Sad News For Sushi Lovers: How Your Favorite Rolls Are Some Of The Worst Foods For You

by Jaja Liao

Americans love sushi. We eat it all the time, often because we think of it as the better and hipper alternative to burgers and fries. After all, sushi is a great health food, right? Well, it turns out, maybe not.

The world's oldest woman (116-year-old woman from Japan) says that the key to longevity is lots of sushi and sleep, but she definitely is not talking about the kind of sushi Americans have adopted.

Chances are, the sushi you just ate for lunch is not going to help you live to 116 years old. It's actually probably just making you more unhealthy. Here's why:

1. The Calories

Surprise, surprise: White sushi rice has a bunch of calories. When you look at the calorie count of a piece of sashimi (just the fish) and compare it to its nigiri version (fish and rice), most nigiri is basically double the calories of its sashimi form.

Let's say you are picking between sweet shrimp sashimi or nigiri. Thirty versus 60 calories per piece seems like nothing, but if you are eating a sushi meal of 12 pieces, we are now talking about 360 versus 720 calories.

Also keep in mind that the above comparison does not account for roll items that contain more than just fish and rice like, say, California rolls and spicy tuna rolls.

For example, 12 pieces (two packages) of Whole Foods' California roll combine to 740 calories. A McDonald's Big Mac and small fries combine to 785 calories.

2. The Sugar

Sticking to the Whole Foods' California roll and Big Mac example, you would be eating 22 grams of sugar for the sushi lunch compared to 9 grams of sugar for the Big Mac and fries lunch.

Sushi rice tastes better than normal rice for a reason, and that taste comes with a price. On average, a cup of normal rice is 166 calories and has 1 gram of sugar. A cup of sushi rice is 381 calories and 9 grams of sugar. That's nine times the sugar content of normal rice.

3. The Salt

Besides sugar, there's another reason why sushi rice tastes better than normal rice. A cup of normal rice has 5 mg of sodium, but a cup of sushi rice has 442 mg of sodium. Every time you eat sushi rice, you're eating 88 times more salt than if you just had eaten normal rice.

If you have nori (dried seaweed) on your sushi, it adds even more salt. I don't think I need to elaborate further.

4. The Oil

This is a tricky one because not all sushi is guilty of this, but items such as tempura are fried. Anything fried has too much oil in it, even if its base is a vegetable or fish.

This is why sushi, like shrimp tempura and deep-fried rolls, has so many calories. If you ate 12 pieces of a shrimp tempura roll for lunch, you would be eating 1,016 calories, which is more than half of your recommended daily caloric intake as an adult.

5. The Condiments

Soy sauce tastes great with sushi, but it is basically liquefied salt, at 902 mg sodium per tablespoon. I don't know about you, but I definitely have more than 1 tablespoon of soy sauce each time I have a sushi meal.

Then there's the mayo and the spicy mayo sauces that make sushi taste even better, and also add 90 calories per tablespoon. So basically each spoonful of mayo is 4.5 percent of your recommended daily caloric intake.

If you've come to the conclusion that the kind of sushi you eat is pretty healthy (for example, no items that are fried or have crazy sauces), then eat on! But if you're finding yourself on the opposite side of the fence, then maybe you should change your habits a bit.

Try skipping the shrimp tempura and pick the simple salmon roll, instead. You don't have to stop eating sushi all together, just be conscious of what you're ordering.

*All sushi caloric content not cited in-text can be found here.

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