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Wasabi is to sushi as ketchup is to fries. In addition to spicing up your California roll, this tasty Japanese condiment can boost your health and fight chronic diseases like osteoporosis. In fact, wasabi benefits abound.
Want to prevent cavities? It can do that. How about reducing inflammation? It does that, too. Fight heart disease? Yep.
So, the next time you’re tempted to ignore the bright green stuff on your sushi plate, add an extra glob for added wasabi benefits instead.
What Is Wasabi?
First, let’s explain what wasabi is. A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, the roots of the wasabi plant are crushed to create condiments with a kick that leaves you craving more. Also known as wasabia japonica, wasabi’s flavor is so strong that it’s sometimes known as “Japanese horseradish.”
Wasabi is high in isothiocyanates, a chemical compound responsible for wasabi’s strong smell and taste. These isothiocyanates boast disease-fighting powers. Not only can they inhibit the growth of bacteria, but they can help fight cancer. High in antioxidants such as vitamin C, wasabi has also been proven to fight inflammation. Not bad for a little green spice. What other wasabi benefits exist?
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WHY DOES WASABI BURN?
According to an article published in the Smithsonian Magazine, wasabi’s spice affects our nasal passages more than our tongues. When we chew wasabi, the vapors produced by the isothiocyanates travel through the back of our mouths, up into the nasal cavity, where they trigger a tingling reaction in our nose and sinuses.
In addition to producing a spicy, burning taste in your mouth, wasabi benefits your overall wellness. From heart disease to osteoporosis, this natural remedy can help treat a variety of chronic conditions. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help combat cancer and slow blood clotting, for instance. But that’s not all, below are a few of the more well-known wasabi benefits.
- Aids weight loss (A Japanese study of mice found consuming a supplement made from wasabi leaves can suppress obesity.)
- Detoxifies the body
- Fights bacteria (Wasabi’s bacterial-fighting properties make it a perfect accompaniment to raw fish since it can prohibit the growth of illness-causing microorganism. Also, a study published in Molecular Biotechnology found that wasabi can protect potatoes from disease.)
- Fights osteoporosis (In a study of rats, Japanese researchers found that wasabi extract can help prevent bone loss.)
- Improves digestion (Wasabi peas are high in fiber and help remove toxins from your body. They also promote better digestion.)
- Increases respiration
- Lowers inflammation
- Prevents cancer (A study published in the journal BioFactors found that consuming wasabi can encourage the death of colorectal cancer cells.)
- Prevents cavities (According to research presented at a meeting hosted by the American Chemical Society by Hideki Masuda, director of the Material Research and Development Laboratories at Ogawa & Co. Ltd in Japan, wasabi’s isothiocyanates inhibit the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.)
WASABI AS A FIRE ALARM?
Japanese researchers have found a new, innovative way to alert the deaf to smoke or fire. Instead of using an ear-piercing screech, scientists have created a smoke detector/fire alarm that emits the overpowering scent of wasabi as a warning signal. The scent was able to wake most deaf volunteers within two minutes of being released.
- Prevents colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (A study published in the journal Food & Function found that wasabi’s anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties can prevent the development of colitis.)
- Prevents heart disease
- Reduces asthma symptoms
- Reduces the formation of acrylamide in cooked foods (Japanese researchers found that wasabi roots and leaves can inhibit the formation of acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical created during cooking at high temperatures.)
- Stimulates bone growth (A researcher from Emory University School of Medicine found that wasabi extract can help stimulate bone formation and restore bone loss in mice.)
- Help doctors discover how to reduce pain (A study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, found that the isothiocyanates in wasabi can trigger the TRP receptors in our mouths to send a pain signal to our brains. By creating a drug to block these receptors, scientists believe they could dramatically reduce pain and inflammation.)
We’ve heard about wasabi benefits, but what about its downside? While there is much research promoting wasabi’s health benefits, still more is needed to make a conclusive statement about its positives and negatives. In the meantime, here’s what we know:
- Too much wasabi may be difficult to process which, in turn, could damage the liver.
- Wasabi could increase the risk of bleeding in those who suffer from a bleeding disorder.
- Wasabi’s ability to slow blood clotting could cause an excess of bleeding during surgery.
Note: Those who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid consuming wasabi until more is known about its safety.
For related reading, please visit these posts:
- Eat Your Brassicas! The Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
- Matcha Tea Benefits: 7 Tips for How to Use Matcha Powder for Better Health
- The Remarkable Health Benefits of Ginger
- The Kombucha Craze: Health Benefits of a Popular Brew
This article was originally published in 2018. It is regularly updated.