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Are Sushi Rolls Healthy For You – The Ultimate Health Breakdown?

What is Sushi

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that has become very popular worldwide. It’s generally made with rice and a combination of a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits.

Some common types of sushi includes the following:

  1. Nigiri: A slice of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice.
  2. Sashimi: Thinly sliced raw fish or seafood, served without rice.
  3. Maki: Rolled sushi using a bamboo mat. The rice and fillings are rolled in seaweed (nori). Rolls can vary in size and ingredients, with common types including hosomaki (thin roll), futomaki (thick roll), and uramaki (inside-out roll where the rice is on the outside).
  4. Temaki: Hand-rolled into a cone shape, with nori on the outside and rice and fillings inside.
  5. Chirashi: A bowl of vinegared rice topped with a variety of sashimi and garnishes.

Sushi is served with condiments like soy sauce, wasabi (a pungent green paste made from the wasabi plant), and pickled ginger to add flavor and intensity. The art of sushi making is highly regarded in Japanese culture, with chefs undergoing extensive training to master their craft.

Sushi is like a gift-wrapped box. Anything can be inside of it. Sushi rolls can be healthy, but it depends on the type of sushi and what is in it. Sushi restaurants can get really creative by adding ingredients with higher amounts of fat and calories. The health score of sushi might be difficult to compute.

The typical sushi roll ingredients are broken down below and their general health score assessed.+

What Ingredients are Typically in Sushi Rolls

Sushi Rice

Sushi rice is a type of white rice that sticks together when cooked. Added to that are water and rice vinegar. One cup of sushi rice has around 230 calories, some protein, carbohydrates, and fat. White sushi rice is not healthy but the good news is that there is only about a quarter cup of rice in one sushi roll.


Sushi is wrapped in a blanket of edible seaweed called nori seaweed. Nori contains vitamin B12, and it is also a good source of iodine, which helps with thyroid health. Additionally, nori is rich in unsaturated fats like Omega 3.

Seaweed also contains minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, selenium, and manganese, contains amino acids and has anti-carcinogen properties. The complete benefits of nori seaweed are too much to list here, but seaweed appears to be healthy.


Types of Fish used in sushi

Sushi can be made with many types of fish, so to determine which one is healthy we’ll have to look at the popular varieties. Fresh fish is the basis for sushi, and without it, your sushi roll is not complete.

1. Imitation Crab Meat

California roll contains imitation crab meat and it is an Americanized adoption of a sushi roll. The good news about imitation crab meat is that it can be eaten by pregnant women because it is cooked fish.

But, imitation crab meat is made from pulverized fish flesh and contains other fillers to give it that crab meat flavor. The fillers include flavor and color, but the meat is also higher in sodium and phosphorus.

Imitation crab meat is nothing but a highly processed food item created to save money and it is not healthy.

2. Salmon

Salmon is a powerhouse fish commonly used in a sushi roll. Salmon is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it an excellent addition to your diet. The amounts of mercury in salmon is also less than other fish choices, so this fish is healthy.

3. Tuna

Tuna is also a good choice of fresh fish used in a sushi roll. Similarly to salmon, tuna provides many nutritional benefits such as protein and vitamin D. the addition of tuna to your roll is healthy.

4. Other Healthy Fish

Other types of fish that show up in sushi are king mackerel, kampachi, squid, yellowtail, eel, and others. Things to consider about your fish is its mercury content and its omega-3 content. The former being a no, the latter being a go.

5. Tempura Fish

Tempura is synonymous with the word fried. It is a type of batter commonly used by Asian restaurants. It is crunchy and tasty but certainly not healthy. If your fish is dipped in tempura batter and fried then you may want to reassess the health score of your sushi box.

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese normally shows up in a Philadelphia roll. This type of cheese does contain micronutrients and is lower in calories than butter. However, cream cheese contains mostly saturated fat, a contributor to high cholesterol.

Philadelphia rolls might be ok to eat on occasion, but not so in the long term.


Avocadoes are known to be very nutritious and loaded with vitamin k, folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium and small amounts of other minerals. It is low in unsaturated fat and is loaded with fatty acids that is good for the heart. The healthiness of avocado is rated as healthy.

Other Vegetables

This includes miscellaneous vegetables that can be added to your sushi such as celery. I am yet to find a vegetable that is basically void of nutrients. So, unless your vegetables are deep-fried I am going to deem this as being healthy. 

Soy Sauce

Let me get this out of the way and say that I have never heard anyone associate soy sauce with being nourishing. Yes, it does contain some trace minerals and vitamins like one or two percent of some minerals, but one tablespoon service of this sauce contains almost 900 milligrams of sodium. This is almost half of your daily sodium needs.

A high sodium content means the sauce is salty. It makes it taste good, but it is terrible for your heart and blood pressure. Sushi rice will soak up the soy sauce, so it is easy to consume a tablespoon or more soy sauce while eating sushi. Soy sauce is not healthy.

Should You Make Your Own Sushi

If you are adventurous you can consider making your own sushi. That way you know what ingredients you use and it is fun for you and your family. Before you do that, be prepared to research the best places to buy sushi fish since it needs to be properly handled.

Can Sushi Rolls Make You Sick

Unfortunately, yes sushi rolls can potentially make you sick if they are not prepared correctly. The following are some risks associated with consuming sushi:

  1. Foodborne Illness: Sushi ingredients usually includes raw fish, which can contain parasites and bacteria like Vibrio or Salmonella. Eating contaminated raw fish can lead to food poisoning and cause anything ranging from mild diarrhea to needing urgent medical care.
  2. Mercury Exposure: Certain types of fish, such as tuna, can contain high levels of mercury. If you consume these fish frequently this can cause mercury to accumulate in your body, which is particularly risky for pregnant women and young children.
  3. Allergies: Some people may have allergies to seafood, which can cause serious reactions.
  4. Poor Handling and Storage: Prepared sushi rolls needs to be kept at the correct temperature to prevent bacterial growth. Poor handling, preparation, or storage can increase the risk of foodborne illness.

To minimize risks, it’s important to eat sushi from reputable restaurants that follow strict food safety practices, and to be mindful of how much high-mercury fish you consume. If you buy pre-prepared sushi rolls such as from a supermarket make sure you check the expiration date. It’s probably best to stick to sushi rolls that were prepared on the day you purchase it.

Will Sushi Makes You Fat

Sushi can be high in calories depending on what types you choose and how much you eat and the sauces it is prepared with. Here’s a breakdown to help you choose sushi rolls with less calories.

  1. Low-Calorie Options: Traditional sushi rolls with fresh fish, vegetables, and a small amount of rice are generally low in calories. For example, a typical piece of sushi (nigiri) or a small roll can range from 40 to 60 calories.
  2. Choose Sushi Rolls with Less High-Calorie Additions: Some types of sushi, especially those that include creamy sauces, mayonnaise, or are deep-fried (like tempura rolls), can be quite high in calories. Rolls like the Philadelphia roll or anything labeled “spicy” (which usually means it’s mixed with a mayonnaise-based sauce) can be higher in calories.
  3. Rice and Portion Sizes: Sushi rice is seasoned with a mix of vinegar, sugar, and salt, which adds to its calorie content. The size of the sushi rolls and the amount of rice used can also significantly impact the overall calorie intake. Choosing brown rice sushi rolls adds more fiber to your diet, which may reduce hunger and further snacking.


Eating sushi in moderation as part of a balanced diet can be a healthy choice. It’s when indulging in larger portions or choosing rolls with high-calorie additives that sushi might contribute to weight gain if consumed frequently and in large quantities.

While sushi rolls in its most basic form is not a health food per se, it will be healthier than common foods such as pizza or fried foods. Habits such as soaking sushi in or swapping fish high in omega-3 for ones that are fried you will reduce the number of healthy ingredients.

Sushi can be a part of a healthy diet, but you might want to watch out for the high carbohydrate content of white rice. Some restaurants serve sushi with brown rice as a healthier alternative. Brown rice is also high in carbohydrates but it contains more fiber and other trace nutrients.

Eating a healthy diet is usually not all or nothing. The habit requires being constantly mindful of what you buy, especially when you buy pre-prepared foods.

FAQ’s About Sushi Rolls

What Sushi Rolls Are Cooked

The following Sushi is Cooked
Ebi: This is sushi made with shrimp, which is often boiled or steamed.
Unagi: This sushi features grilled eel, usually brushed with a sweet soy-based sauce.
Tamago: This is a type of sushi made with a sweet egg omelette.
Kanpyo Maki: This sushi roll includes dried gourd strips that are rehydrated and cooked in a sweet soy sauce.
Inari Sushi: This consists of sushi rice packed into pouches of seasoned, fried tofu.
California Roll: Often contains cooked crab meat or imitation crab, which is fully cooked.
Tempura Rolls: These rolls can include tempura-fried shrimp or vegetables.

What Sushi is Gluten Free

Here are some guidelines to consider regarding gluten in sushi choices

Sushi can be gluten-free, but it largely depends on the specific ingredients used in preparation. Here are some key considerations for those looking to enjoy gluten-free sushi:
Fish: Most fresh fish used in sushi is naturally gluten-free. This includes common sushi toppings like tuna, salmon, and sashimi.
Rice: Sushi rice is gluten-free as it is typically made with rice, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. However, it’s important to check if any wheat-based ingredients were added during the preparation.
Nori (Seaweed): Nori sheets used to wrap sushi are naturally gluten-free.
Wasabi and Ginger: Pure wasabi and pickled ginger are usually gluten-free, but some brands use additives that contain gluten, so it’s crucial to check the labels.
Items to Avoid:
Soy Sauce: Traditional soy sauce is made with wheat and is not gluten-free. You can choose tamari, which is a gluten-free alternative, if possible.
Imitation Crab: This is a common in many rolls (like California rolls), imitation crab meat often contains wheat as a binding agent. You may want to avoid this or find out of there is a gluten free option.
Tempura: Anything tempura, including shrimp and vegetables, is battered and fried with wheat flour. This will contain gluten, so avoid tempura sushi.
Sauces and Marinades: Some sauces and marinades may contain gluten. It’s important to inquire about the ingredients used.

When dining out, it’s a good practice to communicate with the chef or restaurant staff about your dietary restrictions to ensure the sushi is prepared without any gluten-containing ingredients.

Can You Eat Sushi When Pregnant

Yes, you can enjoy sushi while pregnant, but you’ll need to be a bit selective about the types you choose to ensure it’s safe for both you and your baby. Here’s a more cautious approach to keep in mind:
Stick to Cooked Options: Sushi isn’t just about raw fish. You can safely indulge in sushi rolls that include cooked ingredients like shrimp (ebi), grilled eel (unagi), or crab. Vegetable rolls, which don’t contain any fish, are also a great choice.
Avoid Raw Fish: It’s best to steer clear of raw fish because it can harbor parasites and harmful bacteria. These can pose health risks such as listeriosis, which can lead to serious complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage or illness in your newborn baby.
Choose Reputable Spots: Make sure to eat at well-established sushi places known for their hygiene and quality. These restaurants are more likely to follow proper food safety protocols, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses. Stay away from pre-prepared sushi such as those sold at supermarkets or rest stops.
Talk to Your Doctor: Always good to chat with your healthcare provider about eating sushi during pregnancy. They can offer guidance based on your specific health conditions and dietary needs.
By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can satisfy your sushi cravings safely during your pregnancy, especially if you go for fully cooked or vegetable-based options.

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