Sushi, maki: really healthy?

Rice, seaweed, raw fish, ginger: on paper, sushi and maki have good nutritional value. But are these little Japanese bites really good for your health? Answer Marine Boni, nutritionist in Nantes.

Destination Santé: What are the advantages and disadvantages of sushi?

Marion Boni : A basic sushi recipe is based on: a sheet of seaweed, rice, rice vinegar, water, sugar, then a side dish, usually fish (most commonly tuna, salmon) or shellfish (crab, shrimp), raw vegetables, avocado, etc. But the variants are many and varied. You’ll occasionally find Philadelphia-type cheese, Surimi-type imitation crab, fried onions, fruit, eggs, etc.

Sushi is adorned with several qualities: it can be balanced in that it provides starch (rice) that satisfies us, protein (fish, shellfish), and vegetables (radishes, cucumbers, etc.). The latter comes in small quantities but we often have the option of accompanying the sushi with coleslaw, which balances it all out. In addition, salmon and tuna will be a source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

On the other hand, sushi rice recipes involve a certain amount of sugar that we usually don’t have in our dishes and the sauces we consume can also be very rich in sugar (sweet soy sauce) or salt (sweet soy sauce). salty). This is the point of caution and this is why it should not be eaten too often. There’s also the risk of eating it in large quantities and with a large amount of sauce, the record quickly turns to salty, sweet and caloric.

Santé’s goal: In this case, sushi and maki, junk-food or healthy?

Marion Boni : What is meant by junk-food (malbouffe in French) is food with a high energy content and low nutritional quality. They are high in calories but nutritionally unappealing calories, mostly from fat and (saturated) sugars. Usually a large amount of salt is added, possibly sugar and food additives (flavor enhancers, colorings, aromas, etc.).

When it comes to sushi, it is the quality of the product used and the quantity ingested that might make people think of junk food. Indeed, as such, sushi is low in fat, especially saturated fat, and paying respect to Japanese traditions, it is more of a refined dish. It’s hard to compare it to a fast food burger.

However, the sushi we eat in France often comes from fast food chains or supermarkets, where the quality of the product is not always there. Indeed, the salmon used will generally be farmed, fatter than wild salmon, more polluted and endocrine disruptor. For the sake of savings, fish cuts will also become less important in favor of a larger amount of rice, thus increasing the glycemic load of the meal. Finally, the filling makes all the difference. Indeed, sushi made from imitation crab (surimi) will be less attractive: less rich in protein, without Omega 3 in salmon, richer in salt and sugar. So one combining surimi, cheese and fried onions will be less appealing, for example, than one combining salmon, avocado and raw vegetables.

Health Goals: is it better to make it at home?

Marion Boni : Contrary to its appearance, sushi is not that hard to make at home and it is much more economical and only a few ingredients are enough. After mastering the skills of sushi rolls, it becomes child’s play. We’re not going anywhere near the perfectionism of Japanese cooks but it’s a good way to invite these flavors at a lower cost into our kitchens and have more control over the quality of the finished product and its nutritional balance.

If you want to eat it out, choose small Japanese restaurants over supermarkets or big chains. It’s more expensive but tastes much better and is nutritious.

Destination Health: why are they so addicting?

Marion Boni : the combination of different flavours, sugar, salt and fat, that sushi offers makes for a very tasty dish that makes you want to come back. Indeed, they have the ability to stimulate our pleasure and reward centers. (Sushi contains glutamate, a neurotransmitter naturally present in our bodies and other foods* known to improve neural communication. Therefore, the brain tends to ask for more, so addiction is often experienced when dealing with sushi and maki, the editorial notes).

Destination Health: how often can you eat it?

Marion Boni : there is no reason to ban sushi, on the other hand we try to bet on quality and not abuse it either. If you’re eating sushi with salmon and at a fast food chain or supermarket, twice a month seems to be a good frequency. If you eat vegetarian sushi (no fish), you can eat it 3 times a month. It’s best to accompany them with miso soup (rich in probiotics, very appealing to our gut microbiota) and/or coleslaw (rich in fiber and prebiotics, also attractive to our microbiota) rather than a bowl of rice that we find in sushi already. The frequency with which you eat sushi will also depend on your leftovers, remember that food balance is built up over a number of meals/day and for at least a week.

*almonds, pumpkin seeds, coral lentils, parmesan, soy sauce, emmental, clams, peas, crab, cabbage, chicken, beef

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