Even if you make the sushi yourself at home.
Don't the plates of sushi above make you feel hungry, after all this is a common quick snack that you pick up from the grocery store for lunch or maybe to take home for the family.
In a report I just read by Andrea Donsky*, who is based in Canada, has exposed of raft of many not so healthy sushi ingredients that will probably shock you. It certainly came as a surprise to me. Even though the report is based on findings in Canada, you can be sure that the same practices and products are being carried out and sold in the shops in your neighborhood.
It makes me angry that perfectly good food is adulterated and poisoned for no other reason expect that the producers can make more money doing this, They seem to have lost sight of the fact that even though you have all the money in the world you can't eat it.
Here is what Andrea found in Canada, but she left off a few things which I will add at the end of this article.
Ginger - used as a palate cleanser
Ginger has phenomenal health benefits for conditions ranging from nausea and arthritis pain to heart health and asthma. Unfortunately, the pickled ginger often served alongside sushi is often doctored-up with some dangerous additives, including :
Potassium sorbate (a preservative)
Artificial colors, including red #40, which is linked to hyperactivity in children (if the ginger looks pink)
Wasabi - used as a flavour enhancer
The bright green Japanese mustard known as wasabi has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-platelet, and, potentially, anti-cancer effects. However, this is referring to authentic wasabi (the kind that comes from the Wasabia japonica root or rhizome).
Authentic wasabi is extremely hard to come by (so the lie goes), even in Japan, and it's estimated that only 5 percent of restaurants in Japan and only very high-end restaurants in the US serve the real deal. The Namida product has been sold around the world since 1994, but the restaurants (even the high-end ones) would prefer to pay US$12.00 a kilo for the fake stuff instead of providing what they advertise. I am surprised that no one has taken these places to Court because of false advertising.
So what is that green paste being served with your sushi?
Most likely a combination of European horseradish, Chinese mustard, and green food coloring. The featured report found the following in wasabi :
Potential GM ingredients (corn, soy and mustard)
A better alternative is to look for "wasabi" that's made from only horseradish, spirulina, and turmeric, which is likely to be far healthier than the wasabi imposters being sold at most sushi restaurants. Or you could even buy the True Wasabi (nothing but Wasabia japonica rhizome powder) here!
Soy Sauce - to dunk your sushi in or mix with the wasabi
The soy sauce served alongside your sushi also likely contains additives you're far better off avoiding, including :
Hydrolyzed soy protein (MSG)
GM ingredients (soy and corn)
Potassium sorbate (preservative)
Caramel color (certain types of which may form potentially carcinogenic byproducts)
Rice - well sushi does mean vinegared rice
The rice used on sushi rolls may also contain hidden ingredients used to make it sweeter. The featured report revealed sushi rice may contain :
High-fructose corn syrup
It is also possible that the rice contains GMO as GMO rice has already been found in a number of rice shipments from both the USA and Thailand, even though it has not been released for commercial use. That event cost the biotec company $750 million US dollars in payouts.
Most vinegar is made from corn, of which 90% plus is GMO. Claims are made that the GM component does not carry over, but GMO Corn enthusiasts have been know to lie before.
Even the garnishes are not exempt
That's right… even sesame seeds may contain hidden ingredients! While most sushi restaurants use plain toasted sesame seeds in their dishes, there are some flavored sesame seeds on the market that also contain :
Artificial sweeteners (sucralose)
Also sesame seeds are a known allergen and are not always declared.
Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, vitamins, and minerals, provided it comes from clean, non-polluted waters. But the seaweed salad sold at many sushi restaurants comes pre-made in bulk from distribution companies and may contain :
High-fructose corn syrup
Hydrolyzed protein (which contains monosodium glutamate or MSG)
Artificial colour, such as yellow #4 and blue #1
Genetically modified (GM) ingredients
A fairly surefire sign that your favorite sushi salad contains some of these "pre-packaged" ingredients is an unnaturally bright green color. You can also ask the restaurant directly if it makes its own seaweed salad.
Now we will go onto the fillings
Imitation Crab - Not even close
I always though that imitation crab sticks were made from krill from the Southern Ocean - silly me. Apparently it is mostly made from a fish called the Golden Threadfin Bream, which is a common food fish in Southeast Asia. Now though it is regarded as endangered due to the massive over-fishing that is going on in that area (and the rest of the world).
In addition to this, it may also contain additives including :
Artifical colour (to get the red colour)
Fish Roe (Seasoned Caviar)
The orange-colored fish eggs (mainly flying fish) which are often served with sushi dishes are also commonly full of additives like those found in other Asian foods. Among them :
High-fructose corn syrup
Artificial colour (yellow #6)
Tuna and Snapper Sushi Are Probably Not What You Think you are getting
When you factor in all of the additives found in many sushi dishes, it becomes clear that this potentially healthful food has succumbed to the processed food trap of artificial additives and fillers instead of real, quality ingredients that you expect. As usual the money overrides common sense again and the previous healthy Japanese food diet has gone the way of the Dodo and has disappeared from our shops and restaurants.
But there is more to the story than even this… When you eat tuna at your favorite sushi restaurant, there's a good chance you're not actually eating tuna because it is expensive. Instead, the majority of fish labeled "white tuna" may actually be escolar, a cheaper type of fish that can cause serious digestive effects, including oily anal leakage. Symptoms range from stomach cramps to rapid loose bowel movements, occurring 30 minutes to 36 hours following consumption. Because the problem arises outside the restaurants the restaurants can get away with this fraud.
Oceana, an Ocean preservation organization, conducted DNA testing on more than 1,200 fish samples across the US and found that one-third were mislabeled. While red snapper had the highest mislabeling rates (87 percent of "red snapper" samples were not actually red snapper), tuna was a close second, with 59 percent mislabeled.
At sushi restaurants, however, 74 percent of fish samples were mislabeled. This included every single sushi restaurant from which samples were tested, even in major metropolitan areas like Chicago, Austin, New York and Washington DC. In many cases, the mislabeled fish had been substituted for cheaper, less desirable and/or more readily available fish varieties. More than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported, yet only 1 percent of imports are inspected for fraud, which may explain this clearly out-of-control situation.
As a company we decided a few years ago to remove all our Tuna recipes from our websites because Tuna was an endangered species and yet no one was trying to stop the over-fishing which appears to be spearheaded by Japan. You can read our reasons here.
Even if you are lucky enough to get real Tuna you are also getting a high dose of mercury.
Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment. Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, but as levels of pollution have increased, this health treasure of a food has become less and less viable as a primary source of beneficial fats. [Now though, even using omega 3 and 5 as a supplement may be in danger as the latest information indicates that GMO versions now exist.]
This is particularly true for tuna, which tends to be a higher mercury fish as it is one of the major predator fish in the oceans and is almost at the top of the food chain. One study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that ALL tuna tested contained fairly high amounts of mercury. The contamination may be even worse in restaurants, again confirming that eating restaurant tuna is a risky proposition.
In a separate study, toxicological testing revealed that tuna sold in restaurants actually contained higher amounts of mercury than the store-bought variety. The reason is that restaurants tend to favor certain species of tuna, such as bluefin akami and bigeye tuna, which had significantly higher levels of mercury than bluefin toro and yellowfin tuna. Unfortunately, mercury tends to accumulate to a greater degree in muscle than in fat, rendering these highly prized, leaner species of tuna more susceptible to high contamination.
Make your own Sushi at home
I am sure that after reading all this you are wondering how to can even make healthy sushi at home if most (if not all) the ingredients have been ruined or poisoned by greedy people outside your control.
Maybe you can go fishing in an pristine area, or grow all the stuff you want to use yourself?
Well, we all know that isn't really an option these days. Therefore, it will be necessary that you take time and care in selecting your ingredients. You can purchase a whole, low-mercury fish, such as wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, and use natural versions of ginger and wasabi for condiments. If this sounds daunting, there are many tutorials on how to make your own sushi simply at home available online.
If you want to eat out, search around for a higher end restaurant that makes its own dishes, like seaweed salad, and will be upfront about disclosing ingredients. Steer clear of tuna due to its mercury content in favor of lower mercury wild-caught salmon, and consider bringing your own natural versions of wasabi or pickled ginger (available in some health food stores) from home. You can also try some of the all-vegetable options and forgo the seafood entirely, if you're in doubt about its variety or purity.
Be sure to avoid any sushi made from farmed fish. Remember, fish farms are the aquatic version of a concentrated animal feeding operation, and just like land-based cattle and chicken farms, fish farms breed disease due to crowding too many fish together in a small space. They also produce toxic waste, and fish of inferior quality. These fish are further contaminated by drugs and genetically modified corn and soy meal feed, and in the case of salmon, synthetic astaxanthin, which is made from petrochemicals that are not approved for human consumption. It provides the red color of salmon meat so that it looks good for the buyer and consumer. It is an artificial colour.
One other thing to bear in mind....
If you are buying fresh fish for your sushi or sashimi, use a reputable fishmonger and get the freshest fish you can.
Fresh fish should have a mild scent and moist flesh, and appear freshly cut. Don't purchase fish that has a strong, fishy odor. Whole fish should have bright, bulging eyes and bright red or pink gills. Frozen fish should meet the fresh-smell test and have taut packaging with no evidence of ice or blood.
Enjoy you next sushi meal or snack.
You can purchase 100% Pure Wasabia japonica rhizome powder here. This powder is freeze dried to retain all the ITC content and contains no additives.
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*The full report can be found here.