Exquisite. Succulent. World-class. That is probably how connoisseurs of this widely renowned traditional Japanese dish would describe sushi in a nutshell. More than its mouthwatering and artistic display of flavors, there are many reasons why food buffs and health enthusiasts alike dig in to this crowd favorite delicacy.
For the uninitiated who couldn't care less about tidbits of raw fish in a flamboyant serving, why not give it a try and watch your whole being go from uh-oh to woohoo!
From mind to body, skin, and bone, eating sushi is proven to have health benefits unbeknownst to both fans and non-fans of this delectable food.
It makes you smarter
Brain food it truly is – fish is undoubtedly the healthiest meat available to mankind. The fish in sushi, especially salmon, is rich in omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3s are found to have a huge positive impact on the human brain. An article by Harvard Health Publishing found that consuming omega-3s from food can help preserve thinking skills.
In the same report, Dr. Scott McGinnis of Harvard Medical School explains how omega-3 fats do the job. "There's evidence they can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects as well, which means they might promote healthier brain cells and less deterioration of the brain," he noted.
Defies cancer odds
Researchers in the UK believed that following the Japanese diet, which includes plenty of either raw or fresh fish, can protect smokers from having lung cancer. It was after a study in Japan revealing that their country has lower rates of lung cancer compared to countries with the same smoking rates surfaced. The discrepancy was attributed to the Japanese's sushi cookery.
Professor Toshiro Takezaki, who spearheaded the study, shared the same thought: "Japanese people love their fresh fish, particularly sushi. We think that is why, even though the Japanese smoke as much as people in the UK, their rate of lung cancer is only two-thirds as high."
A finding in the British Journal of Cancer also suggests that be it raw or cooked, fresh fish can generate a partial shield to fight the disease. No wonder Japan is among the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world.
Meanwhile, the condiments – wasabi and ginger – that go with sushi are known for their anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties. They also have antioxidants that neutralize the body's free radicals, disabling cancerous cells to exist. Lastly, they contain antiviral agents that can kill off bacteria for a stronger immune system.
Prevents unwanted wrinkles
Sushi also boasts of anti-aging powers given that it has high antioxidants, which delays overall aging and slows down cell destruction. Thus, it keeps the healthy structure of skin and retains younger cells.
Fends off osteoporosis
In 2018, a collaboration between Asian-inspired British food chain itsu and nutritionist Alix Woods aimed to disclose the top benefits of sushi.
Among the health advantages mentioned was its ability to prevent serious bone conditions like osteoporosis, highlighting that ‘an exceptional source of calcium’ can be obtained from eating fish, an element integral for bone health.
Facts Vs. Myths
Let's also feed our thoughts the nutritious way by learning truths and unlearning popular beliefs surrounding this nutrient-packed Asian snack.
New York-based online media website Thrillist consulted with ‘The Connoisseur's Guide to Sushi’ author Dave Lowry to shed light about Japan's most famous dish.
Sushi fish is not served alive – Correct.
There's a food preparation practice in Japan where live seafood is being served. They call it ikizukuri, roughly translating to ‘prepared alive’. This Japanese culinary technique is mostly mistaken for as sushi.
Sushi is only a Japanese thing – Not exactly.
It is said that sushi originated in other Southeast Asian countries and have their own different versions. According to Lowry: "It began as a way of preserving fish because vinegar worked as an antibiotic. Cooked rice and vinegar were packed around fresh fish to preserve them.”
Sushi is not all about the fish – Definitely.
It’s all about the rice seasoned with vinegar. In Lowry’s words: "It isn't about the fish, that's completely secondary. It's about the quality of the rice. They inevitably write about all the toppings, but a sushi connoisseur cares about the rice."
Sushi means raw fish – Wrong.
Despite its accumulated popularity, not everyone understands what this Japanese cuisine is. Some assume that sushi is synonymous to raw fish when it's actually sashimi they’re referring to. Usually served fresh and raw, sashimi is thinly sliced meat or seafood like salmon or tuna. On the other hand, sushi is made of vinegared rice combined with other traditional ingredients, which may or may not contain raw fish in it.
You might be planning now your next visit to your go-to sushi restaurant and fantasizing how the food deliciously melts in your mouth. But before you are greeted with ‘Irasshaimase!’ and indulge in a scrumptious feast, keep in mind to always eat in moderation and with reservations. Because just like what Mark Twain once said, too much of anything is bad.