Is Sushi Healthy? 4 Huge Reasons Why Most Sushi Is Bad for You
If you’re wondering what it is about those sushi rolls that make it a poor meal option, here are four.
1. Your sushi rolls are full of unhealthy, unsustainable fish — if you’re even getting what you are ordering.
Wild-caught fish like tuna and salmon are great for you. They’re full of omega-3 fatty acids that help protect our hearts and brains, and they’re packed with protein. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the fish you’re getting. More likely you’re being fed farmed fish, which are dangerous to your health and full of antibiotics, pesticides and dangerous chemicals.
These fish farms produce an enormous amount of excrement, which in turn harms other sea life and provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Feeding the fish in fish farms also leads to overfishing of smaller fish species like wild sardines and herring and decreases biodiversity.
If you’ve ever wondered how sushi restaurants can afford to sell sushi so cheaply, this is why; they’re paying peanuts for farmed fish. Of course, that’s if you’re even getting what you believe you’re ordering. A study out of UCLA examined the fish ordered at 26 different L.A.-area restaurants over four years. (3)
They found that 47 percent of the fish used in sushi was mislabeled. While tuna and salmon were usually what they said (salmon was mislabeled 1 out of 10 times, which is still depressing), halibut and red snapper orders were almost always ended up being a different type of fish. An honest mistake? One of the study’s authors doesn’t think so.
“Fish fraud could be accidental, but I suspect that in some cases the mislabeling is very much intentional, though it’s hard to know where in the supply chain it begins,” said Paul Barber, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior author of the study. “I suspected we would find some mislabeling, but I didn’t think it would be as high as we found in some species.” (4)
At times, the real fish found in the sushi was from endangered species. Mislabeling is also problematic because certain groups of people, like pregnant women and children, should avoid certain types of fish altogether. Though the study focused on L.A., previous studies suggest this is rampant throughout the country.
Do you really know what kind of fish you’re eating?
2. There’s a ton of bacteria in sushi.
If you’re getting your sushi from places like the grocery store, you might be getting more than you bargained. A study out of Norway detected the bacteria mesophilic Aeromonas spp in 71 percent of the 58 samples they examined. (5) This bacteria is known to cause gastrointestinal issues, skin and soft tissue infections and other unpleasant things. (6)
The researchers found that it was likely the poor temperature control during the transportation between the factory and store that leads to the growth in bacteria. They also found that some of the bacteria can be introduced through both raw veggies and fish. If you’re not consuming high-quality ingredients that have been transported in the proper temperature, the safety of your sushi is likely compromised.
But if you’re thinking that you’ll be safe if you stick to only restaurant sushi, I’m going to burst that bubble, too. Yet another study found that salmonella and listeria was higher in restaurants with fresh sushi than in frozen, industrially processed sushi from supermarkets. (7) As the study’s authors put it, “The quality of freshly prepared sushi strongly depends on the skills and habits of the preparation cooks, which may vary.”
3. It contains too much mercury.
Eating sushi weekly has been linked to higher-than-safe mercury levels. (8) Mercury in fish is connected to serious health issues, particularly in children and pregnant women, ranging from developmental disabilities to shortened attention spans and learning disabilities.
And if you’re eating fish that’s got a high level of mercury (usually tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel) because of the healthy benefits that fish have, you’re out of luck. It turns out that too much mercury actually cancels out the positive benefits of omega-3s and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. (9)
Plus, large tuna like Atlantic Bluefin and Bigeye, which are prized for sushi, not only have the highest mercury levels, but they’re also in jeopardy. These fish are overfished to satisfy the needs of sushi eaters.
4. The staple ingredients aren’t very good for you.
Everyone dips their sushi pieces into soy sauce. Unfortunately, soy sauce tops my list as one of the worst condiments. Soy is loaded with sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure and increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Plus, nearly all soy in the U.S. is made from GMO seeds. I’ll pass, thanks.
And how about all of that white rice? Refined carbohydrates like white rice are more empty calories. They enter directly into your bloodstream, causing a sugar spike then crash. They’ve been linked to diseases of the heart, liver, kidneys etc.