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Know Your Rolls: The Good and Bad of Sushi

By Adam Reynolds

Adam Reynolds is a health and wellness blogger; find more of his series on health food imposters, along with tips on fitness and wellness, at

When you think of sushi, you think of healthy slices of raw fish, with a small amount of rice, rolled up in some nutritious seaweed paper. That's not so bad is it? A lean protein with some healthy carbs and some nutrient packed seaweed. Well, it isn't bad...if that's where it ended. However, sushi has become so diverse and flamboyant over recent years that those are not the only ingredients. Sushi now comes packed with fatty mayonnaise, artery clogging fried fats, and sugar-laced white rice that make it tastier, and unhealthier, than ever.

Although it can be a healthy, well-rounded meal (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids for skin and brain health; loaded with cancer and age-fighting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals; with lots of lean protein for muscle growth; rich in Vitamin E that reduces cardiovascular disease and cholesterol), it isn't always, and if you don't know what to order, just one of those little rolls could sabotage your fat loss efforts and see you packing on the pounds faster than ever. Check it out.

The Truth About Sushi Rolls
So how do you know what pieces of sushi are the healthy ones and which ones are likely to widen your waistline? When looking at a sushi menu, there are a few things you should look out for:

  1. Spicy: Generally means that the roll combines hot chili sauce mixed in with some fattening mayonnaise.
  2. Crispy: Indicates that a portion of the roll, such as the meat or the onions on top of it, have been fried in fattening oils, giving your roll a huge increase in extra calories
  3. Tempura: Just a fancy name for deep fried. They dip that shrimp or vegetables in fattening batter then deep fry it making that roll about as healthy as a french fry.

Lets take a look at some of our favorite sushi rolls, how many calories are in each, and which ones are wont see you turning into a pudgy roll yourself.

Cucumber Roll
One of the lowest calorie rolls available, and the cucumber provides you with a healthy dose of silica for healthy skin, hair and nails and potassium to reduce blood pressure.
Calories: 136
Fat: 0g
Protein: 6g
Carbohydrates: 30g

Avocado Roll
Another low calorie option with a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats from the avocado, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Calories: 140
Fat: 6g
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrates: 28g

Tuna Roll
An excellent source of muscle-building lean protein that will keep you full.
Calories: 184
Fat: 2g
Protein: 24g
Carbohydrates: 27g
An excellent source of muscle building lean protein that will keep you full.

California Roll
The crab in this roll can be imitation, so request the real stuff.
Calories: 225
Fat: 7g
Protein: 9g
Carbohydrates: 38g

Spicy Tuna Roll
Not the best option as it can contain a big dollop of fattening mayonnaise. Request the roll without it.
Calories: 290
Fat: 11g
Protein: 24g
Carbohydrates: 26g

Philadelphia Roll
Philadelphia is known for cream cheese and cheese steaks. Neither are friendly to your waistline.
Calories: 290
Fat: 12g
Protein: 14g
Carbohydrates: 28g

Salmon and Avocado Roll
A higher calorie option, however they are good calories coming from the Omega 3s in the salmon and monounsaturated fats in avocado.
Calories: 304
Fat: 9g
Protein: 13g
Carbohydrates: 42g

Eel and Avocado Roll
The thought of eel makes me want to squirm. It is healthy however, but these rolls get smothered in a sugary sauce that turns it into fattening meal..
Calories: 372
Fat: 17g
Protein: 20g
Carbohydrates: 31g

Rainbow Roll
Higher in calories but are good calories from the muscle building protein in the fish.
Calories: 476
Fat: 16g
Protein: 33g
Carbohydrates: 50g

Shrimp Tempura Roll
Higher in calories and one of the worst options for your waistline. Tempura = lathered in fattening batter and deep fried.
Calories: 508
Fat: 21g
Protein: 20g
Carbohydrates: 64g

Go the Non-Roll Route
Other than some of the healthier rolls, you can also be making some wiser choices which will fill you up and not interfere with your fat loss efforts. Here are some that the Japanese actually prefer and have been eating for centuries for numerous health benefits:

Sashimi: Sashimi are thinly sliced pieces of raw fish. All lean protein, minimal calories and no carbohydrates. A great healthy alternative to traditional sushi rolls.
Nigiri: Nigiri are pieces of raw fish on top of small bundles of hand clumped mounds of rice.
Yakitori: Yakitori are chicken, beef, pork or shrimp skewers normally offered as appetizers. They are a great start to your meal by offering you a lean protein with little fat, carbohydrates or calories.

Avoid Unpleasant Surprises
Keep an eye on the amount of soy sauce you are dipped your rolls in. Just a dash in that little bowl next to your dish can have over 2000mg of sodium, which is nearly one day's worth of salt consumed in one sitting. Ask your server for reduced sodium sauce (which most sushi restaurants provide these days) or just make sure you are keeping an eye on your portion sizes and not drowning your roll in buckets of sauce.

Oh, and that small appetizer salad that you order with that yummy ginger dressing? Not so good for your hips either. One small serving can have over 200 calories just from the dressing alone.

Regular readers of my blog know that I have an aversion to eating white rice. White rice is considered a refined carbohydrate because it has been stripped of nutrients due to a bleaching process to make the texture more light and fluffy. Where possible, always request brown rice. It's the healthier whole food option and contains more fiber and wont cause any of those nasty insulin spikes that can lead to weight gain. Unfortunately brown rice is not always available, but don't let this deter you from eating sushi—the rice is normally in small portions and it is still a healthier option than that burger and fries you were contemplating inhaling at lunch.

If you are watching your calories and carbohydrate consumption, always feel free to ask your server or sushi chef whether you can have the roll sans rice or with a smaller amount of rice than they would normally use. Most restaurants are very accommodating of this.

About Adam Reynolds: Adam Reynolds was born in Australia and moved to the United States in 2007 to pursue his career within the entertainment, and health and wellness industries. A self -professed ex-chocoholic, Adam is passionate about nutrition and fitness and considers himself a healthy living warrior, aiming at improving the lives of others via his blog. Having worked as a research assistant for one of America's top Celebrity Nutritionists, Adam is known to his readers as The Healthy Boy, and combines his knowledge and research of health topics with today’s pop culture references, creating articles that are relevant and interesting to today’s generation, and provides readers with a humorous yet informative read.

Find more of Adam's nutrition, fitness and wellness tips at his regular blog,