Nigiri. Maki. Sashimi. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have jumped on the sushi bandwagon, then you know exactly what these Japanese delicacies are.
Sushi has quickly become one of the most convenient, hip and healthy ways to grab lunch or dinner, and everyone from college students to business professionals can’t get enough of it.
Even though it’s recommended that we eat fish at least twice a week because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids (which helps blood circulate in our bodies and reduces blood pressure), there’s definitely a dark side to eating fish that is far more harmful to our health.
What is Sushi?
Sushi was originally created in Japan as a way to preserve fish, but it later spilled over to the Western world as an exotic and artistic way to prepare seafood.
Its main ingredients include vinegared rice, raw fish or shellfish and vegetables rolled up in seaweed. Even though most of the fish is raw, it can also be cooked and marinated in different sauces.
There are literally hundreds of different types of ingredients you can get in sushi, from eel and avocado to shrimp and cucumber, but by far the two most popular raw fish items to get are tuna and salmon.
You can find an alphabetical listing of sushi items at Nibble.com’s Sushi Glossary page.
How Can It Harm You?
It’s true that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can have a positive impact on asthma, cancer and kidney disease, but there are also many toxic elements found in raw fish that can greatly damage your body.
Here are some of the dangers of eating raw fish or shellfish:
Mercury is the most dangerous element found in uncooked fish. It is naturally found in small amounts in rocks and soil, but due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels and dumping pollution into our waters, it has become increasingly damaging to the environment.
When factories dump harmful pesticides and other toxins into our waters, they are absorbed by the marine life in the water, and that includes fish. So, when we eat raw fish, we consume the mercury and it is absorbed into our bloodstream.
Some harmful effects of ingesting mercury are:
- Damages the central nervous system, DNA and the brain
- Allergic reactions
- Sperm damage
- Birth defects
Even though the amount of mercury you can ingest from a piece of sushi is very small, if you eat sushi on a regular basis this can be a cause of concern for you.
You can read more about mercury here.
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus that can inflame your liver and damage its functionality. Your liver is basically what fights infections and removes harmful poisons from your body, so if you contract Hepatitis A, it can greatly weaken your body’s natural ability to fight off germs.
Hepatitis A can be contracted by eating the raw shellfish, such as crab and shrimp. Symptoms include fever, nausea and loss of appetite.
However, it is treatable. You can get a Hepatitis A vaccine shot to help prevent the virus from attacking your body. Or, if you do contract the virus, by taking proper medication and resting, you can fully recover.
You can read more about Hepatitis A at the eMedicineHealth.com glossary page.
Worms and Parasites
Even though sushi chefs are trained to identify worms and worm eggs in raw fish, they can still slip by them in the preparation process.
Most fish have some type of worm or parasite, but they are killed when the fish is cooked. So eating raw fish offers an opportunity for worms and other parasites to travel into our digestive tract and attack our intestines. This can cause abdominal discomfort, weakness of the limbs and fatigue.
But don’t worry, the probability of contracting worms and parasites from raw fish is often slim to none. Mercury is still the larger concern.
Yes, sushi has fish and vegetables in it, which are healthy by our standards, but when combined with other fancy ingredients, they can add up to an unhealthy amount of calories.
A California Roll, which has imitation crab stick, avocado and cucumber in it, has about 350 calories in it, whereas the popular Spicy Tuna roll, which includes tuna, hot paste and red pepper flakes blended with mayonnaise, has a whopping 450 calories! Not exactly a light lunch.
You can see a list of popular sushi dishes with their corresponding calories, fat and carbohydrates at the CalorieKing.com Food Database page.
This information is not meant to scare avid sushi lovers from eating their favorite meal. In fact, sushi’s popularity will only continue to grow because it’s such a tasty and convenient food to eat, and we’re all about convenience here in America.
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The purpose of pointing out these hazards is to show people that everything that we put into our bodies, especially the food that we eat, can have a dramatic effect on our eco-lifestyle. In order to live greener, we need to take care of our environment so that whatever we get from it can keep us pure and healthy.