People around the world enjoy sushi. It’s a Japanese dish that first appeared some 700 years ago, but the type of sushi we eat today has been around for about 200 years. Though the variations are seemingly endless, sushi is considered to have several surprising health benefits. So, today we’ll discuss the health benefits of sushi and other interesting sushi-related information.
What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Sushi?
As you may have heard, the American Heart Association suggests that everyone should eat fish at least twice per week. What better way to fill this quota than by eating sushi? Yet, many other health benefits come from eating sushi that are also worth knowing.
Did you know that chronic inflammation is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes? Sushi is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and thus lower your risk of developing those diseases.
Furthermore, sushi is commonly paired with wasabi, which also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as does the seaweed wrap surrounding the sushi.
More About Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Before we continue on with the health benefits of sushi, let’s take a closer look at Omega-3s and why they’re so important.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also called “brain food.” The nutrient promotes cell regeneration and nourishes your brain cells. It’s also known to reduce stress, help improve focus and memory, increase concentration levels, and increase energy. It’s thought that these super nutrients can also ward off age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and may also increase grey matter levels in the brain.
The Prevention of Diseases
Many ingredients found in sushi can help prevent disease and maintain your long-term health. As we mentioned, fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids, and ginger helps protect your respiratory tract from infection.
It’s said that sushi has these health benefits:
- Fights blood clots
- Reduces inflammation
- Prevents or reduces artery plaque
- Promotes skin health
- May lessen the effects of type one diabetes
- Fights autoimmune diseases
- Combats metabolic syndrome
Fights Heavy Metal Poisoning
Perhaps sushi’s most surprising health benefit is that the Seaweed can remove radioactive strontium and other heavy metals from the body. Someone who is poisoned by heavy metals will have difficulties with bodily functions and possibly cardiovascular disease.
What Are the Common Ingredients In Sushi?
There are many ingredients that can go in sushi. However, we’ve narrowed the list to include some of the top sushi ingredients. They are:
- Sushi Rice – Obviously, the most important ingredient is sushi rice.
- Rice Vinegar – You may not realize it, but sushi rice is seasoned. Rice vinegar is combined with salt and sugar to give it that sweet yet tart flavor.
- Wasabi – Wasabi is commonly added into the soy sauce, in which you dip the sushi or “swiped” onto the surface of the sushi while making the rolls. It’s made from green wasabi root and features a hot, intense flavor. However, unlike a pepper, the heat is not on the tongue but in the nasal passages.
- Soy Sauce – Does anyone here eat sushi without soy sauce? Probably very few, so soy sauce is a required ingredient.
- Sushi Grade Fish – Most sushi contains some type of fish, and if you plan to add some, just make sure to get a sushi-grade.
- Nori – You can’t make sushi without seaweed wraps. But don’t underestimate Nori’s importance, so always use high-quality Nori. Keep in mind that the best quality seaweed wraps are black, so avoid buying green ones.
- Ginger – Gari, or sushi ginger, is almost always served with sushi. Its purpose is to cleanse the pallet, so it’s supposed to be eaten either between dishes or after sushi.
- Cucumbers – Sometimes vegetables are put inside sushi, and one of the most common is cucumbers. They are crisp, clean, and refreshing, so they help balance out flavors and add a little texture.
What Is The Difference Between Sushi And Sashimi?
If you’re new to the sushi world, keeping up with all the jargon can be challenging. Understanding the different varieties can help ensure you choose something you like. And in general, each menu item is either sashimi or sushi, but sushi is further broken down into other categories. Let’s take a look at each of these foods to see how they are different.
What Is Sushi?
While most people think that sushi is associated with fish, that’s not how sushi got its name. Sushi is any food served in bite-sized pieces that contain vinegared rice. In fact, the word “sushi” describes the rice-making preparation needed for the food. As we mentioned, sushi rice is prepared with rice vinegar, which adds a bit of flavor and aids in the clumping of the rice.
What Is Sashimi?
Loosely translated, sashimi means “pierced body,” which is fitting because it refers to the delicacy that features thin slices of fish and other meat. Unlike sushi, sashimi doesn’t involve rice or veggies; the sashimi is eaten plain and only served with soy sauce for dipping.
Eating meat prepared like this allows the flavor to shine, and this grade of fish is the best on the market. To be labeled “Sashimi-grade,” fish must be caught on a single line and is reeled in, killed, and iced right away. This makes it the safest fish available. Popular fish used in sashimi include Yellowtail, salmon, squid, and fatty tuna.
Interesting Facts About Sushi
Before we go, we thought it would be fun to share some interesting facts about sushi that you may not know:
Sushi Didn’t Come From Japan
Though most people think that sushi originated in Japan, it actually came from Southeast Asia. Funny enough, the dish was popular in China before it ever made it to Japan.
Authentic Wasabi Is Expensive
The wasabi served in most restaurants is a mustard powder mixed with horseradish and green coloring to make it look real. Since the plant tends to be expensive, restaurants offering it will charge more to offset their costs.
Sushi Rice Used To Be Considered Garbage
When sushi was first made, the rise was only wrapped around the fish to give it flavor, protect it from bugs, and to extend its life. Once the fish was to be eaten, the rice was removed and discarded. At some point, someone realized they were wasting a lot of grains and incorporated rice into the recipe.
Maki Wrappers Aren’t’ Just Seaweed
Have you ever had sushi wrapped with something other than Seaweed? Though Seaweed is the most common, alternatives include avocado, egg, soy paper, and sliced cucumber.
An Earthquake Made Sushi More Popular
Originally sushi was street food since most vendors couldn’t afford a brick-and-mortar restaurant. However, after a 1923 earthquake, property prices declined, and people could buy land and serve sushi. Sushi is most commonly sold in restaurants and hardly ever offered as street food in today’s world.
The Bottom Line
In the end, sushi is tasty and good for you, so why not eat more of it? Just beware that sushi is not recommended during pregnancy. Other than that, regardless if you choose rainbow rolls, California rolls, or a spicy tuna roll, you’re satisfying hunger and nourishing your body, so you can’t go wrong!
Original infographic via kabukijapaneserestaurants.com in 2012, content updated November 2021.