Hide this
Sushi

Story at-a-glance +

  • Popular ingredients in sushi and other Asian foods often contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified ingredients, artificial colors, and artificial flavors
  • Seaweed salad, pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, and even sushi rice and sesame seeds may contain artificial ingredients and additives
  • Restaurant sushi is often mislabeled and may include a different fish than is labeled; it also may be high in mercury or other pollutants
  • If you love sushi, try making it at home by purchasing a whole, pollutant-free fish, such as wild-caught, Alaskan sockeye salmon
 

Hidden Scary Sushi Ingredients Exposed

January 04, 2014 | 139,306 views
Share This Article Share

By Dr. Mercola

Most people regard sushi as a healthful choice when eating out, or even when looking for a quick take-out option, as ready-made sushi is now widely available in grocery stores.

Obviously, if you order certain sushi rolls that are deep-fried, you’re probably already aware that not everything on the menu at your favorite Asian restaurant is actually healthy.

But what may come as a surprise – even to the most health-conscious sushi lovers – are the potentially dangerous ingredients hidden in even seemingly excellent choices – like seaweed salad, wasabi, or sushi ginger.

Dangerous Ingredients Lurking in 8 Popular Sushi Dishes

A revealing report1 by Andrea Donsky, founder of NaturallySavvy, has exposed the many not-so-healthy ingredients found in popular Asian foods.

1. Seaweed Salad

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
  • Vegetable oil
  • Hydrolyzed protein (which contains monosodium glutamate or MSG)
  • Artificial color, 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.

2. Ginger

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:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Aspartame
  • Potassium sorbate (a preservative)
  • Artificial colors, including red #40, which is linked to hyperactivity in children (if the ginger looks pink)

3. Wasabi

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, even in Japan, and it’s estimated that only 5 percent of restaurants in Japan and only very high-end restaurants in the US2 serve the real deal. So what is that green paste being served with your sushi? Most likely a combination of horseradish, Chinese mustard, and green food coloring. The featured report found the following in wasabi:

  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial colors
  • Potential GM ingredients (corn and soy)

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.

4. Sesame Seeds

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 colors
  • Artificial sweeteners (sucralose)

5. Soy Sauce

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 con)
  • Corn syrup
  • Potassium sorbate (preservative)
  • Caramel color (certain types of which may form potentially carcinogenic byproducts)

6. 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:

7. Imitation Crab

Imitation crab meat may be made from Golden Threadfin Bream, a fish facing extinction, and that’s not all. It may also contain additives including:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Artificial flavor

8. Fish Roe (Seasoned Caviar)

The orange-colored fish eggs often served with sushi dishes are also commonly full of additives like those found in other Asian foods. Among them:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial color (yellow #6)

Tuna and Snapper Sushi Are Probably Not What You Think

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 in lieu of real, quality ingredients. 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. Instead, the majority of fish labeled “white tuna” may actually be escolar, a type of fish that can cause serious digestive effects, including oily anal leakage.

Oceana conducted DNA testing on more than 1,200 fish samples across the US and found that one-third were mislabeled.3 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.

Sushi Tuna Is Typically High in 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.

This is particularly true for tuna, which tends to be a higher mercury fish. 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.

Further, according to a separate study, toxicological testing revealed that tuna sold in restaurants actually contained higher amounts of mercury than the store-bought variety.4 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.

Can You Still Enjoy the Sushi You Love?

If you love sushi, and want to enjoy it without adding unnecessary health risks, try making it at home. 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.

Additionally, whenever I consume fish, I make sure to also take chlorella tablets. The chlorella is a potent mercury binder and, if taken with the fish, will help bind the mercury before you are able to absorb it, so it can be safely excreted in your stool.

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 (CAFO), 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.

Thank you! Your purchases help us support these charities and organizations.

Food Democracy Now
Mercury Free Dentistry
Fluoride Action Network
National Vaccine Information Center
Institute for Responsible Technology
Organic Consumers Association
Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
Cornucopia Institute
Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico