Japanese horseradish or Wasabia japonica, better known as just wasabi, is that Japanese sushi joint staple which has now nudged its way into bar snacks like wasabi peas. But this humble root has more to offer than just its sharp pungent taste and distinctive smell. With health benefits ranging from cholesterol-lowering effects to antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, there are lots of reasons to introduce wasabi to your pantry.
Wasabi is a type of horseradish that’s been made famous by Japanese cuisine as a condiment that can really set your tastebuds on fire. And while its sharp bite is what you may remember from a handful of wasabi flavored roasted nuts or your last sushi meal, there’s more to the root than just its unmistakable flavor. The root is rich in fiber and has an abundance of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium, sodium, and B vitamins, vitamin A and C, as well as folate.1
8 Health Benefits Of Wasabi
1. Get Favorable Cholesterol Levels
Tap into the anti-hypercholesterolemic effects of wasabi if you’re trying to get your cholesterol in check. Animal studies found that when hypercholesterolemic rats were fed a diet that included wasabi root, their good HDL cholesterol level went up significantly. Levels of bad LDL cholesterol dipped significantly too, indicating its anti-cholesterol activity. Consuming wasabi could, therefore, help with modulating cholesterol metabolism.2
2. Build Cardiovascular Health
Among wasabi’s many benefits, its ability to prevent platelet aggregation is important in the context of cardiovascular health. In one study, researchers found that the isothiocyanates found in wasabi acs immediately, unlike aspirin which needs about half an hour to take effect.3
3. Tackle Respiratory Problems
This type of horseradish has traditionally been used to treat congestion and muscular pain as well as to ease clogged sinuses. Researchers also suggest that wasabi could exert an anti-inflammatory action that can fight asthma.6
4. Enjoy Antibacterial Benefits
Wasabi is a natural antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiviral agent. Infection by bacteria Helicobacter pylori has been connected to problems like peptic ulcers, chronic gastritis, and even gastric cancer. Wasabi leaves as well as roots have bactericidal properties that can act against Helicobacter pylori. With growing issues around antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, the need for non-antibiotic agents has become more critical than ever – and that’s where wasabi’s role becomes more important.7
5. Fight Cancer
Wasabi contains antioxidants called isothiocyanates that fight free radical damage and show possible anticancer potential.8
Research has found that 6-HITC, a phytochemical and isothiocyanate found in wasabi, can cause cell death or apoptosis in human stomach cancer cells as well as in monoblastic leukemia cells.9 In vitro studies also found potential for the use of wasabi as an anticancer agent in breast cancer as well as melanomas.10
6. Improve Bone Health
As you age, your bone mass decreases. Wasabi could help maintain bone integrity, slowing this loss of bone. With better bone health, you’re less susceptible to developing conditions like osteoporosis.11 Other research has also found that it can help with bone calcification, an abnormal accumulation of calcium in your bones.12
Wasabi can fortify your bones thanks to its rich calcium content. A 100 gm of wasabi contains about 128 mg of the mineral. Calcium is a vital nutrient for bone health and helps with maintaining bone function and structure.13
7. Fight Inflammation
Wasabi has been used for treating inflamed joints and has anti-inflammatory properties.14 This makes it promising as a means to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
8. Reduce Weight
Wasabi could be a useful ally in your weight loss plan if incorporated alongside a healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes normally suggested for weight loss. Among other things, wasabi works as a digestive stimulant.15
Because it is a very low-calorie food and incredibly flavorsome, it can be used to perk up a low-calorie, healthy, fiber-rich meal of steamed vegetables or lean protein. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of the fiber in wasabi. This can go toward your fiber intake for the day, helping with digestion and bowel movements. Increased dietary fiber intake has also been linked to lower risk of obesity.16
Side Effects Of Wasabi: How Much Can You Have?
Wasabi consumed in small quantities should be fine. However, you should be careful not to have too much due to the presence of hepatotoxin, a chemical that could potentially damage your liver. If you intend taking more than the amounts used in food, you should check with your doctor first.
More commonly, consuming too much in one go or inhaling the strong fumes from it can cause an immediate burning sensation that may leave your nasal passages reeling. Those who are allergic may also experience side effects from an allergy like digestive problems, swollen airways etc. So be sure to check before consuming wasabi, especially if you are pregnant.
Also take care to get the real McCoy. There are suggestions that production of imitation wasabi is rampant in the market and this isn’t made from Japanese horseradish “Wasabia japonica” or wasabi. These products may use other variants of horseradish that may not have the same health benefits. They’re simply flavored to taste like wasabi. You’re best off procuring the root fresh and grating it into condiments or as a flavoring agent in your cooking to boost your health. Alternatively, get your wasabi powder from a reliable brand.
|↑1||Wasabi, root, raw. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.|
|↑2||Lee, Young Sun, Jae Ha Yang, Man Jong Bae, Wang Keun Yoo, Shen Ye, Charlie CL Xue, and Chun Guang Li. “Anti-oxidant and anti-hypercholesterolemic activities of Wasabia japonica.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 7, no. 4 (2010): 459-464.|
|↑3, ↑6, ↑14||Depree, J. A., T. M. Howard, and G. P. Savage. “Flavour and pharmaceutical properties of the volatile sulphur compounds of wasabi (Wasabia japonica).” Food research international 31, no. 5 (1998): 329-337.|
|↑4||Conrad, A., D. Biehler, T. Nobis, H. Richter, I. Engels, K. Biehler, and U. Frank. “Broad spectrum antibacterial activity of a mixture of isothiocyanates from nasturtium (Tropaeoli majoris herba) and horseradish (Armoraciae rusticanae radix).” Drug research 63, no. 02 (2013): 65-68.|
|↑5||Li, Longjun, Woan Lee, Won Jong Lee, Joong Hyuck Auh, Suk Shin Kim, and Jungro Yoon. “Extraction of allyl isothiocyanate from wasabi (Wasabia japonica Matsum) using supercritical carbon dioxide.” Food Science and Biotechnology 19, no. 2 (2010): 405-410.|
|↑7||Shin, Il Shik, Hideki Masuda, and Kinae Naohide. “Bactericidal activity of wasabi (Wasabia japonica) against Helicobacter pylori.” International journal of food microbiology 94, no. 3 (2004): 255-261.|
|↑8||Morimitsu, Yasujiro, Kazuhiro Hayashi, Yoko Nakagawa, Hiroyuki Fujii, Fumihiko Horio, Koji Uchida, and Toshihiko Osawa. “Antiplatelet and anticancer isothiocyanates in Japanese domestic horseradish, wasabi.” Mechanisms of ageing and development 116, no. 2 (2000): 125-134.|
|↑9||Watanabe, Makoto, Masahiko Ohata, Sumio Hayakawa, Mamoru Isemura, Shigenori Kumazawa, Tsutomu Nakayama, Michiyo Furugori, and Naohide Kinae. “Identification of 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate as an apoptosis-inducing component in wasabi.” Phytochemistry 62, no. 5 (2003): 733-739.|
|↑10||Nomura, Takahiro, Shoko Shinoda, Takao Yamori, Saeko Sawaki, Ikuko Nagata, Kazuo Ryoyama, and Yoko Fuke. “Selective sensitivity to wasabi-derived 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate of human breast cancer and melanoma cell lines studied in vitro.” Cancer detection and prevention 29, no. 2 (2005): 155-160.|
|↑11||Prasain, J. K., S. H. Carlson, and J. M. Wyss. “Flavonoids and age-related disease: risk, benefits and critical windows.” Maturitas 66, no. 2 (2010): 163-171.|
|↑12||Suzuki, Toshihiro, and Masayoshi Yamaguchi. “Purification of active component in wasabi leafstalk (Wasabia japonica MATSUM.) extract in stimulating bone calcification in vitro.” Journal of health science 50, no. 5 (2004): 483-490.|
|↑13||Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑15||Charles, Denys J. “Horseradish.” In Antioxidant Properties of Spices, Herbs and Other Sources, pp. 347-351. Springer New York, 2012.|
|↑16||Van Itallie, Theodore B. “Dietary fiber and obesity.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 31, no. 10 (1978): S43-S52.|