A crash course in sushi consumption

LOS ANGELES Eiji Morishita's family-owned restaurant is the second oldest sushi bar in America. Now proud owners of Sushi Go 55 in Little Tokyo, Morishita says the sushi craze started here in L.A. about 60 years ago.

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"L.A. was the birthplace of sushi because the Japanese flew into the us straight to Los Angeles," said Morishita.

Morishita said the California roll was also invented in Los Angeles. Due to some Americans not loving the seaweed on the outside, America sushi chefs began covering the outside with lots of rice, also grown in California. As a matter of fact, all the sushi served in America is made with rice grown in California.

A common misconception: sushi doesn't mean raw – but rather anything with vinegar rice. Like many cuisines, there are healthy and not so healthy ways to eat it.

"Three or four rolls, like California rolls, or if you have shrimp tempura roll or rainbow roll or anything like that, each roll would be 400 to 500 calories," said Mike Levinson, dietitian.

Of course every sushi house makes rolls according to their own recipe, but it isn't uncommon to get a roll with that many calories as a rule of thumb.

Levinson says people assume eating anything with fish is like a getting a free pass. Wrong. Each roll contains about a half-cup of rice, so if you have three - do the math.

True: fish is low-cal and protein-packed, but with thick sauces found in popular dynamite and rainbow rolls or mayonnaise in spicy tuna rolls, you've got high-cal extras.

For example, cooked crab California rolls and spicy tuna rolls average 350 calories, while soft shell crab spider rolls, and shrimp tempura elevate calories to around 500.

Smart sushi diners get to know their sushi chef. Frequent their restaurant enough, they're more than happy to accommodate when you ask for less rice, no mayo, or even accommodate when you ask, "I want the sauce on the side."

So how do you order?

Levinson says start with edamame or boiled soybeans that offer protein and fiber. If sodium isn't an issue, miso soup curbs hunger. A roll made with seaweed will give you a boost of B vitamins, while spicy wasabi adds vitamin C.

Futomaki is a vegetable roll with cooked egg, while salmon sashimi is packed with omega-three fats, known to benefit both heart and brain function.

To be truly smart about sushi, you have to be aware of possible contaminants like mercury in some fish.

"Predatory fish would be the fish that have the higher amount of mercury in them," said Levinson.

Those that fall in that category are ahi, halibut, swordfish, and king mackerel. Experts suggest limiting these to one serving - trying crab, shrimp, salmon and others instead.

Finally, if you ever wondered why your favorite roll costs eight bucks or more, know this: It takes one year alone to perfect the rice and seven to become a sushi master.


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