Sushi doesn’t just taste great—it’s also good for your health. Here, we’ll look at the healthy properties in the building blocks of a sushi roll: the fish, the seaweed, the rice, the ginger, and the wasabi. Any one of these gives you a great reason to give sushi a try—and altogether, they’re an unbeatable combination.
Fish is good for you. Some fish contain more fat than others. Typically, salmon, tuna, and other large fish that love cold, deep water also have higher fat concentrations to insulate their bodies. However, the fat comes in the form of Omega-3 fatty acids—which, unlike typical animal fats, have several important health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brains and nervous systems. These fatty acids coat the sheaths that house our nerves. Eating fish is said to sharpen memory and mental capacity, and to guard against Alzheimer’s and other degenerative mental diseases.
However, Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t just brain food. They also do your heart and circulatory system some good. They’ve been linked with increased saturation of HDL, the “good” cholesterol—which in turn is linked to a decrease in risk for heart disease.
In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids give you a variety of other health benefits to varying degrees: they’ve been suggested to improve the body’s efficiency in sugar processing, which is good news for diabetics. It’s also been said that they can lessen the pain of arthritis, make you less prone to depression, and boost your immune system.
If you want the full health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, raw fish is the way to go. Fat will leach out of the fish at high temperatures, so you’ll get a smaller amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in a piece of cooked salmon than you would in a raw hand roll. In addition, cooking changes the properties of Omega-3 fatty acids, transforming them into more common forms of animal fat that have fewer health benefits.
If you’re looking for healthy sushi, however, it’s important to make sure your fish is wild-caught. In most cases, farmed fish have much lower concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught fish—so don’t hesitate to ask the staff of your favorite sushi restaurant where their fish comes from.
Wasabi protects your teeth. It’s mean, it’s green, it clears out your sinuses—and it’s good for your teeth. A recent Japanese study suggests that the strong-flavored green horseradish paste that traditionally accompanies a sushi meal can prevent tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus mutans, bacteria that eats away at our tooth enamel.
Other studies over the years have also suggested that wasabi has anti-carcinogenic, blood-thinning, and anti-asthmatic properties. If you usually avoid the wasabi because it’s too overwhelming in flavor, try just a tiny dab, spread in a thin layer. It provides a nice kick in small quantities without being overwhelming—and with its health benefits, it just might be worth getting used to.
Seaweed is a superfood. Most sushi rolls are wrapped in Nori—a flat sheet of toasted seaweed. Scientists and nutritionists are only beginning to realize the full health properties of seaweed—and already they’re discovering a wealth of benefits. Seaweed is one of the richest sources of healthy minerals on earth, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorous—minerals the modern diet is often sorely lacking.
In addition, seaweed has the rare property of being able to flush our bodies of heavy metals. Industrial pollution pours high concentrations of heavy metal pollution into our air and waters. In our bodies, these pollutants can wreak havoc, often damaging our nerves and brain function irreparably. Seaweed is one of the few substances that can remove these dangerous substances from our bodies.
Seaweed also has other health benefits, including protection against cancer and heart disease. Its calcium concentrations are higher than in dairy products, and it is believed to strengthen bones and teeth as well.
Sushi rice isn’t your typical carb. There has been a lot of controversy lately about the dangers of too many carbohydrates in the diet. All carbs are made of complex sugars. More complex carbohydrates, such as rice, are known as “high GI” foods—meaning that they break down quickly in the gastro-intestinal tract, causing a sharp spike in the sugar content of the blood—which isn’t healthy.
Sushi rice, however, is a sticky rice that does not digest quickly as other rices do. Sticky rice is a “low GI” food, meaning it digests slowly and releases its sugars into the bloodstream at a more measured rate. This makes sushi rice much better for your health than most other white rices.
Ginger is like aspirin – but better. In ancient times, the Japanese believed that ginger provided protection against plague. Today, scientists in Japan are discovering that ginger acts much like aspirin, thinning the blood and providing relief from headaches and protection from blood clots. Aspirin
It’s no wonder that the Japanese are so healthy. The Japanese suffer lower instances of cancer and heart disease than people in the U. S. and in Britain—and with all the health benefits of Japanese cuisine, it’s easy to see why. If you’re interested in a meal that’s just as delicious as a Big Mac—but without the danger to your health—there’s no better food than sushi.
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