Whether you are a spicy tuna roll aficionado or simply can’t live without your weekly dose of a negi hamachi roll, there’s no denying it: Sushi is freaking amazing.
But while you would love to schedule a nightly date with a king crab roll for one and a platter of sashimi on the side if given the chance, you might be wondering exactly how much sushi is safe to eat on a regular basis.
To put your mind at ease, “Sushi, which is mostly made up of seaweed, rice, vegetables and fish is a healthy meal option,” says Barbie Boules, a registered dietitian in Illinois. (Phew.)
How freaked should I be about mercury, though?
Sure, mercury is a concern for most people when it comes to fish, says Claire Martin, co-founder of Being Healthfull. And rightfully so: Mercury poisoning can cause headaches, dizziness, developmental delays, brain damage and even organ failure.
But not all fish carry the same mercury risk. “The higher up on the food chain, the more likely there is mercury, which doesn’t leave the body once the fish ingests it,” she says. So larger fish that eat smaller fish – such as swordfish, tuna and mackerel – are all examples of fish that tend to have higher mercury levels, Martin says.
“You should moderate your consumption of these types of fish in sashimi, nigiri or otherwise,” Martin says. “I wouldn’t eat these fish more than twice a week.”
On the other hand, Martin says maki sushi – those rolls you love oh-so-much – are often made from fish that are much lower in mercury content… meaning you can safely eat it more often. This includes salmon, crab, shrimp and eel.
To balance out your nutrients (and lessen your mercury intake), Boules recommends building your sushi order by choosing one roll (five pieces) with a low-mercury raw fish like salmon, then loading up on veggie options or cooked shrimp and crab.
Great, so we’re all set here, right?
One catch for pregnant ladies: Eating raw fish should be avoided because of the risk of mercury poisoning and foodborne illnesses that could affect you and your little one. (Same goes if you’re currently breastfeeding.)
Boules says pregnant women and children should limit their consumption of fish to 226 grams per week, and steer clear of high mercury fish entirely.
The bottom line: “Overall fish consumption should be 340g per week for healthy adults, 170 to 226g per week for pregnant women and children,” Boules says. “Be mindful of choosing lower mercury options.”