The 20 Best Healthy Sushi Options

Sushi is considered to be one of the healthiest food items in the world but it can always get healthier if you choose the right sushi options.

What are the healthiest sushi types? There are quite a few of them, actually, and most are comprised of fruits and vegetables. Depending on what kind of condition you are in, sushi types with seafood might need to be avoided altogether. You can also completely change certain key ingredients like rice with healthier alternatives like brown rice or cauliflower.

Healthy sushi options might seem like an oxymoron to a lot of people but it can be a concern, especially where the rice and sodium is concerned.

Health Concerns Related to Sushi

Sushi might be considered quite the healthy food item but a lot of this stems from the assumptions made due to the nature of the ingredients used. Specifically, the idea that sushi is a healthy food item is because of the fact that it contains nori, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish. However, while those are technically correct, there are also health concerns related to sushi.

This is due to some of the other ingredients that are intrinsically tied to the dish, including the:

·         Rice

·         Soy sauce

·         Preserve ingredients

·         Raw meats

To really understand what the main health concerns are with regard to sushi, though, a brief dive into how the professional food industry deals with the topic is necessary. We can start with the fact that unlike many other food items, sushi does not need to undergo cooking before being served. This means that potential health hazards are not kept in check by a final control point.

When you cook food, you are basically killing off pathogens that have yet to set in, which then extends the lifespan of the food. The moment that food leaves the pot, you have about four hours before it becomes infested with harmful organisms. In the case of sushi, though, no cooking beyond the rice and a few ingredients take place.

Of course, this is a concern that is also tied to another type of food, which is a salad. The trick, therefore, is to restrict the handling and storage of the ingredients as much as possible. Proper hygiene practices and chilling or heating tools are used to make sure that deadly pathogens do not spread that easily. This goes with sushi, as well.

Now that we got that out of the way, the second point of concern is the health effects of the ingredients that are commonly found in sushi. While there are those who would argue that rice is a healthy food item, for example, it is basically made up of empty carbohydrates. When not converted to glucose for energy and used right away, it turns into fat.

This is just the start, as well and for all of the health concerns regarding sushi, you can take a look at the table below.

Health ConcernsDetails
More calories than you thinkSushi is a much healthier food item compared to what is in the diet of most Americans, for sure, but it can also contain more calories than you would think and once that are harder to get rid of
SodiumOne of the most indispensable items when eating sushi is the condiment soy sauce, which you dip your sushi in before eating, and that is full of sodium
ParasitesSushi is tied to the consumption of raw fish and seafood, which can put the person eating it at risk of contracting a parasitic infection such as worms via unhatched eggs and the like
PathogensAside from parasites, it is also possible that the ingredients used in sushi are infected with deadly bacteria or the sushi has been exposed to the air for too long and has allowed the spread of pathogens
ChemicalsFresh fruits and vegetables are often used in sushi, and those can be sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, which can then lead to chemical contamination if you are not careful
AllergensNuts can be a big part of sushi and the same goes for seeds, as well as the oils of those seeds, and those are just some of the ingredients that people might be allergic to
ContaminationDirt, debris, and other particles can contaminate sushi if you are not careful with the handling and the storage
PoisonPoisonous substances can come in contact with sushi or its ingredients without notice, and it can even include metal poisoning via mercury or others

As you can see there, you have a lot more to worry about when you are eating sushi than you would think. You don’t really think about most of those if you are not working in the food industry, but those are some very real threats. They just become less of an issue in developed countries because there are safeguards in place that are meant to make sure that none of those come up.

Unfortunately, there are just times when such precautions are not enough to save you from getting sick or hurt thanks to those factors. After all, the system is not perfect and as long as there are those who prepared food in a careless or reckless manner, there will still be cases of food poisoning and the like.

To help prepare you so that you will be able to deal with those issues in a more appropriate manner, therefore, it would help if we go through all of those points one at a time.

Calories – Even though sushi did originate from a country where most of the people are in thin, healthy states, this does not automatically mean that it is a food item that is low in calories. As a matter of fact, considering that this particular dish is made out of rice as the main ingredient, you better believe that it is full of carbs and calories.

With that being the case, it would be to your distinct advantage to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will not gain weight from eating too much sushi. In fact, do not assume that eating sushi a few times a week will not automatically add to your weight if you are not being careful with your lifestyle.

It’s not just the rice either, though, it is the biggest culprit. There are also some ingredients like fruits that contain fructose. If you are diabetic and you are encouraged not to increase the amount of sugar in your body, it would definitely be a good idea for you to not eat too much of that.

On that note, even as sushi contains more calories than people would generally assume, it is still a much better option than most fast food items. At the very least, if you only maintain a fairly active lifestyle, you can eat a fair bit of sushi and not worry too much about the calories you gain. Just don’t go overboard and scarf down ten pieces of nigiri in one sitting.

California maki or maki sushi can be particularly problematic since their sizes can lead you to think that they are not as filling as they look. Well, they are, so be careful.

Sodium – Another issue with sushi is how some of its aspects that may seem harmless can be quite harmful. One example is sodium, which is actually one of those things that people don’t really pay attention to unless they have to. Your sodium intake can do a lot of damage to your body if you are not careful, after all.

One of the biggest contributors to high sodium intake in your body is the soy sauce. This is just one of those things that are supposed to go with the sushi where you dip each piece before you pop them into your mouth. What would be so bad about that? Well, to start with, soy sauce has one of the highest concentrations of sodium in the world, next only to salt.

With that being the case, if you eat too much sushi and you are particularly enthusiastic about dipping them into the soy sauce, you are taking a rather huge risk. Even if you don’t go with the soy sauce, though, there are also some sushi varieties where the ingredients have a lot of sodium in them. There are certain mixtures, for example, where the oyster sauce is a major ingredient.

Fortunately, as long as you avoid those kinds of sushi, you should be safe enough to eat the dish in moderation. The operative word there is moderation since sushi can still pose a big threat to you if you are not careful about just how much of it you eat.

Parasites – The next source of concern, and this can be a bit of a big one, is the matter of parasites. There are some instances where fish meat is infected with eggs from worms, which have yet to hatch. These eggs go dormant once the fish is dead and they can normally be killed if you cook the meat. However, as you already know, sushi uses raw fish meat.

This means that if the meat was infected with the eggs, anyone who eats it will be ingesting a whole lot of issues for the future. Even if only one of those eggs managed to survive, it can quickly multiply and spread throughout the whole body in due time. This infection can certainly be treated but why would you put yourself through that if it is not even necessary?

It’s not just the fish, either, since other ingredients like the pork can also give you tapeworm. This is why the pork must always be cooked before being served either as a topping or as a filling for sushi. Before you ask, yes, you can use cooked pork when making sushi. In fact, you can use bacon for this particular job.

Pathogens – Moving past the issue of parasites, you also have to think about deadly pathogens that might already be in the ingredients or could develop later on. If you have ever heard of red tide, you would know that the sea can be quite a scary place to get food from because you can literally die from the pathogens found in it.

Every single ingredient used in sushi can be a potential source of pathogens, which include the fish, the seafood, the vegetables, and even the rice if it was not stored properly. These pathogens can also come from anywhere, including the people who are making sushi. This is why the folks handling such sensitive food items need to be trained pros so that such issues can be avoided.

Speaking of which, if the sushi was allowed to sit out in the open for an hour or two, you better believe that you need to throw it away as soon as possible. You do not eat sushi that has been sitting at room temperature for more than half an hour, which is why you need to finish the dish right away. Incidentally, this is also why eating at a sushi bar is better than eating at a sushi restaurant.

Chemicals – Chemicals are some of the biggest concerns that people have when it comes to food, these days, which explains all of the hubbubs about GMO foods and those who oppose them. However, even if we ignore tampering with the genetic code of plants, there are other big agriculture practices that are worthy of concern such as their overuse of chemicals.

When talking about plants, these chemicals pertain to the main pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that plants are bombarded with for maximum yield. Now, not all examples of those things are bad since there are natural alternatives to the artificial ones that are used most often. However, big corporations are only interested in the bottom line and going natural is not good for the bottom line.

With regards to animals like chickens and pigs, injecting them with hormones to make them bigger than they should be is also a common practice. Their feeds are flooded with these chemicals, as well, which makes eating such meats rather questionable. As a result, any sushi place in the US that makes use of local meats can be treated with suspicion.

Incidentally, the same goes for meats that you use in supermarkets if you were planning on making sushi at home.

Allergens – Next, comes the allergens, which are a pretty big point of concern among diners in the west. Dying because you ate something you should not have and then going into anaphylactic shock is not the most pleasant way to go. This is why whenever you go to a sushi place and look at the menu, you need to always ask if it contains the stuff that you are allergic to.

However, not everyone does this and there are even times when you are brought sushi from someplace you don’t know and you are not aware if it contains the ingredients you should avoid. For example, if you are allergic to peanuts, you might look for any signs of the deadly item. If it comes in the form of a peanut sauce mixed with other sauces, you might not even notice that it is there.

That is just one example, as well, since sushi dishes can often contain multiple ingredients that you might not be able to identify. This mostly applies to more western versions of the dish, though. Real Japanese chefs can be quite picky as to what types of ingredients go into their dishes. In this manner, you are more likely to be familiar with what exactly is in what you are eating.

Contamination – From there, we can move on to contamination, which is a rather problematic issue that too many diners don’t pay enough attention to. The number of ways in which sushi can be contaminated is just beyond the pale. To give you just a few of these examples, we have human hair, dust, insects, oils, small rocks, little bits of plastic, and even paper.

If you don’t pay attention to what you are eating, you better believe that you are going to be risking ingesting one of those things. Flies are not exactly uncommon in restaurants, especially in ones that are not that committed to cleanliness.

Poisoning – Finally, we have the issue of poisoning, which might sound ridiculous but is actually quite real. For example, if some careless employee made sushi after touching detergents or some stronger forms of cleaning fluids, you are already at risk of being poisoned.

However, it doesn’t really have to go that far since the fish you are eating could contain mercury. This could then lead to mercury poisoning and if you don’t believe that, see how bluefin tuna has been a point of concern a few years ago.

What Makes Sushi Healthy

It might seem odd that we are about to discuss how sushi is a healthy food item after we spent quite a bit of time going through the reasons why it might not be. However, this does not change the fact that sushi is still one of the healthiest food items you can gain access to right now. As a matter of fact, this just goes to show how terrible the state of most modern diets happens to be.

Moving on, though, one of the things that makes sushi such a healthy dish to have is the simple idea of freshness. In order for sushi to be sushi, it needs to be made of the freshest ingredients, which means that they should not be made of the old stuff. The optimal timeline for sushi ingredients is being purchased on that day and at their best conditions.

This condition even extends to things like eggs, meats, and of course, the fish and seafood. This pretty much takes care of the issue of processed foods, which are becoming a major problem all over the world. Fast food and junk food are among the biggest contributors to the global obesity crisis, after all.

Then there is the matter of sushi being made of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nori, and a bunch of other healthy ingredients. Granted, you still have to deal with the issue of rice, but you can actually take care of that by simply using brown rice if you are really worried.

Finally, you have wasabi and pickled ginger, which are two of the most beneficial food items in the world when it comes to digestive health. Seriously, if you keep eating sushi with those two, you will be doing yourself a huge favor.

20 Healthy Sushi Dishes

With all of that already out of the way, it is not time to talk about the 20 healthy sushi dishes that you can indulge in. These are basically sushi options that you can make for the optimum health benefits that they have to impart.

1.       Salmon Avocado Roll

2.       Naruto Rolls

3.       Tuna Roll

4.       White Fish Nigiri

5.       Mackerel Roll

6.       Rainbow Roll

7.       Veggie Roll

8.       Fruit Roll

9.       Yellow Tail Scallion Roll

10.   Spicy Smoked Salmon Roll

11.   Shrimp Spring Sushi Roll

12.   Vegetable Spring Sushi Roll

13.   Steamed Chicken Spring Sushi Roll

14.   Salmon Sushi Bowl

15.   Avocado and Cucumber Sushi Bowl

16.   Avocado, Mango, and Cucumber Hand Roll

17.   Tuna Hand Roll

18.   Brown Rice Tuna Sushi Roll

19.   Teriyaki Chicken Sushi Burrito

20.   Fruit Sushi Hand Roll

Of course, those are just a few examples of the many combinations in the world of sushi that you can get into if you want truly healthy options. As long as you limit the sizes of the pieces and the portions that you eat, there should not be any reason that you can’t enjoy your sushi.

Related Questions

Is Homemade Sushi Healthy?

Sushi is only as healthy as the one who makes it deems it to be and if you are making sushi at home, only you can decide if it is going to be healthy. You can usually determine this by how much rice you will include, what kinds of ingredients you will use, and how much you will make.

Is Sushi Cheaper to Make at Home?

Depending on what kind of sushi you want to make, you might spend more money by going to a restaurant rather than make them at home. Sure, making five pounds of a specific kind of sushi with special ingredients might be cheaper than eating that much outside, but can you finish that?

Should You Try the Sushi Diet?

A sushi diet is exactly what it sounds in that it is the kind of diet that prioritizes the consumption of sushi above everything else with the sole purpose of losing weight. This might sound like a good idea if you skipped straight to this part and ignored all of the information in the earlier section, but if you did read those, then you would know this is not that simple.

While it is possible for you to lose weight when you eat only sushi, especially if you come from a diet that is mostly composed of fast food, there is still the matter of control to consider. Simply put, you can still gain a lot of weight when you eat only sushi if you eat a lot of sushi. This is because sushi contains rice and rice makes you gain a lot of weight.

However, if you simply control the portions and you don’t go overboard with filling up the sushi with rice, as well as fruits, then you should be just fine. Just remember that a sushi diet is not a license to go nuts.

How to Make Sushi Healthier

Sushi is already a healthy food but if you are not content with it yet and want to make it even healthier, there are actually quite a few things that you can do. First, you can swap out the white rice with other options. The closest alternative that will still be healthier but will not be too far of a jump is brown or black rice. This will give you more fiber instead of carbs, and it is more filling.

If not brown rice, you can always turn to cauliflower, which you can steam, dry, and then break apart as soon as you are done. You can then spread it on top of the nori so that you can make it into a roll. Speaking of the nori, you can replace this too, if you want. However, this would not be necessary at all if you like it.

Nori itself is a pretty healthy food item and it would be quite beneficial to eat it alongside the rest of the ingredients with sushi. Just in case, though, you can replace it with pickled fish. Moving on, the filling can be made of mostly vegetables and some healthy fruits like avocado. This will make sure that you meet all of your dietary requirements. 

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