Japanese cuisine has worldwide popularity and nothing is more synonymous with Japanese food than sushi. The term sushi is associated with raw fish dishes that we see as healthy culinary art forms that taste great. The traditional forms and types vary greatly. Raw seafood is the basis of the dishes that are consumed and are based on its own merits. Many presentations also include rice, nori (dried seaweed paper), and many other ingredients such as vegetables and some shellfish that may already be cooked. It is not limited to raw fish and rice. Seasonings such as soy sauce, wasabi paste, a distinctive cousin of horseradish, tofu, soybeans, eggs, and mayonnaise are often components of some dishes.
Fish is a wonderful source of high-quality lean protein. It is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are linked to many health benefits. Tofu, soybeans, nori, the dried seaweed wrap commonly used in “rolls” are excellent nutrient sources of minerals, calcium, vitamin D, folate, and antioxidants. Not all ingredients are limited to raw fish. Shrimp, eel, geoduck, and crab are often cooked before they appear on a roll. The wide range of creative rolls and styles seems endless with something for everyone. You have to take into account some of the ingredients of some contemporary muffins such as cream cheese, fried foods, mayonnaise, soy sauce, which considerably increase the calories, sodium and fat that your plate contains. In general, the benefits of enjoying sushi and sashimi are diverse and exceptional.
The risks of eating sushi are very low but worth considering. General mercury contamination of shellfish is virtually unavoidable. Unfortunately, this neurotoxin contaminates all open waters in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Some caution should be exercised in choosing the variety of fish and the amounts consumed by those most at risk from mercury consumption. Women who are pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant, young children, the elderly, or people who have a compromised immune system should limit their seafood intake to just 12 ounces per week. Some species of shellfish likely have higher levels of mercury, such as tuna, swordfish, shark, and mackerel. This does not mean that they should be avoided entirely, but rather that they are consumed in limited quantities, emphasizing variety with other types that may have lower mercury content, such as salmon, trout, crab, and shrimp.
There are other risks from raw or undercooked seafood that remain low if the products are handled and stored properly. There are FDA guidelines for the industry that include freezing fish for a precise period of time to kill parasites. Still, dishonest vendors or mishandling can provide food contaminated with bacteria or parasites. The most common symptoms of eating contaminated raw fish are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, and fever. One must trust a reputable dealer and trust that their restorer will provide high quality sanitary products. Although eating raw seafood is simply riskier than cooked fish, experts agree that the health benefits outweigh the risks.
Enjoy the nutritional benefits of a wonderful culinary art with thoughtfulness and peace of mind. Strive for variety and eat sensible portions.