Sushi, maki: is it really healthy?


Rice, seaweed, raw fish, and ginger: On paper, sushi and maki have good nutritional value. But are these little Japanese bites really good for your health? The answer is Marine Bony, nutritionist in Nantes.

Destination Santé: What are the pros and cons of sushi?

Marion Bonney : The basic recipe for sushi is based on: a plate of seaweed, rice, rice vinegar, water, sugar, then a garnish, usually fish (often tuna, salmon) or shellfish (crab, shrimp), raw vegetables, and avocado. , etc. But the variables are many and varied. You’ll occasionally find Philadelphia-type cheese, surimi-type imitation crab, fried onions, fruit, eggs, etc.

Sushi is decorated with many qualities: it can be balanced because it provides starches (rice) that satisfy us, proteins (fish and shellfish), and vegetables (radishes, cucumbers, etc.). The latter is present in small quantities but we often have the option of accompanying sushi with coleslaw, which restores balance to everything. In addition, salmon and tuna will be a source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

On the other hand, the sushi rice recipe includes an amount of sugar that we usually do not get in our dishes, and the sauces with which we consume it can also be very rich in sugar (sweet soy sauce) or salt (sweet soy sauce is salty). This is the point of vigilance and this is why you don’t take it too often. There is also the risk of eating them in large quantities and with a large amount of sauce, the note quickly becomes salty, sweet and caloric.

Destination Santé: In this case, sushi and maki, fast food or healthy?

Marion Bonney : The definition of fast food (malbouffe in French) refers to foods that are high in energy and low in nutritional quality. They are high in calories but nutritionally unappealing, mostly from (saturated) fats and sugars. A large amount of salt is generally added, possibly sugar and food additives (flavor enhancers, colourings, aromas, etc.).

With regard to sushi, it is the quality of the products used and the quantity eaten that might make one think of fast food. Indeed, as such, sushi is low in fat, especially saturated fat, and if it respects Japanese traditions, it is more of a refined dish. It’s hard to compare it to fast food burgers.

However, the sushi we eat in France often comes from fast food chains or supermarkets, where the quality of the products is not always there. Indeed, the salmon used is generally farm-raised, fattier than wild salmon, and more contaminated with pollutants and endocrine disruptors. In order to save, the piece of fish will also be less important in favor of a larger amount of rice, which will increase the glycemic index of the meal. Finally, the filler makes the difference. In fact, sushi made with imitation crab (surimi) would be less interesting: it is less rich in protein, devoid of the omega-3s found in salmon, and high in salt and sugar. Thus, those that combine surimi with cheese and fried onions will be less interesting than, say, those that combine salmon, avocado, and raw vegetables.

Destination health: Is it better to make it at home?

Marion Bonney : Contrary to appearances, it is not difficult to make sushi at home and it turns out to be much more economical and only a few ingredients are enough. Once you master a talent for sushi rolls, it becomes child’s play. We won’t come close to the perfection of Japanese chefs but it’s a good way to invite this flavor for less cost into our kitchen and for greater control over the quality of the final product as well as its nutritional balance.

If you want to eat it out, prefer small Japanese restaurants rather than supermarkets or big chains. More expensive but much better in taste and nutrition.

Destination health: why is it addictive?

Marion Bonney : the combination of different flavors, sugar, salt and fat, served by sushi that make it a particularly delicious dish that will make you want to come back. In fact, they have the ability to stimulate our pleasure and reward center. (Sushi contains glutamate, a neurotransmitter found naturally in our bodies and in other foods* that is known to increase neurotransmitter communication. So the brain tends to demand more, and thus often feels addictive when encountering sushi and maki, editor’s note).

Destination Health: How Often Can You Eat It?

Marion Bonney : There is no reason to forbid sushi, on the other hand we try to bet on quality and not abuse it either. If you eat sushi with salmon and in fast food chains or supermarkets, a frequency of eating it twice a month seems fine. If you eat vegetarian sushi (without fish), you can eat it 3 times a month. They’d rather be accompanied by miso soup (rich in probiotics, especially interesting for our gut microbes) and/or coleslaw (rich in fiber and prebiotics, also interesting for our microbes) than with a bowl of rice that we already find in sushi. The frequency of consuming sushi also depends on the rest of your diet, remember that the balance of food is built over several meals / days and at least throughout the week.

*Almonds, pumpkin seeds, coral lentils, parmesan, soy sauce, emmental, scallops, peas, crab, cabbage, chicken, beef.


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