sushi rolls, it all depends on the type of fish and rice you choose. Basically, the healthiest components of a sushi roll include rice (brown rice would be nice), fish (preferably not fried), avocado, and some sort of veggies.

"Sushi itself is not a very caloric meal unless you’re rolling in one after another roll, but what makes calories add up includes the different types of mayo, dressings, breading, and heavily fried preparations," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com. "Some people order cucumber rolls and they avoid rice, but that might leave them feeling unsatisfied and running for frozen yogurt afterwards on the way home."

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Something to keep in mind is that there are many foods that are healthy, but not necessarily great for weight loss. Foods like avocado, salmon, and brown rice are "healthy," but also higher in calories. So, as with anything, enjoy in moderation. What are the healthiest sushi rolls? It depends on what you put in it.

1. Use light condiments.

  • Pickled ginger: When it comes to this palette cleanser, according to Alix Turoff MS, RD, CDN, CPT, a registered dietitian, nutrition consultant and certified personal trainer, “As much as you want, but like wasabi, most people won't eat huge portions of this anyway, so there's no reason to put a restriction on it.” Two tablespoons has just 20 calories, no fat or sodium, and is just 5 grams of carbs!
  • Wasabi: Again, you can have as much as you want, although this should be fairly self-limiting, as most people can't eat globs of wasabi. It's a plant that's very similar to cabbage.
  • Low sodium soy sauce: Try to keep this to less than 1 tablespoon (which has 575 mg of sodium) just because of the sodium content. “The main thing sodium will do is make you more thirsty and potentially bloated. I advise most people to aim to keep sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day, but not to get crazy about it unless they need to (in the case of high blood pressure),” Turoff advises.
  • Ponzu sauce: The reasoning is the same as soy sauce. Try to keep it to less than one tablespoon.

2. Stick to certain fish.

According to Turoff, the lowest calorie/fat fish to choose are the following:

  1. Kani (Kind Crab Leg)
  2. Hirame (Flounder)
  3. Tai (Red Snapper)
  4. Ikura (Salmon Roe)
  5. Suzuki (Sea Bass)
  6. Katsuo (Skipjack)
  7. Ika (Squid)
  8. Shirauo (Whitefish)
  9. Kisu (Whiting)
  10. Hamachi/Buri (Yellowtail)

The highest calorie/fat fish include:

  1. Anago (conger Eel)
  2. Tamago (Japanese Omelet)
  3. Saba (Mackerel)
  4. Sake (Farmed Salmon)
  5. Iwashi (Sardine)
  6. Uni (Sea Urchin)
  7. Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp)

All of the other common fishes (salmon, shrimp, tuna) all fall right in the middle and are good options. Eel is notoriously the fattiest option.

3. Then there's raw vs. cooked fish.

Nutrition facts remain the same, but food safety comes into play.

“As always, you have to be careful. This is why you're less likely to get sick from eating sushi from some place very high-end; the chefs there are highly trained in not only sushi-making but also food safety. It's not that fish is any more dangerous than other foods, but other foods like chicken/steak are cooked, which will kill most types of bacteria,” warns Turoff.

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4. Choose certain rolls and options.

  • Naruto rolls: “These are your favorite sushi rolls but wrapped in cucumber rather than rice!” Turoff says.
  • Sashimi: This is just fish without the rice. “If you're missing the rice, you can ask for a side of steamed brown rice and have a smaller portion (1/2-1 cup),” says Turoff. Sushi rice itself is usually made with sugar.
  • Rice: “Depending where you go, you can ask for your sushi to be prepared with less rice,” Turoff advises. If you're going with a roll with rice, just get one and balance it out with some light appetizers.
  • Cauliflower rice: “There are a few places in NYC and LA that offer this, and I'm sure other big cities as well. Genji Sushi, the supplier for Whole Foods, also just released a new line of 'Fit Sushi,' and they offer a cauliflower rice alternative. Wegman's also offers a "Skinny" sushi,” Turoff suggests.
  • Hand rolls: Hand rolls have less rice than traditional rolls, so if you want to keep the rice but just decrease the portion, this is a good way to go. According to Turoff, “There are sort of two types of hand rolls, and where the real difference comes in is portion. Cone-shaped hand rolls will typically be lighter on the rice, but hand rolls that are just cut into pieces to look like traditional sushi are going to be pretty much the same as standard sushi.”

5. Avoid a few things.

  • Tempura: This is fried!
  • "Crunchy": Anything that has the word crunchy in it also means it's fried.
  • "Spicy": Even if the roll doesn't say it uses spicy mayo, "spicy" is usually indicative of this. Stay away from these options, or ask for it to be served on the side. And, even then, just use a teaspoon.

6. Be mindful of the calories.

An 8-piece California roll made with white rice has roughly 380 calories, 6 grams of fat, 69 grabs of carbs (with only 3 grams of fiber) and 10 grams of protein. Brown rice won't save you much here, either. The same California roll made with brown rice has just 20 calories fewer, with 64 grams of carbs (instead of 70), and 7 grams of fiber instead of 3 grams.

A salmon avocado roll might be a slightly better option, with more protein. But the carbohydrate count will still be quite high. Tempura rolls, anything that has the word "crunch" in its name, or any roll with spicy mayo or cream cheese, is a no-go. These can have 500 calories per roll with crazy amounts of fat!

7. You can also make your own at home.

“Using oats instead of rice for sushi offers many health benefits, such as being heart-healthy, reducing cholesterol, and being gut-healthy due to a special fiber in oats called beta-glucan. The avocado offers healthy fats which lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and seaweed is high in iodine, iron, vitamin C (which aids iron absorption), antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin K, vitamin B-12, and a range of other nutrients,” recommends Jeremy Robinson.

But why are these the healthiest ingredients for sushi?

"These sushi rolls have tons of healthy omegas from the avocado. The Irish oats are a popular, heart-healthy base whose beta-glucan fiber works as a prebiotic to benefit gut health...

The seaweed (like the oats) is high in fiber, but also contains vitamin K2, which works together with vitamin D to control the calcium levels in our bodies. The arugula offers metal detoxing, promotes bone health, and reduces chronic inflammation" says certified nutritionist and holistic health coach, Jeremy Robinson, the owner of Austin Holistic Fitness and Nutrition.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her at alywalansky@gmail.com.

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