In its most basic form, sushi -- composed of fish, rice and seaweed -- makes a healthy addition to your diet. Although fish contains some cholesterol, it also offers protein and healthy fats, so the cholesterol level is not usually enough to cause concern for the average person. When you add components such as fried or fatty ingredients to sushi, however, you raise the potential cholesterol level.
Cholesterol is a necessary substance that your body produces on its own. This fat, or lipid, helps form the outer covering of cells, comprises bile acids that aid food digestion in the intestine, and enables the body's production of vitamin D and hormones like testosterone. In fact, your body makes all the cholesterol it needs. When you take in too much dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, your levels of one type of cholesterol, called low-density lipoprotein, go up, leading to blocked arteries. This can result in heart attack and stroke.
Cholesterol in Sushi
Fish contains cholesterol, although the amount varies from species to species. Unlike meat and dairy, however, it is not a major source of saturated fat in the diet. Fatty meat, eggs, butter and other full-fat dairy products, and fried foods are the worst offenders. Three ounces of bluefin tuna have 32 milligrams of cholesterol and 1 gram of saturated fat, while the equivalent amount of eggs has 316 milligrams of cholesterol and 2.7 grams of saturated fat. As plant foods, rice and seaweed contain no cholesterol and only a trace of saturated fat.
Cholesterol and Fish
Unlike meat, dairy and eggs, fish can actually help lower your cholesterol. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise your good cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein. This type of cholesterol helps carry some of the bad cholesterol out of your body to lower your blood levels. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish -- the best source of omega-3 -- at least twice a week. Two fish commonly used to make sushi, tuna and salmon, are rich sources of omega-3s.
Keeping It Healthy
Sushi can easily become a poor choice for a low-cholesterol diet when it is made with cholesterol-raising ingredients such as mayonnaise and fried items. As an example, a basic tuna roll has no saturated fat and 25 milligrams of cholesterol, while a crunchy shrimp tempura roll has 6 grams of saturated fat and 65 milligrams of cholesterol. When ordering sushi, stick to basic rolls made with fish and vegetables and skip anything with spicy mayo, tempura and cream cheese.
- Harvard Health Publications: CHAPTER 1: Understanding Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad, and the Necessary
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Food Search
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- RA Sushi Bar: Nutritional Information