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Sushi & Sashimi

Sushi for Your Health

Whether you're trying to keep your high-blood pressure down, boost your energy level, or just fit into your favorite jeans, pick up your chopsticks

by Rhonda Adair

Are you eating your "5-A-Day" of vegetables? Watching your calories? Your cholesterol? If you are, you probably dutifully try to enjoy that garden-mulch salad, or brick of steamed pollack, again, while really wishing you could just sink your teeth into something more appealing. The problem, it always seems, is that if it is something you crave, it is probably not on your diet.

That problem is a little less daunting if you are a sushi fanatic. Current nutritional data suggests that you can have your futomaki, and eat it, too. Sushi uses simple, healthy ingredients-seafood, seaweed (nori), rice, and vegetables-carefully seasoned and arranged to satisfy all the senses. Sushi is a perfect food not only for calorie counters, but also for those following more specific nutritional guidelines. So whether you're trying to keep your high-blood pressure down, boost your energy level, or just fit into your favorite jeans, pick up your chopsticks.

Even the fattiest varieties of fish used in sushi-tuna, salmon, and eel-contain fewer than 200 calories per four-ounce serving. That's about half what you'd get with a prepared steak. Shrimp and octopus are even lower, at only 100 calories per serving. And the fatty fish calories pack the nutritional power of not only protein, B-vitamins, and minerals like selenium, but also Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies continue to demonstrate the enormous role these fats play in maintaining a healthy heart, and metabolism in general. The Omega-3's have even been touted to improve conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis, and depression.

Nori, rice and vegetables add another mere 150 calories per serving. These calories provide more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, especially if brown rice is used, and provide a good source of carbohydrates to complement the fish protein. Even wasabi can claim its own small health benefit, being rich in vitamin C.

The artful manner in which sushi is presented provides yet another health benefit to dieters. Portions are relatively small, by American standards, and consist of several bite-sized pieces, encouraging the diner to practice the art of slowly savoring one's food. The intricate beauty and variety of flavors inherent in a sushi arrangement contribute to the savoring experience, making it a little easier than it might be, say, with a hamburger and a side of fries.

While the raw fish used in sushi is considered higher in many enzymes and nutrients than its still heart-healthy cooked counterpart, certain individuals, including pregnant women and those with immune disorders, should not eat raw fish or shellfish, because of the risk of exposure to bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, and parasites. However, for the majority of enthusiastic diners, these risks may be considered minimal, as long as the restaurant is reputable and obtains and maintains its fish according to high quality standards. Not all sushi uses raw fish, anyway; there are many options using cooked crab, shrimp, or eel, scrambled egg, tofu, or simply vegetables, to please the more cautious palate.

So rather than whiling away in the diet doldrums-hit your favorite sushi bar, and feed your body and spirit without the guilt. And as you savor each beautiful morsel, you might consider that a little less guilt in your life has to be good for you, too.