March 29

Six Sushi Tips for a Heart-Healthy Meal


by Rob Baker

Whether you go straight for the freshest unagi or stick to the fully cooked California roll, sushi can be a heart-smart choice if you order wisely. These smart strategies can help you optimize the health benefits of a visit to your go-to sushi bar.

Be Selective About Seafood

While crab and shrimp have their own health benefits, they aren't the best choices if you want a heart-healthy meal. Instead, choose sushi made with tuna, eel or salmon, all rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The National Library of Medicine says that omega-3s:

  • Prevent the accumulation of plaque, which hardens the arteries and can cause stroke and heart attack

  • Decrease the risk for heart arrhythmias

  • Lower levels of a type of blood cholesterol called triglycerides

  • Reduce blood pressure, a significant risk factor for acute and chronic cardiac health issues

The body doesn't make omega-3 fatty acids; you can only get them from the foods you eat, which is why that spicy tuna roll supports the cardiac system. These healthy fats should make up about 5 to 10% of your daily food intake according to NLM.

Accessorize With Antioxidants

I mentioned that plaque buildup in the arteries can cause dangerous cardiac events. Amping up the antioxidants in your sushi can actually prevent this chemical change from occurring. Choose menu items rich in these magic minerals and vitamins. You'll find plenty of antioxidants in seaweed and in condiments like wasabi and pickled ginger.

Benefit From Brown Rice

While we all love that sticky white sushi rice, you're actually better off ordering brown rice for your heart health concerns. As a whole grain, brown rice is packed with soluble fiber, which reduces"bad" blood cholesterol and triglycerides. This in turn lowers your risk of heart disease, one of the most significant chronic health issues for older adults like us.

If you prefer white rice, eat a smaller portion by choosing sashimi, hand rolls (temaki) or nigiri over maki rolls. Maki tends to have more rice and might also be deep-fried or adorned with creamy sauces.

Add the Avocado

Another heart-healthy choice, avocado adds a creamy finish to California rolls and other sushi selections. Like brown rice, it's packed with fiber. You'll also benefit from a generous dose of monounsaturated fat, or oleic acid, which reduces disease-causing inflammation in the heart and blood vessels.

Know What To Hold

It's also important to know what ingredients you should avoid at your favorite sushi bar for maximum heart health. Skip over choices with fatty ingredients like cream cheese and mayo, which can raise your cholesterol and blood pressure. Fried foods like tempura increase cholesterol, another risk factor for heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

While you don't have to eschew soy sauce completely, you may want to consider a low-sodium variety. CNN says that you get about 40% of your recommended daily salt intake from just one tablespoon of standard soy sauce. Too much dietary sodium raises your blood pressure, which stresses the cardiac system.

Order a Side of Veggies

What could be more delicious than vibrant green edamame beans? These steamed soybeans, a classic sushi bar app or side, are rich in heart-healthy fiber and antioxidants. Other options to optimize the vitamin and mineral content of your meal include cucumber, spinach, seaweed, mushrooms and bok choy, so look for those veggies on the menu when you order.

Paying attention to your heart health doesn't have to mean bland, boring meals for all eternity.  Stick to these smart sushi selections on your next Saturday night out with friends and eat ingredients that aren't so great for your ticker only in moderation.


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