Sushi is a traditional Japanese cuisine that has steadily gained popularity all across the world. In the United States, what people commonly call sushi is the fast food version of this cuisine. It was invented in Japan in the nineteenth century. Sushi may have many health benefits and is delicious, but many people wonder. Is sushi healthy?

This can pose very serious health concerns. Sushi lovers, or even casual diners, should understand these risks and know how to minimize them.

is sushi healthy

What Is Sushi?

The idea of sushi has been somewhat confused by western iterations of the food. Many sushi restaurants serve foods that are deep fried, contain only vegetables or have cooked fish instead of raw. We can say that the meaning of sushi is both vague and varied in modern restaurants. So it is important to have it clearly defined.

Sushi in its truest and most traditional sense is only raw fish served with other raw or sometimes pickled ingredients. When the word sushi is described here, we are talking only about traditional raw sushi. It is the raw nature of true sushi that poses most of its health risks. Those going out to sushi with friends or unsure about taking a risk may order menu items at sushi restaurants that are cooked or contain only vegetables. These items have much less risk.

Types and Varieties of Sushi

Sushi has many and varied forms. In some restaurants, it is elevated to an art form. It is presented with a high degree of decoration and stylized plating. Regardless of the style or elevation of the dish, most sushi fits within one of five categories.

  • Nigiri – Consists of a ball of rice with a single slice of fish placed on top of it. It may come with other decorative or flavor ingredients like wasabi or tobiko.
  • Sashimi – Consists of only fish with no rice, seaweed or other ingredients. It is the truest form of sushi. But it also has a reputation for being the most dangerous, difficult to prepare and most expensive one.
  • Maki – The traditional sushi roll wrapped in seaweed on the outside.
  • Uramaki – Inverts the roll and has either no seaweed at all or seaweed on the inside and rice on the outside. It is considered the close cousin of naki.
  • Temaki (hand rolls) – The true fast food staple of Japan. It is designed to be held and eaten by hand. Usually, it has a large, almost burrito-like roll of seaweed on the outside.

Each category of sushi is both visually distinct and has various levels of risk usually associated with it. Most restaurants serve mostly nigiri and maki.

The question of is sushi healthy or not depends a great deal on where you buy it. If  properly stored and prepared, it is likely to have considerably less health risk than being handled improperly. Sushi should always be prepared fresh from a professional sushi chef or establishments. It is not advisable for most people to make their own sushi. This does not apply to the ones that know exactly what they’re doing.

The Dangers of Sushi

1. Parasites

They are also known as the leading health danger in sushi. Various parasites, including roundworm, can infest raw sushi and enter the gut. These parasites are not killed by stomach acid. However, they can be killed by extremely cold storage prior to preparation.

Most restaurants will have an industrial freezer that lowers to at least 4 degrees. This is enough to kill most parasites and larva.

2. Mercury

Predatory fish are more likely to contain high levels of the toxic metal mercury. Indeed, very small doses are not harmful. But regular sushi eaters may consume enough mercury to cause mercury poisoning or other serious health conditions. How much mercury a fish contains depends on its source and its species. Bluefin tuna is one of the most popular sushi fish. It is also one of the highest in mercury.

The danger can be avoided by choosing other options, such as mackerel or salmon. These are very healthy and tend to be far lower in mercury. Also avoid fish sourced from waters near China, as they are far more likely to be contaminated.

3. Sodium

While fish itself isn’t very high in sodium, many sushi dishes and sauces are. Soy sauce is especially high in sodium. A diet too high in sodium may lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems and other chronic diseases. This can be made less of a problem by choosing low-sodium soy sauce. You can also avoid dishes heavy in prepared sauces or on the side.


Are There Benefits to Sushi?

The answer to is sushi healthy may be yes. Many types of fish, especially salmon and mackerel, are packed with healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. They are also a heart-healthy choice for lean protein and those avoiding red meat.

Rice is an excellent alternative to bread and is great for those avoiding gluten. Rice also contains a higher concentration of protein than most other grains. Choosing brown rice with sushi will raise the fiber content. However, this is not traditional.

Sushi dishes that contain seaweed may also be beneficial to health. Nori is the type seaweed used to wrap sushi rolls. Seaweed salad is often served instead of traditional salad. Seaweed is an extremely healthy vegetable packed with a long list of beneficial vitamins and minerals.

To Roll It Up

The answer to is sushi healthy? really depends on where you get the sushi and which options you choose. High-quality restaurant-grade sushi professionally sourced and prepared is both the safest and healthiest option. By taking some simple steps to avoid contaminated fish, a person can enjoy sushi regularly without too much worry.

Are you a sushi lover? Have you wondered is sushi healthy, or have you avoided sushi due to health concerns? Feel free to leave additional questions or comments below. If you have more insight into the health risks of sushi and how to avoid those risks, please share them.

Images from