Healthy Japanese food

Sumo wrestlers don't get fat eating sushi. We find out why you should swap your fork for chopsticks.

Healthy eating & diets

We all know that chowing down on sushi is better than scoffing a Big Mac, but what exactly does the seaweed-rice- raw fish combo do for the mind, body and soul?

Carole Holditch, founder and nutritionist of Good Habits tells Anna Whitehouse why you should swap your fork for chopsticks.

‘Everyone should try eating their meals – everything from pasta to salad – with chopsticks,’ says Carole Holditch, founder and nutritionist of Good Habits, explaining that most of us are so useless with the wooden prongs that it slows our eating down. ‘Your brain doesn’t fully register the amount of food you’ve eaten for at least 20 minutes, so everything you can do to temper your scoffing is a step in the right direction.’

This is where sushi enters the forum. According to Carole, it’s the best food to kill two birds with one stone: eating slowly (that’s the chopsticks) and eating healthily (that’s the omega 3-fuelled fish). To open our eyes to the world of the Japanese cuisine, Carole breaks the humble sushi roll into its various components:

Ginger: ‘It’s an effective natural antiseptic. It not only boosts the immune system but also helps in digestion. Ginger is also effective in relieving joint pain caused by arthritis. It also causes blood thinning and helps in lowering cholesterol. I drink a lot of herbal tea and will always opt for ginger because it’s so good for the digestion. Your body can’t get enough of it.’

Green Tea: ‘It’s great for digestion and is the preferred choice of beverage with sushi. It also protects against a range of cancers, including lung, prostate and breast cancers and is packed with vitamins A and E. It’s also half the caffeine of normal tea and doesn’t need milk or sugar, so it’s a great way to slim down. It’s the king of herbal teas in my opinion.’

Nori (Japanese seaweed): ‘It contains 12 kinds of vitamins including groups A and B. This Japanese seaweed is often called the ‘the reservoir of vitamins’ because few other foods contain as many vitamins as nori. It’s one of the great superfoods. It’s an acquired taste, but combined with the fish, vinegar and rice, it works well.’

Soy sauce: ‘It’s a product of soy beans containing phytoestrogens which are thought to help women with menopause-related problems. Also it is high in protein, iron, potassium and magnesium, so it’s good for anyone with anaemia. Scientists have found that lactic acid bacteria derived from soy sauce are effective against allergies. That said, soy sauce can have high levels of sodium in it, so can bring blood pressure up. If possible, opt for light soy sauce brands and check the sodium content.’

Vinegar: ‘The combination of sushi rice and vinegar creates antibacterial properties. While rice is a great source of carbohydrate and protein, vinegar lowers the risk of high blood pressure and also helps in the conditioning of the skin. There are absolutely no calories in vinegar, so it’s one of the healthiest condiments around. I also tell my clients to use it instead of oil on salads.’

Wasabi: ‘It’s rich in vitamin C. This Japanese horseradish is believed to act as an antidote to food poisoning, which is a useful property when served with fresh raw fish. Anything with such a high dose of vitamin C is great for the skin, so again, you can’t really have too much.’

Mercury rising

Some fish used in sushi, such as tuna (particularly bluefin), can carry high levels of mercury, which is hazardous when eaten in large quantities. As of January 2008, a number of New York City restaurants restricted consumption to two to six pieces per diner, depending on the amount of tuna in the sushi and the person’s weight. ‘There is no such limit in the UAE at present, so just watch your consumption,’ says Carole.

For more nutritional information, contact Good Habits on 04 344 9692 or 050 454 2309 or go to www.goodhabitsuae.com.

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