People eat some strange things. From crickets to triple-decker burgers, humanity’s appetite is incredibly diverse. Certain cultures have become famous for their cuisine, often for a good reason. We’ll be taking a close look at food from around the world, examining their health benefits, and checking the science behind those claims. Welcome to You Are What You Eat.
Japan is a country surrounded by ocean, so its no surprise that its cuisine features a lot of seafood. And while plenty of people are not fond of raw fish, sushi has exploded in popularity and is now a regular staple of groceries. Unbeknownst to many, sushi is a very nutritious food.
It’s becoming common knowledge that omega-3 fatty acids make fish healthy, but do you know why? According to the American Heart Association, they reduce clotting in blood vessels which lowers blood pressure. This works to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
Image Source: JamieB
Sushi may seem like only fish and rice, but there are two less obvious ingredients that make the biggest impact, in terms of both health and flavor. Ginger, commonly paired with sushi, can reduce inflammation and pain in muscles, as well as increase satiety, or how full you feel. For those unfamiliar with sushi, the little pink slices that generally accompany your dish are pickled ginger and serve as palate cleansers. The second usual sushi garnish is wasabi, the green paste that has a powerful punch and a vital role. It kills bacteria growing on the fish, although it can also feel as though it’s killing your sinuses too! The strong sting felt after eating too much wasabi is due to chemicals called isothiocyanates, which have been shown to reduce heart dysfunction. An important note to make is that most wasabi outside of Japan is actually just horseradish and green dye. So don’t knock it until you try the real thing! Finally, a cultural tip: a real sushi chef makes his rolls with just the right amount of wasabi, so in theory you don’t always have to add it yourself.
Before you rush out for the sushi buffet, however, there are a couple health concerns to keep in mind! First, added mayonnaise or fried tempura can make some sushi rolls less healthy. Also, certain fish contain small amounts of mercury, which, while not incredibly risky for adults, can affect children, so kids and pregnant/breastfeeding women should limit how much fish they eat (the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation can be found here).
Feature Image Source: Yannig Van de Wouwer