If you have ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant, it’s hard to miss the bright green paste that is served alongside certain dishes like sushi. The paste is a condiment called wasabi and is made of the Japanese horseradish, which is also called wasabi. The paste has a strong spicy taste and is used primarily as a palate cleanser. The pungency of wasabi is very different from that of chillies or pepper. It’s akin to that of ginger, which makes your eyes and nose water. Many love this strong pungency of wasabi and acquire a taste for it. Apart from this unique spicy flavour, wasabi is also prized for its dizzying list of health benefits. Next time you visit a Japanese restaurant, ask for an extra serving of wasabi. Here are some of its health benefits.
1 Wasabi is a home remedy for nasal congestion
As mentioned above, wasabi is extremely pungent. But unlike the pungency of chillies caused by capsaicin, which is felt in the entire mouth, the spiciness of wasabi is felt mostly in the nasal passages. It makes your eyes and nose water. It can therefore be used as a home remedy for mucosal congestion caused by common colds.
2 Wasabi protects against food poisoning
Wasabi contains allylisothiocyanate, a potent antibacterial compound, which is also present in mustard, radish and horseradish. Allylisothicyante has an inhibitory effect against bacteria and fungi and can counter food poisoning caused by salmonella, E coli, H pylori, Staphylococcus aureus and mould. The Japanese knew about this quality of wasabi. This is probably why it is served with sushi and sashimi, foods that feature raw fish.1 2
3 Wasabi reduces pain
Inflammation is at the root of most modern day health problems. It’s one of the leading causes of aches and pains. A major bioactive compound found in wasabi 6-(Methylsulfinyl)hexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC) suppresses inflammation in the body, reducing the intensity of pains.3 Here are some natural blood thinners.
4 Wasabi protects your heart
Wasabi has antiplatelet properties. By breaking up platelet aggregation, wasabi prevents clot formation and thickening of blood. This reduces chances of heart attacks and strokes.3
5 Wasabi fights cancer
The same 6-MSITC that suppresses inflammation in the body, also fights against cancer proliferation. Studies have already confirmed the compounds inhibitory effects against pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and melanoma.4 5 6 7
To get the best out of the condiment, the wasabi rhizome should be ground and consumed within 15 minutes. Unfortunately, most restaurants serve wasabi paste that contains very little horseradish and most of the times, it is combined with other condiments like mustard.
1 Kinae, N., Masuda, H., Shin, I. S., Furugori, M., & Shimoi, K. (2000). Functional properties of wasabi and horseradish. Biofactors, 13(1-4), 265-269.
2 Lu, Z., Dockery, C. R., Crosby, M., Chavarria, K., Patterson, B., & Giedd, M. (2016). Antibacterial Activities of Wasabi against Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Staphylococcus aureus. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 1403. http://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01403
3 Uto, T., Hou, D. X., Morinaga, O., & Shoyama, Y. (2012). Molecular mechanisms underlying anti-inflammatory actions of 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate derived from wasabi (Wasabia japonica). Advances in pharmacological sciences, 2012.
4 Chen, Y. J., Huang, Y. C., Tsai, T. H., & Liao, H. F. (2014). Effect of wasabi component 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate and derivatives on human pancreatic cancer cells. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014.
5 Fuke, Y., Hishinuma, M., Namikawa, M., Oishi, Y., & Matsuzaki, T. (2014). Wasabi-derived 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate induces apoptosis in human breast cancer by possible involvement of the NF-κB pathways. Nutrition and cancer, 66(5), 879-887.
6 Hsuan, S. W., Chyau, C. C., Hung, H. Y., Chen, J. H., & Chou, F. P. (2016). The induction of apoptosis and autophagy by Wasabia japonica extract in colon cancer. European journal of nutrition, 55(2), 491-503.
7 Fuke, Y., Shinoda, S., Nagata, I., Sawaki, S., Murata, M., Ryoyama, K., … & Nomura, T. (2006). Preventive effect of oral administration of 6-(methylsulfinyl) hexyl isothiocyanate derived from wasabi (Wasabia japonica Matsum) against pulmonary metastasis of B16-BL6 mouse melanoma cells. Cancer detection and prevention, 30(2), 174-179.
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