Sushi: the Health Benefits and Risks

top grade tunaDo you typically order the cucumber rolls, and feast on wakame and futomaki? I’ve never heard a rational argument claiming that there’s any danger whatsoever in eating these kinds of sushi on a regular basis and in quantity. So what’re we talking about? Seafood.

I’ve heard it said, and in fact read in one of the largest newspapers in the world, that there are serious dangers associated with eating sushi on a regular basis. The case often consists of somebody going to great lengths to demonstrate that mercury levels in tuna are dangerously high, and that parasite infestation is rife in fish.

The typical concerns revolve around mercury levels in deep-sea tuna. Standards were released in the 1970’s, by the FDA, regarding mercury levels in deep sea fish. Although they mention action levels at which fish needs to be removed from sales points, no legislation was ever passed. Google methylmercury, and see what the Environmental Protection Agency says about the reference dose for methylmercury.

Studies do suggest that frequent consumption of tuna is likely to result in higher levels of mercury than you should have. While this may seem to be bad news for sushi, it is in fact only bad for sales of tuna. This is not such a bad thing, as tuna are more and more difficult to find, and are close to being an endangered species. From that viewpoint, high mercury could be good, especially if you’re tuna.

Now, how does that affect sushi? It need not, unless you eat only tuna sushi. There are plenty of low mercury fish available. Not to mention the humble traditional ingredients of classic sushi, like kampyo and cucumber.

The other concern often raised is that of dangerous parasites. Sushi commonly uses deep-water fish as major ingredients. Deep-water fish just do not have parasitic infestations to the same degree that coastal and inland fish do. Law requires that all fish needs to be flash frozen, to kill off any parasitic or microbial infestation. Yes, a trained sushi chef should spot parasites present in the fish; so be safe and go to a sushibar where they do things right and take care in the preparation of their food.

Vegetable Mulitgrain RollAlso, if your local sushi restaurant uses real wasabi, not the horseradish that is usually encountered, then there is an additional safeguard against microbial attack, as wasabi has been shown to inhibit microbial growth.

Let’s have a look at some reasons why fish is not only healthy, but can be particularly good for you. The Omega3 fatty acids found in many fish are essential to the human nutritional needs. The omega3 fatty acids promote the cardiovascular system’s well being, and are beneficial to the entire neural system in the human body. Omega3 fatty acids in fish increase levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which, in a nutshell, is good cholesterol.

  • Fish is high in protein and has very little fat
  • Fish is high in Omega3 fatty acids
  • Fish is low in calories and rich in essential minerals and nutrients
  • The nori (seaweed wrap) is rich in essential vitamins and minerals

There are unfortunately some people who should steer clear of sushi. People with Type1 and Type 2 diabetes are advised to leave the sushi, and rather enjoy the sashimi. If high blood pressure is a problem, sushi is not. The problems with high blood pressure and sushi will start with the first application of soy sauce, so simply avoid the soy sauce. Pregnant women should avoid tuna, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, because of the mercury levels.

In conclusion, fish is not bad for you if eaten in moderation. Sushi, because of the variety available, can be tailored to suit any diet, meaning that there are no inherent dangers in consuming sushi. I don’t think that’s overstating it, so I’ll repeat: there are no inherent dangers in eating sushi!

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