Sushi isn’t just a delicacy, it’s practically an art form. With humble roots, starting as a way to preserve fish in Japan, this cuisine has become an immensely popular and sophisticated dish across America.
At its baseline, sushi seems like a healthy, nutritious meal: rice, veggies, fresh fish—but past that, there are many different variations as to how sushi can be prepared and which ingredients are used.
The various combinations of different vegetables and fish have enriching benefits—especially with additives like wasabi and picked ginger—but what exactly do all those flavorful ingredients do for your body?
It may help improve gut health
“A major contributor to Japanese health is the gut microbiota, which thrives on fermented vegetables and foods like bok choy, seaweed, mushrooms, kimchi, natto and tofu,” says Davar. “Dietary fiber provides prebiotics and a good nutritional environment for beneficial microbes and helps cleanse the gut of the harmful substances that unhealthy bacteria produce,” she adds.
It can strengthen your immune system
“Research has also shown that wasabi, the unique flavorant used to spice up and disinfect raw fish in sushi, has significant health benefits and helps strengthen the immune system,” says Davar. “Wasabi is rich in beta-carotenes, glucosinolates, and a range of isothiocyanates, which have antibacterial properties and help mitigate microbial elements or latent pathogens.” She also notes that wasabi has been known to kill some forms of E. coli and Staphylococcus bacteria.
It can help improve your heart health
“Salmon [and] mackerel are excellent sources of protein in addition to DHA omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (as well as support brain health and memory retention),” says Davar. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report supported these findings stating there is limited but credible evidence that the DHA found in oily fish can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of hypertension, two common risk factors of developing coronary heart disease.
It may help your body’s natural detoxification process
The nori most commonly used to make sushi, is extremely nutritious. It has 10 times as many vitamins as spinach, and contains 30 to 50% protein and merely 0.1% sugar, according to Davar. “Other beneficial seaweed include kelp, wakame, kombu and bladderwrack, followed by red seaweed (which includes nori), dulse and Irish moss, and finally green seaweed. [These] are high in iodine and help to support natural detoxification processes in the liver,” she says.