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Ask Dr. Gourmet

My cholesterol scores are high. Should I avoid sushi?

I'm trying to reduce my cholesterol scores and am wondering if sushi is a food I should avoid.

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Slices of raw salmon, sashimi

Sushi in general should not be high in cholesterol. The fish used does contain some cholesterol, however. For instance, a 1/2 ounce piece of tuna that would be served in a typical nigiri sushi contains about 7 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol. Salmon and other fatty fish served at sushi bars like mackerel, eel, and abalone can be higher in cholesterol - in the range of 10 - 15 mg per piece.

That said, when you're working to lower your cholesterol a more important factor is the amount of fat and types of fats in the foods you choose. It's key to lower the amount of saturated fats and increase the unsaturated fats. We know that fish such as those served in Japanese cuisine are high in the good unsaturated fats, especially Omega 3 fats.

Sushi can be a great choice for a healthy diet and I personally eat sushi often. I am VERY careful where I dine on sushi, however. Keep in mind that you are eating raw fish and it is important that it is very fresh and handled scrupulously. I have walked out of many sushi bars before ever being seated simply because they do not appear clean. At the same time I almost never eat sushi that is pre-packaged unless I know the source, such as some grocery stores that have a sushi chef on premises.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet