Secrets secrets are no fun! Secrets secrets hurt someone! That someone is you….
As you might have heard, the Japanese are one of the cultures that have the longest life expectancy. Many studies have been conducted to find out why this is true. All studies point in one direction. Their diet. Raising land animals isn’t very practical in Japan, so right off the bat they are protected from factory farming practices and meat/dairy products that are filled with harmful additives, antibiotics, and growth hormones. The Japanese rely mainly on very healthful staples such as sea vegetables, fresh fish, rice, buckwheat (soba) noodles, and fermented soy products such as miso.
I, too, want to realize the benefits of these healthful foods and live a long life! So naturally, one of my favorite foods to eat when I am not cooking is sushi! I only eat certain kinds of sushi and have it prepared as simply as possible. The typical “American” Japanese restaurant is destroying the basic Japanese ancient health tenants, westernizing your meal by adding all sorts of chemicals and additives. If you are eating sushi because you think it is healthy – Please look a little closer at what’s really lurking in your roll…
Speaking of rolls, rolls were not typical in Japan. Neither was eating sushi on a normal basis. Sushi is considered a special occasion food and is very expensive in Japan. Most sushi in Japan is served similarly to the picture below. This “nigiri” is prepared by the chef and the chef intends for you to eat it exactly like it is served, using your fingers. No, you don’t dip it in a huge bowl of sodium filled soy sauce.
Rolls really are a western phenomenon that developed when sushi became more popular in other cultures outside of Japan. Most people who are just starting out with sushi are commonly recommended the “California Roll.” The reason westerners started with this roll, is because it was the most normal sounding. “Already cooked crab meat and avocado, that can’t be all that bad – sure I’ll try it.” California was the entrance for many Japanese chefs that started serving sushi in America. They needed a substitute for “Toro” fatty tuna and the oily and fatty nature of avocado worked perfectly. Also they hid the seaweed by making the roll inside out because Americans were not accustomed to the texture of seaweed “nori”.
True Japanese chefs are artists and take the aesthetics and quality of ingredients seriously when preparing food, however, this has gone by the wayside in many sushi restaurants. The chefs have to use the ingredients the restaurant owners buy from food manufacturers… Food colorings, excitotoxins (MSG), harmful preservatives, and transfats are everywhere in those products. Let’s closely examine the favorite items from any typical sushi menu….
1. Don’t order the Seaweed Salad without asking about the ingredients – Food coloring is typically added to make that bright green color. Yellow #5 is linked to hyperactivity and allergic reactions. Blue #1 has caused brain cancer in lab animals.
2. Ordering Edamame – Beware of non-organic varieties, as they are full of pesticides and have been genetically modified. Skip it if the restaurant can’t tell you it’s organic. 3. Forget Fish Roe (Tokibo) – These tiny little fish eggs are cultivated and then dyed beautiful colors to help you feast with your eyes! Look but don’t touch!
4. Eliminate Imitation Crab – This the typical “fish” found in the California roll and many other rolls. This stick of processed crap is really comprised of minced fish meat from several different fishes left over in some factory somewhere, dosed with fillers of egg whites, gluten, artificial colors, sorbitol, and a bunch of other ingredients like hydrolyzed soy protein and disodium inosinate – forms of MSG, which are excitotoxins that are horrible chemicals that wreak havoc on the human bodies and make you eat more than you should. See a picture of all the ingredients in typical imitation crab below.
5. Freak out on Farmed Salmon – I would say the majority of sushi restaurants serve farmed salmon. This stuff is dreadful – the poor fish are fed lots of corn, antibiotics, food coloring pellets to make them turn bright pink and left to grow in toxic pools with high levels of chemical pesticides. The main reason why salmon is healthy for you is because of the Omega 3 fatty acids, how is a farmed fish eating corn going to provide any of those nutrients to you? Did you know farmed salmon has about 50 extra calories per 3 ounce serving than wild salmon and contains half as much of the available Omega 3? Just choose other types of fish – here’s a great guide to sustainable and safe fish that my friends at EDF shared with me. They partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium to create it. There’s also a Seafood Watch App available on the iTunes store as well as Android Market for free! Although I don’t go there often because it’s too far from my house – New Zealand Café is one of the places that serves wild salmon sushi.
6. Limit your dip – One tbsp of soy sauce has roughly 500 mg of sodium…. Those little bowls are easy to fill up and if you fill it up to the top, it can contain over 2500 mg of sodium! That is a ridiculous amount of sodium to be consuming at one meal. Wonder why your skin is all puffy or why your stomach is bloated? I personally don’t even use soy sauce anymore, I use a small amount of “ponzu” sauce that I ask the Japanese chef for. It’s a little sweeter than soy sauce because it contains some mirin (Japanese cooking wine), but has about half the salt of even the low sodium version of soy sauce. 7. Dairy doesn’t belong in Japanese cuisine! – Cream cheese? Spicy Tuna made with mayo? – These probably contain non-organic dairy and if you were paying attention from above, the typical Japanese diet doesn’t contain any dairy. This is another example of how westernizing sushi has turned its health value upside down. If you really can’t live without the garlic mayo – try asking the chef to include it on the side – a little can really go a long way! 8. What’s up with the fake Wasabi? – Real Japanese horseradish is amazing for you! It’s got a wonderful anti-carcinogenic effect for your body. Meaning, it can fight all sorts of toxins and pollutants your body can get exposed to over time and prevent many forms of cancers. Wasabi is also anti-microbial, which is important because it helps prevent forms of raw fish bacteria from harming your body. Now for the sad part, most sushi restaurants are using a cheap alternative they can get in bulk in the form of powder. This powder, unfortunately, contains harmful additives like food coloring (Yellow and Blue make Green!). High quality restaurants will have the real deal, but you have to ask. Ask quietly and nicely and they might share with you!
9. Recognize your Rice – Sushi rice is typically short grain rice that is polished white, cooked and then mixed with rice wine vinegar. When you add vinegar to the rice, this decreases its glycemic index, thus reducing the surge in blood sugar you normally would have if you ate rice alone. Ah ha! This is how the Japanese get away with eating white rice! Ancient Japanese secret unveiled! But does that mean you go crazy with the rice? No…. This is what I do instead. Since I prefer to have lower quality carbs as dessert, I order my vegetable roll sans rice and add asparagus – Check it out – this is so “delicious and refreshing” ….I’m quoting a business partner I recently went to lunch with…. He loved it and said “I don’t even miss the rice!” Also there is the option of ordering brown rice at some places, this is a nice substitute if available.
10. Don’t be tempted by Tempura – Think twice about ordering any roll, menu item or dessert that is fried or has the word “tempura” in its description. What kind of oil are they using to fry? This is huge. Do they fry it in transfat? Corn or soy oil? Or the traditional seasme oil, which would be the best alternative – find out! Ask them before you order!