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  • Archive for the ‘sushi’ Category

    5 Important Food Lessons From This Past Week

    Over the past few days, several important food-related stories captured top headlines.

    Rather than dedicate a lengthy blog post to each, here is the Small Bites’ Cliff’s Notes version.

    What’s the deal? What are the important takeaways? Here’s your cheat sheet:

    Continue Reading »

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    You Ask, I Answer: Spicy Sushi Rolls

    spicytunarollIs a spicy tuna roll any less healthy than a non-spicy one?

    – Amanda Refler
    Washington, DC

    Spicy rolls offer a higher number of calories.

    That spicy sauce on top is made from a combination of mayonnaise, chili peppers, and, in some cases, oil.

    A standard spicy roll contains a tablespoon of mayonnaise and anywhere from two to three teaspoons of oil.  Some of the newer — and significantly larger — “special rolls” can contain as much as two tablespoons of mayonnaise and four to five teaspoons of oil!

    In that case, you are looking at anywhere from 57 to 314 calories per roll (57 assuming a tablespoon of mayonnaise and no added oil; 314 if there are 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 5 teaspoons of added oil).

    If your favorite sushi joint pulls off the mayo plus oil combo, you can definitely save several hundreds of calories by 86′ing the spicy topping next time you order two rolls.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Canned vs. Fresh Tuna

    tuna-sushiAll the mercury warnings I read about tuna mention albacore canned tuna.

    What about sushi, though?  Are certain cuts, like toro, higher in mercury?

    – Ralph Darpilo
    (Location Withheld)

    Unless you frequent top-dollar sushi restaurants that offer exotic varieties of tuna, the type you’re eating is bluefin tuna.

    Toro, by the way, is simply the underbelly of tuna fish.  It is not a separate species of fish.

    Bluefin tuna are just as large as albacore varieties.  Translation: they both offer very high levels of mercury.

    As far as figures go, consider one small six-piece tuna roll (or three pieces of tuna nigiri/sashimi) equivalent to a half can of albacore tuna.

    With that in mind, use this handy-dandy “tuna calculator”(courtesy of the folks at the Environmental Working Group) to determine — based on your sex and weight — what your safe weekly limit is.

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    Go Fish (Even if You’re Pregnant!)

    tuna_sushi_0123My most recent leisure read is Steven Shaw’s Asian Dining Rules: Essential strategies for eating out at Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Korean, and Indian restaurants.

    I love food (and culinary cultures) as much as nutrition, so this was a perfect find.

    The first chapter — devoted to sushi — includes a short aside titled “Pregnant Sushi.”  I thoroughly enjoyed it and wanted to summarize the main points for you:

    • In the United States, raw fish is considered a no-no for pregnant women.  In Japan, it is considered “part of good neonatal nutrition.”  Just in case, I researched this on my own and, sure enough, the Japanese Ministry of Labor, Health, and Welfare only cautions pregnant women to eat fish high in mercury sparingly.  There is no mention of “raw fish” as a food to avoid during pregnancy.
    • Raw mollusks (especially clams and oysters) are responsible for approximately 85 percent of seafood-related foodborne illnesses.
    • “If you take raw and partly cooked shellfish out of the equation, the risk of falling ill from eating seafood is one in 2 million servings; by comparison, the risk from eating chicken is one in 25,000.”
    • Foodborne illnesses from fish are mostly caused by cross-contamination or inadequate storage conditions, not by virtue of eating a raw piece.
    • Fish served in sushi restaurants has been previously flash frozen, which kills parasites as effectively as cooking.
    • “Most of the fish likely to have parasites, like cod and whitefish, are not generally used for sushi.  Fish like tuna are not particularly susceptible to parasites because they dwell in very deep and cold waters.  Sushi restaurants typically use farmed salmon to avoid the parasite problems wild salmon have.”

    The author makes a strong point when he states that “the Japanese government is fanatical about public health… you can be sure that, were there documented complications resulting from pregnant women eating sushi in Japan, there would be swift government intervention.”

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    You Ask, I Answer: Imitation Crabmeat

    I’m curious about imitation crabmeat, [the kind used to make most] California rolls.

    What is it made of? Someone told me that it’s vegetarian?

    How healthy (or unhealthy) is it?

    – Corinne Harris
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Practically all imitation crab meat (also known as surimi) is made by deboning and mincing Alaskan pollock — an inexpensive, very mild-flavored fish — and mixing it with a variety of other ingredients.

    What ingredients, you ask?

    Mainly sugar, oil, artificial and/or natural flavorings, and a variety of stabilizers and thickeners like egg whites and potato starch (to give it that chewy texture.)

    It is certainly not vegetarian.

    That said, there are vegetarian mock crab meats out there. These can be very hard to find even in specialty vegetarian stores, so your best bet is to look for online suppliers.

    There are also some tofu-based recipes for “Do It Yourself” vegetarian crab meat.

    From a nutritional standpoint, imitation crab meat contains half the protein, three times the carbohydrate, and approximately twice as much sodium as real crab meat.

    Calorically, though, they are almost identical.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    An average 6-piece inside-out ‘uramaki’ sushi roll (rice on the outside, nori on the inside, as pictured at right) at a Japanese restaurant in the United States contains 1 cup of rice.

    (Note: 1 serving of rice = 1/2 cup)

    This is a perfect example of a relatively healthy, low-calorie Asian meal undergoing a monstrous caloric metamorphosis upon arriving to the United States.

    In Japan, the vast majority of sushi is eaten nigiri style (this is where rice is compacted into a small rectangle underneath each piece of fish) or maki style (nori/seaweed on the outside of each piece.)

    It’s also significant that maki rolls are approximately a half or a third of the size of inside out varieties common on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

    This figure means that 6 pieces of an inside-out roll pack in slightly less than 200 calories from the rice alone.

    Order two of those puppies and you are up to 4 servings of grains, per USDA pyramid standards.

    Another calorie shocker? Spicy rolls contain anywhere from 100 to 150 moe calories than their traditional counterparts — the special sauce is basically mayonnaise with a kick.

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    Numbers Game: Rice ‘n Roll

    An average 6-piece inside-out sushi roll (rice on the outside, nori on the inside, as pictured at left) at a Japanese restaurant in the United States contains _________ of rice.

    (Note: 1 serving of rice = 1/2 cup)

    a) 1/3 cup
    b) 1/2 cup
    c) 1 cup
    d) 1.5 cups

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Wednesday for the answer.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    A standard shrimp tempura roll provides 550 calories.

    From a strictly caloric standpoint, that’s equal to 13 Chicken McNuggets!

    Sushi can actually be very nutritious, thanks to its healthy proteins and fats (especially avocado), but tread carefully when it comes to rolls with tempura (a.k.a. “deep fried” — a real shame to do to something as healthy as fish) and/or eel (which is cooked in a special sauce that contributes calories and added sugars).

    Best bet? Start off with a high-fiber appetizer like edamame, steamed broccoli with garlic, or steamed spinach to make up for the white rice’s lack of fiber. Then, choose any rolls that do not include tempura or mayonnaise.

    Every sushi place I have ever gone to serves green tea for free, so have a cup or two along with the beverage of your preference for some bonus phytonutrients.

    Above all, savor and enjoy!

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    The Mighty (Fish) Egg

    It’s easy to cast caviar (fish eggs) aside as little black pellets for the elite, but a tablespoon of this delicacy is no nutritional joke.

    Just one tablespoon of caviar provides:

    40 calories
    4 grams protein

    53% Vitamin B12 requirements
    11% daily recommendation of iron

    9% Vitamin D requirements

    And, if that wasn’t enough — a whole gram of Omega-3 fatty acids (50% of the daily recommended amount)!

    The only downside comes for sodium-sensitive folks, as one mere tablespoon contains 240 milligrams of sodium (approximately 20% of the maximum sodium limit for people on low-sodium diets).

    Next time you’re feeling fancy (or see these aquatic eggs on top of a sushi roll), gobble up some caviar. It does a body good.

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    Numbers Game: Sayonara, Healthy Eating

    A standard shrimp tempura roll provides ___________ calories.

    a) 290
    b) 360
    c) 485
    d) 550

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer!

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    The Mighty (Fish) Egg

    It’s easy to cast caviar (fish eggs) aside as little black pellets for the elite, but a tablespoon of this delicacy is no nutritional joke.

    Just one tablespoon of caviar provides:

    40 calories
    4 grams protein

    53% Vitamin B12 requirements
    11% daily recommendation of iron

    9% Vitamin D requirements

    And, if that wasn’t enough — a whole gram of Omega-3 fatty acids (50% of the daily recommended amount)!

    The only downside comes for sodium-sensitive folks, as one mere tablespoon contains 240 milligrams of sodium (approximately 20% of the maximum sodium limit for people on low-sodium diets).

    Next time you’re feeling fancy (or see these aquatic eggs on top of a sushi roll), gobble up some caviar. It does a body good.

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