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The question

I love - I mean, really love - sushi. I probably eat it 5-6 times a week. It seems healthy - fish, rice, vegetables, soy - but i'm sure there are hidden unhealthy ingredients. What's the best kind to eat? I never have deep fried tempura - but what do you recommend on a sushi menu?

The answer

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Sushi is a very healthy meal! It's a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids thanks to the fish it's made with. Sushi is also low in calories – there's no added fat.

The most common type is nigiri sushi – fingers of sticky rice topped with a small filet of fish or seafood. On average, one piece of sushi nigiri has about 70 calories. A typical order of 6 pieces provides 310 to 420 calories, depending on the type of fish.

Maki sushi are rolls are made with sticky rice, fish and dried seaweed, called nori. Most maki places the nori on the outside, but California rolls place the rice on the outside. On average, one piece of maki roll has 48 calories. A typical order of 6 pieces, or one roll, contains 250 to 370 calories, depending the type of fish and whether or not it's made with avocado.

Sashimi, raw fish served sliced without rice, has roughly 132 calories for 6 pieces (3 ounces).

When ordering sushi, ask for brown rice instead of white rice. It's more nutritious and it has a lower glycemic index than white rice.

Some types of sushi are higher in calories: Rolls made with tempura shrimp like Dynamite rolls are higher in fat and calories because the shrimp has been deep fried.

Spider rolls have mayonnaise so they will be higher in fat and calories too. Rolls with avocado are also higher in fat, but keep in mind that avocado contains heart healthy monounsaturated fat.

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One concern is the high amount of mercury found in some species of fish. Women who are planning to become pregnant, who are pregnant, who are breastfeeding and young children should avoid high mercury fish which include tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, shark, tilefish, and orange roughy. Tuna and mackerel are common at sushi restaurants. The concern is that too much mercury may damage a baby's developing brain and nervous system.

Lastly, go easy on the soy sauce, especially if you have high blood pressure. One tablespoon of regular soy sauce has 900 to 1000 milligrams of sodium – more than half of a day's worth. Light soy sauce has about 25 per cent less sodium: 600 to 800 milligrams per tablespoon, which is still considerable.

Other healthy items at a Japanese restaurant include edamame (young green soybeans), seaweed salad and green tea.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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