Ah, wasabi, the pungent root that adds spice to sushi and gets up the noses of over-enthusiastic consumers, leaving many a watery eye and a burning palate. It seems that you either love wasabi or hate it, with wasabi-lovers clamoring for a touch of the green stuff in a variety of forms including Kit-Kats and potato chips, and wasabi-haters strictly stipulating to sushi chefs that they require their sushi sabi-nuki de, or sans wasabi. But did you know that the wasabi-lovers actually get to enjoy a host of health and beauty benefits that are denied to those who shy away from this miraculous wonder root? Read on as we unveil the five surprising health effects of regular wasabi consumption!
First, here’s a little info on wasabi itself. Wasabi is a member of the brassicacae family of plants, which includes mustard and horseradish. The uninitiated might refer to wasabi as “Japanese horseradish” but real wasabi is actually completely different. The confusion probably stems from the fact that most wasabi you can buy in a tube is actually a mixture of mustard, horseradish and food coloring, as real wasabi paste quickly loses flavor within about 15 minutes and is therefore less suitable for sale. Proper wasabi can be served grated or powdered as well as in paste form. If you’ve ever actually eaten too much wasabi, you’ll know that its “hotness” tends to manifest as a sharp, stinging nasal pain which quickly dissipates after a few seconds of eye-streaming agony. Sure, the tang of wasabi is a bit too much for some, but here’s why we should all be loading up our sushi with more of this amazing condiment.
Reason 1: Wasabi prevents food poisoning
Did you ever wonder why wasabi traditionally tends to be eaten with sushi? It’s not just because the spiciness of the wasabi perfectly complements the mild flavors of rice and raw fish. Wasabi contains allyl isothiocyanate, a potent insecticide and bacteriocide which helps to combat potential food bugs (although if your sushi is fresh, you probably don’t have to worry too much about this). Wasabi also helps prevent food poisoning by neutralizing and killing any mold spores that are present. Experts recommend including a touch of wasabi in your daily bento box in order to keep your lunch free from any nasties.
▼ Load up on wasabi whenever you’re eating sushi to help minimize your risk of an upset stomach later! The accompanying shoga ginger also has anti-bacterial properties, and a bowl of miso soup at the end of the meal will help to keep your tummy happy.
Reason 2: Wasabi keeps you young
Sulfinyl, a compound released when fresh wasabi is grated, is a powerful anti-oxidant. Regular consumption of sulfinyl could help to reverse early ageing, as it lowers reactive oxygen in the body. As well as helping to fight cancer, this also contributes to a lessening of the general wear and tear of the body as a result of the natural ageing process.
▼ How about incorporating some wasabi toothpaste into your morning routine in order to stave off the ravages of age?
Reason 3: Wasabi could help to prevent certain cancers
As well as keeping you young, wasabi could also reduce your risk of cancer. The compound 6-MSITC has anti-inflammatory properties which also provide host defence against cancer cells.
▼ Pass the wasabi sauce!
Reason 4: Wasabi is great for your circulation
As well as fighting cancer, that 6-MSITC that we mentioned also works to inhibit platelet aggregation, the clumping together of platelets into blood clots. In other words, it prevents blood clots forming and effectively reduces your risk of heart attack and strokes. The beneficial circulatory effects are also praised for helping to maintain cardiovascular health overall, as well as keeping the skin clear.
▼ Skip the beauty supplements and reach for the wasabi pills! Or just, you know, eat some regular wasabi.
Reason 5: Wasabi fights colds and allergies
Swallowing a big ol’ lump of wasabi is one sure-fire way to clear out blocked sinuses from a cold, flu or allergies. The gaseous release of the allyl isothiocyanate that helps to fight bacteria also works its magic on cold and flu-causing pathogens which attack the respiratory tract. Next time you’re facing the sniffles, maybe try going out for sushi !
▼You could also chow down on a big pile of wasabi Kit-Kats, but they probably won’t help with your cold, no matter how much you sniff ’em.
So, there you have it! The five top health benefits of eating delicious wasabi. Note: be careful if you’re taking any medicines that are metabolized by the liver, as too much wasabi can interact with such medicines in unpredictable ways. Around a teaspoon a day of wasabi should do the trick – or a few handfuls of wasabi-based snacks…