Sushi Nutrition: How Healthy Are Your Favorite Sushi Rolls?

sushinutritionSushi has changed a lot over the centuries, from a simple vinegared rice dish to the extravagant hand rolls you see today in contemporary Japanese restaurants. Whether you like to stick with sashimi over rice, or have a taste for loaded sushi rolls like the California Roll, you might have pondered at one point exactly how healthy your favorite sushi dishes really are.

Sushi nutrition varies a lot from roll to roll, and in traditional vs. contemporary dishes. Yes, sushi may be small, put each little piece has the potential to pack a ton of calories depending on what you order. Let’s explore some nutritional facts about sushi, and help you make knowledgeable choices next time you’re craving Japanese food.

Sushi Terminology

Before we dive into sushi nutrition, let’s explore the different types of sushi, and the names for its different parts.

Nori: Black seaweed wrappers used to make most forms of wrapped sushi rolls.
Makizushi: Also called maki sushi. Wrapped, cylindrical sushi rolls with the nori on the outside. Can be thick or thin, large or small depending on its contents.
Uramaki: An “inside-out” roll where the rice is on the outside, and the nori is on the inside. The rice coating is sometimes coated with toasted sesame seeds or roe. A California Roll is a kind of uramaki roll.
Nigirizushi: Meaning “hand-pressed sushi,” it is also referred to as nigiri sushi. Nigiri is made with a clump of rice and a slice of usually raw fish pressed on top. Sometimes a thin strip of nori is used as a binding.
Neta: Nigiri toppings or sushi roll fillings.
Temaki: Meaning “hand roll,” temaki sushi consist of large, cone-shaped nori, with the sushi contents (neta) contained inside.

Sushi Nutrition Guide

Here, we have a list of popular sushi dishes, predominately maki sushi like the popular Spicy Tuna Roll and the California Roll. This nutritional information comes primarily from SushiFAQ.com and Men’s Health, and should not be considered a definitive source.

Sushi is prepared differently depending on where you order it, and a roll at one restaurant may have larger or smaller proportions, or healthier ingredients, than the next. This should serve as a basic reference, just to get a general idea of what you’re consuming when you order sushi.

The following break-downs will measure the nutrition in a single roll of sushi, which generally consists of six pieces.

California Roll

One of the most popular uramaki rolls, invented in Los Angeles when chef Ichiro Mashita substituted a slice of avocado for fatty tuna (or toro), the California Roll is the perfect example of a contemporary sushi dish.

Calories: 255 per roll (~43 per piece)
Fat: 7 g per roll (~1 g per piece)
Carbs: 38 g per roll (~6 g per piece)
Fiber: 5.8 g per roll (~1 g per piece)
Protein: 9 g per roll (1.5 g per piece)

Kappa Maki

An excellent vegetarian option, the kappa maki (or cucumber roll) is a lower calorie maki roll made up of thin cucumber strips, wrapped in rice, wrapped in nori.

Calories: 136 per roll (~27 per piece)
Fat: 0 g
Carbs: 30 g per roll (5 g per piece)
Fiber: 3.5 g per roll (~0.6 g per piece)
Protein: 6 g per roll (1 g per piece)

Spicy Tuna Roll

A super high protein spicy maki sushi roll made with raw tuna, mayo, and chili sauce. If you want a healthier alternative, tell the chef to hold the mayo and add a dash of wasabi instead. Without the mayo, you get 100 less calories and 9 less grams of fat.

Calories: 290 per roll (~48 per piece)
Fat: 11 g (~2 per piece)
Carbs: 26 g per roll (~4 g per piece)
Fiber: 3.5 g per roll (~0.6 g per piece)
Protein: 24 g per roll (4 g per piece)

Shrimp Tempura Roll

An extremely high calorie, high carb, high fat, but also high protein roll made from slices of shrimp tempura – slices of shrimp deep fried in wheat batter.

Calories: 508 per roll (~85 per piece)
Fat: 21 g (3.5 g per piece)
Carbs: 64 g per roll (~10 g per piece)
Fiber: 4.5 g per roll (0.75 g per piece)
Protein: 20 g per roll (~3 g per piece)

Avocado Roll

A lower calorie maki roll and another great vegetarian option next to the cucumber roll. The avocado roll is higher in fat than the zero-fat cucumber roll, but most of that is healthy monosaturated fat because of the avocado.

Calories: 140 per roll (~23 per piece)
Fat: 5.7 g (0.95 g per piece)
Carbs: 28 g per roll (4.6 g per piece)
Fiber: 5.8 g per roll (0.96 g per piece)
Protein: 2.1 g per roll (0.35 g per piece)

Rainbow Roll

The Rainbow Roll is an uramaki sushi roll made with crab substitute, avocado, and a variety of raw fish toppings. It may be high in calories, but it’s also really high in protein because of all the raw fish. Very high in carbs, so be warned.

Calories: 476 per roll (~79 per piece)
Fat: 16 g (2.6 g per piece)
Carbs: 50 g per roll (~8 g per piece)
Fiber: 6 g per roll (1 g per piece)
Protein: 33 g per roll (5.5 g per piece)

Philadelphia Roll

Named after the Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand because of its usage of cream cheese, along with salmon. Scrape the lox and cream cheese off a bagel, and wrap it up in nori and rice, and you have this… not the healthiest option available. Sometimes it comes with cucumber, but this still isn’t the best choice if you’re trying to cut back on fat. Better off going with a salmon roll.

Calories: 290 per roll (~48 per piece)
Fat: 12 g (2 g per piece)
Carbs: 28 g per roll (~4.6 g per piece)
Fiber: 2 g per roll (0.3 g per piece)
Protein: 14 g per roll (2.3 g per piece)


Overview

Most contemporary sushi rolls add a lot of unnecessary fat, from cream cheese to battered and deep fried slices of shrimp. While these things may be fine every once in a while, if you’re someone who eats sushi often and you’re concerned about the nutritional value, you might want to consider some healthier alternatives.

Nigiri sushi is usually served in pairs, and consists mostly of raw fish and rice, making them a much healthier option than most contemporary sushi rolls. One piece of tuna belly nigiri, for instance, is 55 calories, but high in unsaturated fat, which is much healthier than the kind of fat you’ll get from spicy mayo or cream cheese. 10 pieces of nigiri, depending on what you order, clocks in at about 400 calories, all low in harmful fats and super high in protein.

Another way to stay healthy while eating Japanese food is to cut back on soy sauce, which can be very high in sodium. All in all, it’s mostly about moderation – if you really want that rainbow roll, settle for 6 pieces and try not to order too many appetizers. Vegetarian rolls are always a healthy option too – learn to make your own veggie sushi rolls here, with lecture #94!