How Many Calories in Sushi?

I recently spent over a month travelling with two calorie-conscious girlfriends. During our trip, we ate a lot of sushi because one, it's delicious; two, it's a healthy choice amongst the array of deep-fried and fat-filled offerings that dominate the dining landscape; and three, we were right by the ocean and reveled the opportunity to get fresh seafood. But I can't help but wonder: with all that rice, is sushi really the best choice calorie-wise? It has lots of valuable vitamins and minerals like omega 3s, but if you're watching your waistline, would it be better to choose something else?

Let's investigate. An average sushi meal that we had would consist of a California roll (6 pieces), possibly another roll of something with a bit of pizazz, let's say a shrimp tempura roll (again, 6 pieces), and maybe a serving of edamame if we were really hungry. How many calories and fat would be in this meal? Would it be:

a) 962 cal, 46 g of fat
b) 863 cal, 31 g of fat
c) 555 cal, 26 g of fat
d) 231 cal, 2 g of fat

The answer is B) 863 Cal, 31 g of fat. That's not bad when you compare it to most fast food meals, but it's definitely not as low-cal as most people assume. Plus, if your watching carbs, this meal would have a ton of them, 111 g of them in fact. So here's my suggestion: if you're counting calories, stick with just one roll, or better yet, order sashimi (fish with no rice) -- it's low in calories, free of carbs and high in protein. If that just won't fill you up, supplement your meal with Miso Soup (85 calories per cup) or edamame (100 calories per serving)

Sushi Ingredients

The key ingredients of sushi are fish and rice. Not all sushi is served raw. Many sushi ingredients are actually cooked. California rolls always feature cooked imitation crabmeat, known as surimi or karaboko. Ebi is shrimp that is traditionally cooked unless ama ebi is requested. Unagi and anago are both terms for eel, which is always cooked. Many restaurants offer tempura selections as well. If you do not want to sample raw fish, look for these items or speak with the sushi chef for recommendations. Alternatively, if you are feeling daring, then consider ordering the omakase, which is the “chef’s choice.” You will be presented with a series of dishes that the chef feels best represent his skill and ingredients.

Sushi rice is another key component to a successful sushi dish. Sushi rice is short grain and has a specific balance of starches that allows it to stick together. This stickiness is necessary for successful eating with chopsticks. The sushi rice is uniquely prepared and seasoned to make it the perfect accompaniment to the fish and vegetables.

Your plate may also feature some additional items, depending on the chef’s preferences. Wasabi is a very complex plant that has been termed “Japanese horseradish.” It is commonly served with a variety of sushi dishes. Gari is pickled ginger that may be any color from pink to tan.

Gari is designed as a palate cleanser and should be eaten between, rather than with, bites of sushi. Daikon is a radish accompaniment, often served with sashimi.

Health Concerns

Seafood, particularly tuna, has made headlines lately due to a concern about mercury contamination. In addition, raw foods including raw sushi carry the risk of parasitic infestations. Eating raw seafood is not recommended for people with certain health conditions, young children and pregnant women. Raw freshwater fish is not recommended for anyone as it carries much higher risks. If you have any doubts or concerns, consult with your doctor prior to consuming raw sushi. Cooked items remain a safe alternative.

If you are reasonably healthy, the health concerns from sushi are minimal. Federal law requires that fish intended to be served raw be frozen according to strict guidelines to destroy parasites. Contaminants are not affected, however. Of course, much of the quality of sushi depends on its handling once it reaches the restaurant. It is worth paying more to patronize only sushi restaurants that are known for their high standards.

Sushi is a wonderful traditional food that has become recently popular in the United States. Whether you purchase your sushi in a restaurant or make it at home, sushi is a great way to expand your culinary horizons. Order foods that you like, do not be afraid to experiment and always insist on the freshest ingredients. You may just find yourself becoming a sushi connoisseur.

A Beginner's Guide to Sushi

How to Navigate the Unfamiliar Waters of the Delicious Delicacy Known as Sushi

I remember my first encounter with Sushi. My family and I were at a Chinese buffet that offered a small sampling of not-so-fresh-looking fare. My mother insisted that I try sushi, since at the time I was pescetarian (semi-vegetarian). I grabbed a couple of pieces of various types of sushi, then eyed them suspiciously for a few minutes before popping the first one in my mouth. A couple of chews into the bite, I solidly decided that sushi wasn't for me.
My first experience with sushi was not such a good one. Hopefully yours wasn't (or won't be) similar.

To prevent such a travesty as missing out on the joy of sushi, I have a few helpful hints to help you adjust to the unfamiliar waters of "sushi."

First and foremost, don't make the mistake I made! Always go somewhere reputable, preferably somewhere that someone you know has eaten, or that has many good reviews. I can't emphasize enough, not to make your first experience with sushi, one in a Chinese buffet. These places are great to get your chicken lo mein fix, but rarely are they able to budget for providing a constant flow of good, fresh sushi.

Second, make the first experience a safe one. While enthusiasm for the wonderful world of sushi is something everyone should experience, a gentle introduction will go a long way. Start with cooked or no-fish sushi. You might say, "Well then it's not sushi, right?" Nope. "Sushi" doesn't actually mean "raw fish," like most people think. Sushi is actually the vinegar-rice that is served with something else. Sushi can be anything from cooked egg over rice, "Tamago," to the prized "Toro," fatty tuna over sushi rice and anything in between (I've even seen a peanut-butter-and jelly-roll!).

That being said, you'll want to go with something like a California roll, which has cucumber, cooked crab meat or imitation crab meat, and avocado. If you don't like crab, you could go for a simple "crunchy roll" which at its simplest has nothing more than sushi rice, nori (dried seaweed), and tempura. The crunchy roll is redone by many restaurants with extras such as cooked shrimp, avocado, cucumber, or whatever else the sushi chef can think up! Make sure to read the menu carefully so that you won't be surprised by any ingredients, and when in doubt, ask your server or sushi chef what you can expect in any roll that looks interesting.

If you're ready to move on to more raw-like food, but without the raw risks, I highly recommend rolls like the Philadelphia roll, which contains smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado (and in some restaurants cucumber is substituted for avocado). This roll gives you the texture of raw fish, but has a salty-smoky taste. Another good transitional roll is unagi or grilled eel. Don't freak out! Eel isn't weird tasting, and is usually served in a sweet eel sauce that makes the eel taste like a fish and a chicken had a baby and it got barbecued. Again, it isn't raw, but it gets you used to trying new textures.

The next step in the sushi world is, you guessed it, raw fish. Here's where the waters part: Sushi has the raw fish and rice. Sashimi is just raw fish. I wouldn't recommend going straight to sashimi, until you have at least tried one raw sushi roll. You will want to start out with a mild fish without a crazy texture, for which I recommend salmon or tuna. Salmon is a little "slimier" than tuna, but the taste is buttery and smooth. The color is a beautiful orangey-pink with light stripes. Tuna's texture is a bit more firm and the taste is almost tart and meaty. These are wonderful in a simple rice and nori roll. If you're afraid of tasting them directly, you can always add cucumber or avocado for a little distraction to your taste buds. Once you learn to love the fresh fish flavor, you'll soon find yourself craving the simple flavor of the fish itself.

The journey to sushi connoisseur is very similar to that of learning to taste wine. It's a slow transition where you learn to "read" the food, and enjoy it for more than it's simple immediate qualities. Sushi is beautiful, artful, and a delicacy. One of my favorite things about eating sushi rather than Italian food, steak, or even my native Cajun cuisine, is that you feel good after you finish. Instead of feeling like you had a brick land in the pit of your stomach, you feel pleasantly full and like you could go out for a walk. It's a food so versatile that almost anyone can find some form of sushi that they like, if they only give it a chance!

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