Is Sushi Good for Diabetes?

Learning that you have diabetes does mean making some lifestyle changes. One of the areas that needs attention is your diet. Most people find that some of their favorite foods need to be consumed less often and in smaller quantities. Others may remain part of the diet, but must be enjoyed in some sort of altered form.

That brings up the issue of sushi. While there are many different ingredients that may be used, one that tends to be a constant is the rice. Typically prepared so that it’s slightly sticky, it’s one of the elements that makes the sushi roll such a treat. Must you give up sushi completely? The answer is no. In fact, there are ways to adapt the sushi recipe and still get to enjoy sushi rolls from time to time. Here are some ideas to consider.

Sashimi Rather than Sushi

What you’ve come to think of as sushi may or may not include fish. There is another option to go with that you may find just as filling. Sashimi focuses on the use of fish that’s sliced thin and marinated. In some instances, the marinade is basically the same type of vinegar that is used to season the rice in other sushi recipes.

Like sushi rolls, you can vary the presentation of sashimi with relative ease. The thin slices of marinated (and not necessarily cooked in the traditional sense) fish can be arranged on a bed made of seaweed sheets (nori) and white rice, somewhat like an open sushi roll. There may even be vegetables provided on the side that are sliced and can be picked up using chopsticks. Many of the same vegetables used in different sushi recipes may serve as side items, including options like asparagus spears, strips of cucumber and carrot, thin slices of avocado, and mushrooms.

Sashimi may also be served with no type of garnish or side dishes, other than a little wasabi and possibly soy sauce. For people who tend to order sushi more for the chance to have a small taste of fish, this solution may be all it takes to keep you satisfied and within your carb limit.

While many people do use chopsticks to pick up sashimi and dip it into their sauce of choice, those who find managing the sticks difficult can use forks. If you happen to be eating out, most restaurants are happy to provide forks upon request.

Sashimi does one important thing for you. It eliminates the carbohydrate content found in sushi rolls, since the other elements are either not present or served on the side. You get to decide if you consume any of the sticky rice or focus solely on the fish and maybe some of the vegetables. That puts you in control of what is eaten and how much is consumed. Try having this while others take care of the sushi roll.

Substituting Brown Rice for White Rice

If you can’t envision sushi without including rice, one option to consider is using brown rice instead of the traditional white variety. White rice is high on the glycemic index while brown rice is considered a moderate or medium option on that same index. It will have some impact on your blood glucose levels, but there’s generally less of a spike since the carbs are released into your system as a slower rate.

As it relates to taste, you may not notice much of a difference at all. The rice can still be prepared using vinegar to create the texture and stickiness needed for the sushi. A bonus is that brown rice is able to synthesize fats more efficiently than white rice and happens to contain a reasonable amount of fiber. See it as a way to provide more of what your body needs even as you balance the desire for sushi with the need to manage your glucose levels.

Using Riced Cauliflower in Sushi

Cauliflower is a vegetable that you are already putting to good use. It’s possible to cook, thoroughly drain, and use cauliflower in the place of a number of foods that are much higher in carbohydrates. It can be made into a substitute for mashed potatoes or used to create a cauliflower salad that’s much like the usual potato salad recipe. It’s even possible to create a pizza crust that makes use of cauliflower rather than traditional bleached white flour.

How does this relate to sushi? Riced cauliflower can be substituted for the rice with ease. You can still marinate it in vinegar to create the same taste. It’s also possible to prepare it using low-carb additives that help create a slightly sticky texture that will hold together. For example, a plant-based mayonnaise substitute will work well as a binder. What you end up with is a texture that’s much like what you would expect from sticky rice.

Another plus is that cauliflower tends to absorb flavors easily. That means you can use seasonings to give your substitute rice a little more zing. The result is sushi that may have a taste that’s slightly different from what you’re used to, but is still filling and satisfying.

How do you cook the cauliflower rice for use in sushi? There are several options. It’s possible to prepare the riced cauliflower by steaming it. Pull out the wok and stir-fry it just as you would do with rice. If you purchase cauliflower rice in a local supermarket, it likely comes in a bag that you can slip directly into a microwave oven. In other words, using cauliflower rice doesn’t have to add much preparation time to creating your favorite sushi.

Making Sushi Using Quinoa

Quinoa is a plant that produces seeds suitable for consumption. There are several great things about those seeds. They are excellent sources of protein and serve as a great source of fiber. In fact, quinoa provides twice the protein that you would find in the same amount of white rice. Per cup, quinoa provides five more grams of fiber than rice.

You can feel good about the nutritional value of quinoa. Along with the fiber content, it contains all of the amino acids considered to be essential for daily consumption. There are plenty of nutrients too, including most of the B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium. The antioxidant properties of quinoa doesn’t hurt anything either.

When it comes to carbohydrate content, quinoa is has fewer carbs than white rice and even beats out the carb content of brown rice. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 21.3 grams of carbohydrates. That’s a little more than half the carb content of a cup of cooked brown rice.

As it relates to texture, quinoa is one of the better choices for rice substitutes. It can be cooked so that it’s slightly sticky and will stay together in a sushi recipe with ease. It also does a great job of absorbing the flavor from vinegar. In color, it will be slightly yellow or an off-white, but you’re not likely to notice a lot of difference once the sushi is prepared.

You can prepare quinoa using the same method that you would prepare the rice. Once it’s ready, spread a layer on seaweed sheets and add the fish and/or vegetables of your choice. Roll carefully, then cut into sections. You’ll be all set to enjoy sushi and still feel good about the amount of carbohydrates involved.

Using Couscous in Sushi

Some people may tell you that couscous is nothing more than pasta that’s broken into tiny pieces. In fact, it’s made using durum wheat semolina that’s crushed. This is different from the ground type that’s used to make the elbow noodles, spaghetti, and vermicelli that’s found in supermarkets.

Opting to use couscous instead of rice in your sushi does provide some benefits. In terms of carb content, a cup has more carbohydrates than quinoa but fewer carbs than brown rice. The fiber content is slightly more than brown rice, and will provide you with essential nutrients like calcium and iron.

Working with couscous is simple. After cooking the product, drain and allow it to set while it cools. Spread it on a seaweed sheet and then press to ensure the layer will stay together. Add your favorite vegetables and roll with care. You’ll find that cutting the roll into sections is simple and the pressed couscous will stay in place with ease.

One thing to keep in mind about using couscous: the flavor and texture won’t mimic rice as well as some of the other substitutes. Even so, you may find that this is an approach that does please your taste buds. Give it a try.

Going With the Lesser Known Option: Black Rice

If you’ve never heard of black rice, don’t feel alone. In spite of the fact that the grain has been around for longer than recorded history, it’s not one that is as well-known as other types of rice. You may have heard of it referred to as forbidden rice. That’s because it was reserved for the upper classes in ancient Chinese culture rather than being a staple of the diet for the masses.

Today, black rice does remain a somewhat costlier option. What do you get in return for paying a little more? This rice does contain ample amounts of protein, iron, and all of the antioxidants that you need. It’s been said to be good for promoting heart health as well as supporting the eyes. Owing to the fiber content, it can be an effective resource if you’re watching your weight.

The carbohydrate content is also something to consider. Black rice is slightly lower in carbs than brown rice and a little more than what you would get with the same serving size of quinoa. That makes it a better option than the white rice you would normally use when preparing sushi, but not the best choice if the primary goal is to keep the carb content as low as possible.

Black rice is said to have a more robust taste than white or brown rice. It’s also noted for being denser than the other rices, something that will provide a little extra texture. Some say that it has a slightly nutty taste that blends in well with various forms of vegetable sushi. Given the fact that the cooked rice also provides more color – cooked black rice usually has a hue that’s somewhere between purple and black – it can definitely add visual appeal to the presentation of your sushi roll.

Mixing and Matching Your Alternatives

There’s no rule that says sushi rolls must be made using one particular substitute for white rice. In fact, a quick online search will yield recipes that use two or more alternatives for a single roll. Some also involve using a combination of white rice with one of the alternatives.

For example, you may decide that trying black or brown rice along with quinoa would work well. Maybe opting for using white rice along with cauliflower rice would be worth a try. Come up with a combination that you think will work and give it a try. The result may turn out to be a pleasant surprise.

What does this do for you? For one thing, it may allow you to more closely approximate the taste and texture of sushi rolls made using white rice only. Depending on the carbohydrate content of the two options that you use, it may be possible to lower the amount of carbs per slice.

Another advantage is that including two or more alternatives can also impact the presentation. Imagine what the slices would look like if you opted for rolls made using black rice with quinoa. You may find the finished roll to be as visually appealing as it is tasty. That makes enjoying sushi with less carbs even better.

The Option Most Won’t Discuss: Sushi With White Rice

It’s established that you can have sushi even if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. There are a number of rice alternatives that you can use in making your own sushi at home. What happens if none of them satisfy you in terms of taste or texture? Are you destined to spend the rest of your life without enjoying sushi now and then? The answer is no.

Remember that controlling your intake of carbs is something of a balancing act. Your body does need complex carbs in order to function properly. Without some carbs, you’re more prone to experiencing heart palpitations, increased nervousness, headaches, muscle cramps, and general weakness. Attempting to avoid carbs altogether is not what you want to do.

Here’s an idea to consider if sushi without white rice is not something you can accept; apply the same strategy of portion control that you use with other foods. It may be time to say goodbye to those days when you would consume an entire roll by yourself. Instead, make sure there’s at least one other person with you to share the roll. Consuming fewer slices translates into ingesting fewer carbs.

Slowing down will also help. Savor each bite of the sushi and chew a little slower. Taking your time provides more of a chance for the stomach to let the brain know that you’ve had enough. It also provides you with more of a chance to enjoy the flavors of all the vegetables and fish that are found within the sushi roll.

Along with portion control, choose to have sushi less often. If you use to have it a couple of times a month, make it a monthly treat. See it as a way to still have something you really like now and then while freeing more time to identify and enjoy new foods that fit into your diabetic diet with ease.

What Happens When You’re Dining Out?

Preparing sushi at home does provide more control over what goes into each roll. That’s not a luxury you will have while eating out. At first glance, you may think that there are only two choices: order sushi knowing that it’s made with white rice, or avoid ordering sushi rolls completely.

There’s a third possible option. While it’s not always advertised, it’s not unusual for Japanese and other restaurants that serve sushi rolls to have more than one option for rice choice. It could be that the one you tend to visit most often does have brown or black rice on hand that’s ready to go into that roll. Since those selections may not be included on the menu, ask the server and find out if there is something other than white rice available.

Brown and white rice may not be the only choices either. When you ask, don’t be surprised if the kitchen does have riced cauliflower in the back or maybe even some quinoa. Both of those have gained quite a bit of recognition as rice substitutes. The result is more kitchens are keeping limited quantities of them to keep on hand for people who need to avoid carbs or are prefer them over rice for other dietary reasons.

The bottom line is that you have options when it comes to sushi rolls. Being diabetic does not mean that this particular culinary delight is off the table forever. Do give sashimi a try and see what you think. Have some fun testing the different rice alternatives at home. While you’re at it, check with a few of your favorite restaurants and ask if they do have some rice substitutes that can be ordered, even if they aren’t advertised on the menu. You may find that your choices for enjoying sushi while eating out are more varied than you thought.

More Articles

With its slightly nutty flavor, chewy texture, and nutritional punch farro is an ancient whole grain worth a place in our pantry.


Having diabetes is cause for concern, however it doesn’t mean that you need to eliminate all of your favorite foods from your diet completely....

With diabetes becoming more of an epidemic each and every day, being knowledgeable about the disease, its effects on the body as well as ways to...

If you’re a diabetic or live with one, it can be tough trying to figure out the best foods to eat because your priority is to control your blood...

In this post, I will show you the 10 best ice creams for diabetics.

When you think of sweetened foods that a diabetic shouldn’t consume,...

More Articles

If you’re living with diabetes, snacking is a necessity because going for more than 3-4 hours without eating can be detrimental to your health....

For diabetics, choosing healthy snacks can be a daunting task.

A good rule of thumb is to pick out snacks that are rich in protein, fiber,...

According to information available through the National Institutes of Health, there’s an estimated 462 million people in the world who are...

Eleven Clinical Studies

After eleven clinical studies and 300,000 participants, researcher Vasanti Malik and her team of researchers...

Diabetic women often have a harder time losing weight than non-diabetic women. A study funded by Jenny Craig proved that diabetic women have an...

Many recent studies have proved that magnesium levels are lower in patients with diabetes than in non-diabetics. This magnesium...

Fluid retention, also known as edema, is a problem that affects many diabetics, especially those with type 2 diabetes...

Some of us might be thrilled if we could manage our blood sugar by sitting in a hot tub or sauna, instead of working up a sweat biking, or using...

Cooking and baking with the ancient cereal grain sorghum has health benefits for people with diabetes, and those with weight control issues....

When it comes to certain foods, there are always questions as to whether or not a diabetic can have them without...

Matcha tea is a rich, creamy, full-bodied beverage with amazing nutritional properties that address several diabetes health concerns.


Salads are good example of foods that type 2 diabetics can enjoy with relatively low guilt. With the right greens and other elements added, salad...

Remaining gainfully employed is important to many people. Those who live with any form of diabetes may find that some lines of work are more...

One of the more challenging aspects of life as a type 2 diabetic is managing your diet. There’s often the temptation to avoid certain foods...

The green, heavily ridged acorn squash is plentiful in the marketplace this time of year. Though, Acorn squash has a high glycemic index rank of...