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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Poke Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Is Poke Healthy? Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 18, 2023
7 min read 436 Views 0 Comments
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A poke bowl is a bright and colorful dish that appears to be a healthy meal, but is it really that good for you?

is poke healthy

Poke bowls are a favorite among health-conscious consumers. They certainly look healthy on the surface, with their rainbow colors and variety of components in a single dish. But if you want to dive deeper, you might wonder just how good these tasty bowls are for you.

Explore poke bowls in detail and learn whether they’re a nutritious choice.

Is Poke Healthy?

Poke is healthy because it comprises highly nutritious components, like fish, vegetables, and whole grains. It is jam-packed with lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, potent antioxidants, and multiple vitamins and minerals while remaining low in calories, fats, and sugars.

You can consider poke a healthy dish, but how healthy exactly depends on the exact ingredients. Some key elements are not particularly nutritious. For example, soy sauce is very high in sodium, and white rice is highly processed and lacks important nutrients like fiber.

What Is Poke?

Poke (pronounced poh kay) is a traditional Hawaiian dish of diced raw fish, fresh vegetables, and rice. Poke literally means “to slice or cut,” so the fish is cut into bite-sized pieces. It is served in a bowl called a poke bowl with dressing and condiments.

In its traditional form, raw tuna is the fish of choice. However, you can find a variety of poke bowls today containing other raw fish like salmon and snapper. You can even get poke bowls with cooked fish and vegetarian and vegan alternatives that swap fish for tofu.

A standard poke bowl typically contains the following ingredients:

  • Sticky white rice or sushi rice
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Onions
  • Pickled vegetables, such as pickled ginger
  • Radishes
  • Soy sauce
  • Chilli
  • Sesame oil
  • Seaweed
  • Tuna (ahi tuna is the most popular) or salmon, kingfish, trout, and octopus

Are poke bowls good for weight loss?

Consuming poke bowls as part of a well-balanced diet may help you lose weight. These dishes are high in protein which can improve body composition alongside muscle-strengthening exercises. Meanwhile, healthy fats give you energy and keep you feeling full for longer.

Avocado, for example, is full of monounsaturated fats that promote satiety, support healthy cholesterol levels, and help speed up fat metabolism.

Most of the ingredients are low in calories to help maintain your daily calorie count. Nevertheless, poke bowls pose some problems for people who want to shed pounds. The rice content is high in carbohydrates, which may cause weight gain if you eat it excessively.

White rice is a popular base, but it is low in fiber and other nutrients. It doesn’t fit well with a weight loss program, whereas brown rice is fiber-rich. Ultimately, poke bowls are more effective for weight loss when they contain the most healthy ingredients.

There are many healthier options available if losing weight is your goal. For example, you can cut out refined carbs and opt for more vegetables to reduce the calorie content. 

5 Health Benefits of Poke Bowls

Eating poke can give your health a boost. It has several benefits thanks to the many whole foods it contains, including seafood, vegetables, and sometimes nuts and seeds.

Here are 5 reasons why you should be eating poke bowls.

#1 They are nutritious

Poke bowls are filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to assist overall health. These nutrients come from the combination of fresh fish and vegetables. People who eat fish can benefit from anti-oxidation, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and cardioprotective effects.

#2 They protect your heart

The various nutrients are great for strengthening your heart and lowering heart disease risk. Raw salmon, for example, is rich in omega-3s, which reduce blood pressure and triglycerides. Meanwhile, whole grains like brown rice help control cholesterol levels and weight.

#3 They are filled with vegetables

Vegetables are vital for a healthy diet. Studies prove that vegetable consumption can decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and esophageal cancer. You can get a good variety of fresh and colorful vegetables from your poke bowls.

#4 They are good for the brain

Omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon and tuna can boost your brain health by promoting cognition, improving focus, and protecting against neurodegeneration. Further studies show that regular fish intake may help prevent mild cognitive impairment in healthy people.

#5 They can support your gut

Poke bowls containing other toppings, such as fermented food, benefit your gut health. Popular ingredients like kimchi or fermented cabbage contain probiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, helping to reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system.

Potential Risks of Eating Poke

Consuming poke comes with some potential risks. Raw fish is the primary ingredient, and while minimal for most healthy individuals, there is always the risk of food poisoning due to exposure to bacteria and parasites.

There is also the risk of toxic effects from mercury, a heavy metal found in high levels in some fish.

It is generally safe for most people, but you should consider the following risks:

  • Possible foodborne illnesses
  • Allergic reactions
  • High blood pressure from sodium content

Nutrition Facts of Poke Bowl

Studying the nutrition label is the first step to determining how healthy a particular food is. You can discover the nutrients that add value to your diet and those you should limit.

Let’s discuss the facts in detail:

Nutritional value (per 100g)

Calories/Nutrients (per 100g)Amount
Calories (kcal)170
Net carbs (g)27
Fiber (g)2
Sugar (g)3
Fats (total)2
Sodium (mg)410
Protein (g)8
Cholesterol (mg)5

Source: USDA

Low in fat

A standard poke bowl has only 2g of fat. Eating this dish can help keep your heart healthy since there are no trans fats and only a minimal amount of saturated fats. You can increase the fat content by adding more ingredients like avocado and fatty fish like salmon.

Low in sugar

Too much sugar in your diet can cause health issues, including weight gain and type 2 diabetes. The sugar content in poke bowls tends to come from your sauce. You can keep it to a minimum by cutting out high-sugar sauces and marinades that add extra calories.

High in protein

The high protein content is great for active individuals who need to fuel their strength training. Getting plenty of protein in your diet supports muscle growth, prevents muscle loss, aids appetite control, and boosts post-exercise recovery.

Rich in potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral. Your diet needs enough potassium to support healthy blood pressure, normal blood sugar levels, fluid balance, muscle contractions, and more. Low potassium levels (hypokalemia) can cause abnormal heart rhythms, weak muscles, and high blood pressure.

Rich in vitamins

Poke bowls contain vitamins like B12 and vitamin C. Vitamin B12 is proven to support the making of DNA and healthy blood and nerve cells. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant required for iron absorption, wound healing, and protection against free radical damage.

How to Make a Healthy Poke Bowl at Home

Poke is mostly healthy, but there are ways to make a healthier poke bowl at home. You can amend the components to reduce the calorie count, carbs, and sodium content while still creating a delicious dish.

All you need is a protein source, a variety of veggies, and a dressing with fewer calories and less sodium. Here’s how to utilize healthy ingredients for your poke bowl:

  • Choose a fiber-rich base: Ditch the white rice and opt for something more fiber-heavy. Whole grains like brown rice, barley, and quinoa have many benefits. There are also grain-free options, such as cauliflower rice. You can even create a vegetable base with more fiber-rich veggies, like broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
  • Choose fish with low mercury levels: Cod, herring, salmon, tilapia, and trout are low-mercury fish with plenty of nutrients for a healthy meal.
  • Limit condiments: Limit soy sauce, opt for a low-sodium version where possible, and use less sesame oil to reduce calories. Citrus juice and rice vinegar are good options.
  • Use more herbs and spices: You can ensure your poke bowl is flavorful with healthy ingredients like basil, chopped fresh cilantro, mint, and diced chile peppers.

Remember that portion size matters. About four ounces is considered a healthy serving size for a poke bowl, which is approximately 113 grams.

FAQs

Is poke vegan?

Traditional poke is not vegan because it contains raw fish. However, you can create a vegan-friendly version of poke by swapping animal products for other proteins, such as tofu and tempeh. You can also get plant protein from chickpeas, quinoa, nuts, and seeds.

Is poke high in calories?

The calorie content of a poke bowl can vary depending on the ingredients and your serving size. It’s not usually a high-calorie dish, but the sesame oil often ramps up the calorie count. You can create a low-calorie poke bowl with some smart nutritional choices.

Is poke healthy after a workout?

Poke can fit nicely into a healthy diet to help meet your fitness goals. The high amounts of lean protein, good fats, and moderate carbs are great for fueling your body and energy levels. There’s no reason you can’t consume poke after exercise and reap the benefits.

Is poke better than sushi?

Most people who love sushi will love poke bowls because they both combine raw fish and sticky rice. If you’re hoping to lose weight, poke bowls tend to have fewer carbs and more protein than sushi rolls to support weight loss. They also have more vegetables in a serving.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Poke is a great addition to a well-balanced diet. It has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber to keep your body healthy. Consuming this dish can help keep you safe from high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular disease.

However, you must monitor how much sodium and calories you consume from certain ingredients. While full of nutritious components, eating poke bowls excessively or overdoing it on the high-calorie, high-sodium, and high-sugar sauces can harm your health.

Conclusion

Poke can make a great meal for health-conscious individuals. You just need to choose the right ingredients and portion sizes to meet your personal nutritional needs. Ideally, you want a poke bowl with more fiber, fewer carbs, and less sodium to maximize the nutritional benefits of this tasty Hawaiian dish.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: May 18, 2023
7 min read 436 Views 0 Comments
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