7 Impressive Benefits of Sushi

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Sushi is a mouth-watering delicacy with countless health benefits. It protects the heart, maintains hormonal balance, boosts the metabolism, and improves circulation throughout the body.

What is Sushi?

Sushi is a Japanese preparation and serving of vinegared rice. Various cooked or raw fish and pickled or unpickled vegetables are covered by the sushi rice and are then wrapped in seaweed (nori). The appearance is beautiful and elegant, no doubt it is known as food art! [1] [2]

Types of Sushi

  • Nigiri: This has slices of fresh raw fish or meat placed over pressed rice. It is seasoned with wasabi and soy sauce.
  • Maki: Maki is a sushi roll comprising one or more fish and vegetables in rice wrapped with roasted nori seaweed.
  • Temaki: This is prepared in the same way as maki but is rolled in a cone shape for a better appearance and grip.
  • Uramaki: This is a very interesting roll, made inside out, where the nori covers the fillings and the sushi rice is used to wrap the nori. An outer coating is also done with toasted sesame seeds and other ingredients, all of which add a distinct flavor to the preparation.
  • Sashimi: In this, the slices of raw fish are presented without rice, generally served on julienned daikon radish.
A palate of different sushi rolls with chopsticks wasabi, soy sauce on black table

Sushi is known for having high amounts of concentrated forms of omega-3 fatty acids. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Ingredients in Sushi

  • Sushi meshi (sushi rice)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Nori Seaweed

Nutrition Facts

Sushi, NFS
Serving Size :
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.67
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]18.42
Energy 93
Water [g]76.35
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.13
Fiber, total dietary [g]1
Calcium, Ca [mg]6
Iron, Fe [mg]0.22
Magnesium, Mg [mg]13
Phosphorus, P [mg]60
Potassium, K [mg]47
Sodium, Na [mg]429
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.38
Copper, Cu [mg]0.05
Selenium, Se [µg]8
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]4
Carotene, beta [µg]41
Carotene, alpha [µg]1
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.14
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]2
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]0.9
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.03
Niacin [mg]0.39
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.05
Folate, total [µg]5
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0.1
Choline, total [mg]4.6
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.3
Folate, food [µg]5
Folate, DFE [µg]5
Cholesterol [mg]4
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.13
12:0 [g]0
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.11
18:0 [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.35
18:2 [g]0.1
18:3 [g]0.01
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.01
16:1 [g]0.03
20:1 [g]0
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0
22:1 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.4
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.13
Sources include : USDA [3]

Japanese Accompaniments

  • Wasabi
  • Soy sauce
  • Pickled ginger (gari)

Nutritional Profile of Sushi

Sushi is a combination of many ingredients, so the nutrition profile is diverse. Sushi rice is a great source of carbohydrates and has negligible fat. The seaweed wrapper, nori, is rich in iodine. Seafood is the main ingredient of the dish that contains omega-3 fatty acids and selenium in large quantities. Different types of fish added in it contain different minerals and vitamins. The fruits and vegetables (avocado, cucumber, etc.) also add to its benefits.

The accompaniments, ginger and wasabi, contain antioxidant compounds, as well as vitamins and minerals. Soy sauce, which is a delicious dip for the roll, contains very high levels of sodium, so use it sparingly. Additional cream and sauces like mayonnaise will add to the calories. So, control your cravings while enjoying the sushi.

Health Benefits of Sushi

Other than the delicious taste, here are the top reasons why you shouldn’t miss eating this Japanese delicacy.

  • Lowers risk of heart diseases such as atherosclerosis and strokes
  • Ensures healthy hormonal balance
  • Increases red blood cell count

Let us look at the benefits in detail below:

Protects Heart Health

The most sought-after benefit of sushi is the tasty access to omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish. HDL cholesterol helps balance and eliminate LDL cholesterol from the body. Balanced cholesterol levels prevent clogged arteries and many related health concerns like heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis. The best types of fish to add for omega-3 include herring, lake trout, tuna, and salmon. [4] [5]

Maintains Hormonal Balance

The seaweed wrap used in sushi comes with many benefits. It is called nori in Japanese and is rich in iodine, which is an essential element for our body. Iodine is important for the control and regulation of our endocrine system, most notably our thyroid gland. With proper iodine levels in the body, one can ensure a proper hormonal balance, which will eventually drive away chronic disorders. [6]

Boosts Metabolism

The fish in this preparation is rich in protein, as well as low in fat and calories. It can boost the body’s ability to function efficiently, create new cells, and keep you strong and healthy. Hence, it is popular with pescatarians, thanks to the good amount of protein it contains.

Anticancer Potential

Wasabi, one of the several flavorful condiments that are served with sushi, has been observed to have compounds such a 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate. A study about the antiplatelet and anticancer isothiocyanates in wasabi suggests that these compounds exhibit anticancer activities. [7] [8]

Additionally, a 2014 paper published in the [9]Marine Drugs journal also points towards the anticancer potential of several seaweed varieties, especially with regards to colon and breast cancer.

However, more research would be needed to confirm the benefits.

Improves Circulation

The fish and soy sauce used in this preparation are rich in iron. Iron plays an integral part in the production of RBCs, which increase the circulation to all parts of the body, stimulate hair growth, and improve skin tone. An adequate level of RBCs improves the metabolism and speeds up the healing process of tissues and cells. Hence, relishing some of it will not only satiate your taste buds but also boost your red blood cell count. [10] [11]

Tips for Serving and Savoring Sushi

  • Enjoy the taste of wasabi by putting it on top of the sashimi and then slightly dipping the fish in soy sauce
  • Serve it on a textured platter to make it appealing and match the chopsticks to complement
  • Gari is a palate cleanser so eat it in between different types of sushi to enjoy the flavor
  • Eat it fresh and avoid refrigeration
  • Source it on the same day you want to eat it
  • Experiment with the fillings as this is one thing where no boundaries apply. Use vegetables that you like and make your own tasty treat. It is all about exploring flavor, texture, and color.

Health Risks

  • Calories: With the varieties of preparations, sushi calls upon many risks. One with mayonnaise can shoot up the calorie levels even in the tiny bite you enjoy. Extra soy sauce will add extra sodium to your diet.
  • Infection: If the fish used is not cleaned properly, it can expose you to bacteria and parasites, causing infections.
  • Mercury Toxicity: Open waters bodies are prone to a larger mercury accumulation because of which the fish in them contain mercury too. High mercury levels are harmful to pregnant and breastfeeding women as they can lead to birth defects. Therefore, select your fish wisely to avoid any danger. [12]

Apart from all these risks, there are no other reasons why you shouldn’t have sushi right away!

Gochiso Sama Deshita!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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