The PROS and CONS of Loving Sashimi

Treat yourself to a vitamin-pack plate of tuna,, white salmon and salmon sashimi. Just don't overdo it. (photo credits from http://www.bunrab.com/)

My fascination of everything Japanese sprang from my love of its people and its cuisine. I mean, who wouldn’t admire such a culture of humility and resilience ( post WWII and  the tsunami a few years ago). And who would not love the food?  I don’t always eat wagyu or kobe beef  but serve me some fresh seafood and I won’t leave the buffet table.

I’ve always loved those thinly sliced raw fish, tuna or salmon , served with wasabi and soy sauce and  sometimes a bowl of rice. My friends say I’m just too lazy to cook my own food, but I don’t care. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be willing to gobble up plates of raw fish  if they have  the chance. I am partial  to tuna (maguro), salmon (sake) and sea urchin (uni) but try going to Japanese restaurants and you’ll find  that they serve a variety of fresh sea food  like squid (ika), mackerel (saba), horse mackerel  (Aji), octopus (Tako), yellowtail(hamachi), puffer fish takifugu (Fugu), scallop (hotate-gai) and even whale meat (gei-niku).

Eating sashimi comes with a lot of benefits. It offers all the benefits of fresh fish, which are excellent sources of protein, omega-3 fats, and other nutrients like selenium, niacin and vitamin B12, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamin B3 B6. Omega 3 fatty acids are thought to promote cardiovascular health, improve eyesight, lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol, and combating depression. Raw fish is actually a very good source of  vitamin A or retinol, as it is  an oil-soluble chemical, and it is found dissolved in the oils within the fish flesh.

Treat yourself to a vitamin-pack plate of tuna,, white salmon and salmon sashimi. Just don’t overdo it. (photo credits from http://www.bunrab.com/)

The nutritional information for sashimi may vary depending on the type of fish used. Most sashimi is very low in fat, as most fish contain less than a gram of fat per ounce, but there are some like monkfish and eel that can have as high as five grams of fat per ounce. Sashimi is a good source of lean protein — most types of fish contain 4 to 6 g of protein per ounce. Sashimi is almost free of carbs. Salmon roe, whitefish and tuna are the lowest-calorie, at about 20 calories per ounce, and mackerel, sardines and eel are the highest-calorie, with over 50 calories per ounce.

Advocates of raw eating would argue that eating fresh food is actually more beneficial because cooking  destroys  the natural nutrients of food. Raw food dieters avoid meat and sashimi adheres to raw food dieting. Sashimi provides the missing protein in a lean, raw package that fits right in with the diet, condiments and all.
Just because it’s fresh doesn’t mean that sashimi  is completely safe, though. Because sashimi is consumed raw, it is possible for it to contain parasites and bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. There are some illnesses like Anisakis simplex  that is caused by  accidental ingestion of larval nematodes. In the mildest and most frequent cases, the worm lodges in the throat and is coughed up. If it invades the intestinal wall, the parasite can enter the peritoneal cavity, where it may cause chronic lesions or prompt white blood cells to gather around to fight it off, thus forming a granuloma, often mistaken for a tumor. Then if surgery is performed, the worm can be found within the granuloma. But the actual risk of getting infected with anisakis by eating raw or undercooked fish is actually very small. In the U.S., less than 10 cases of the infection are diagnosed each year.
In addition, incorrectly prepared puffer fish may contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin with no known antidote. Intake of large amount of certain kind of fish may affect health due to mercury content.

Who should avoid sashimi?

People with liver disorders or weakened immune systems (i.e. small children, the elderly, and pregnant women) have a greater risk for severe outcomes from infection and should be very careful when eat raw fish.

How do you ensure that the sashimi you’re eating is safe?

You should only buy and  eat at reputable sashimi and sushi bars where served fish is sashimi-grade. Sashimi-grade fish are caught quickly, bled upon capture, gutted soon after and iced thoroughly. Sushi-grade fish are frozen to destroy the parasites that they may harbor. The  European-Union recommended procedure is to freeze fish at temperatures of -20oC or below for seven days or -35oC or below for 15 hours or -35oC until frozen and held at -20oC for 24 hours.The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends freezing at ?35°C (?31°F) for 15 hours, or at ?20°C (?4°F) for 7 days. In Japan, almost no freshwater fish is used for sushi and sashimi, because  a variety of tapeworms can survive in fresh water, so avoid fish from freshwater.

If you would prepare the fish yourself, defrost fish in the refrigerator. Take them out of the freezer but do not thaw them under room temperature. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water prior to preparing raw fish and after using the toilet, smoking, eating and touching non-food items. Use soap and water in washing all utensils, chopping boards and kitchen areas before you use them to prepare the fish.

Like everything else, everything that’s too much can be bad for you.
Wow. I got hungry just discussing my favorite delicacy. Itadakimasu!
Web References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sashimi
http://www.livestrong.com/article/323629-sashimi-and-raw-food-diet/
http://www.livestrong.com/article/382022-vitamins-minerals-in-sashimi/
http://mb.com.ph/node/360698/danger#.UJcnyHPWzck
http://www.nytimes.com/1981/09/30/garden/eating-raw-fish-the-dangers.html
http://infectiousdiseases.about.com/od/g/a/Sushi.htm