Though most people only think of it as the green blob of paste they get with their sushi, wasabi is quite literally one of the hottest health foods on the market. Wasabia Japonica, also known as Japanese horseradish, boasts a wide range of benefits in regards to many common health concerns. Wasabi is definitely not just for sushi any more!
What Makes Wasabi So Healthy?
The health benefits of wasabi are not surprising when you consider its family connections. Wasabi comes from an elite clique; the cruciferae family, which includes such health stars as broccoli, Brussel's sprouts and cabbage. All members of the cruciferae family are well-known detoxifying and health-boosting plants, but wasabi appears to be the most amazing of them all. Here are some of the most important health benefits of wasabi.
Cancer Protection. Wasabi is rich in the precursors (or building blocks) of phytochemicals called isothiocyanates. These chemicals not only give wasabi its fiery bite, but they also give your body protection against disease. The isothiocyanates that form when wasabi is made are the same chemicals found in broccoli and cabbage that fight cancer naturally. These chemicals activate enzymes in the liver which detoxify carcinogens before they can damage the body. They also appear to interfere with other steps in the formation and spreading of cancer cells.
Natural Sanitizer. Wasabi is also a natural antibacterial agent and thus helps protect against food poisoning, which comes in handy when you’re eating raw fish. Wasabi can knock out some forms of e. coli and staphylococcus, and a 2004 South Korean study at Kangrung National University found that wasabi can kill ulcer-causing h. pylori bacteria as well. Wasabi can also help protect dental health by inhibiting the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.
Inflammation and Cardiovascular Solutions. In addition to providing natural cancer prevention and antibacterial properties, wasabi is also a natural anti-inflammatory remedy. Inflammation is a core factor in most chronic, degenerative disease, so it is vital to consume a wide variety of anti-inflammatory foods each day. Because of wasabi's anti-inflammatory effects, and its ability to inhibit blood platelet aggregation (which could lead to the formation of dangerous clots), wasabi offers significant protection against heart attack and stroke.
Natural Detoxifier. To put the cherry on the cake (or the wasabi on the tuna, as it were), wasabi also has powerful detoxification properties, particularly for the liver. Wasabi helps remove toxic substances stored in the liver’s fatty tissues and wasabi phytochemicals act like spark plugs that jump start processes within the liver that remove toxins and carcinogens from the body.
So How Do I Get the Benefits of Wasabi?
To enjoy all the health benefits of wasabi, make sure you get the real deal. Unfortunately, most of the “wasabi” served at sushi bars is made of mustard, horseradish, and food coloring. Real wasabi is pricey, so most places just serve the imposter, hoping nobody will notice.
Traditionally, fresh wasabi rhizome was grated at the table as needed because the flavor - and most of the health benefits - are lost within about 15 minutes of grating. Unless you immediately add vinegar or another acid to your grated wasabi to preserve it, the chemical reactions that form the spicy isothiocyanates rapidly run their course and you are left with a flavorless blob.
That's why nowadays the wasabi rhizome is first frozen, then freeze dried and made into a powder, which prevents the chemical reaction from happening and keeps the heat – and the health benefits - in the wasabi. If you want real wasabi with all its benefits, ask for it by name, and be sure to carefully read the label of any ready-made “wasabi” product you find on the shelves.
Whether it's for natural cancer prevention, reducing inflammation, fighting bacteria naturally, preventing heart disease or simply enjoying the unique 'sweet heat' it brings, include more wasabi in your diet. Not a sushi fan? Try these hot ways to dish it:
- Mix wasabi paste with mashed avocado for a sassy guacamole.
- For a quick wasabi vinaigrette, combine 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, ½ tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon wasabi paste, 1 teaspoon soy sauce and ½ teaspoon sesame oil.
- To spice up burgers, salmon, egg salad and more, create a wasabi mayo by mixing 3 tablespoons homemade mayo (made with healthy oil!) with 1 teaspoon wasabi paste.
Carisa Holmes is a holistic health advocate, Reiki practitioner and author based in Columbus, Ohio. Carisa has worked in the holistic health and natural beauty fields for nearly 10 years.
Through overcoming a plethora of personal health issues and working with clients, Carisa has developed a clear understanding of the functions of the physical body as well as the more subtle layers of the human energy field.
In her practice, Carisa helps empower people to move toward higher levels of wellness. Using tools such as whole food, natural skin care and powerful yet gentle Reiki, Carisa helps clients lose weight without starving themselves, heal sickness and injury, increase energy levels and feel more calm, happy and alive.
Carisa is very grateful for the many things she has learned and is eager to share them with others.