If you think that wasabi served at sushi bars is just a tasty sauce, think again. Here are the many health benefits of wasabi.
When it comes to healthy eating, Japanese cuisine has so much to offer. From fresh steamed fish dishes to miso soup, the Japanese know how to eat for health and longevity. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to Japan to experience the Japanese style of healthy eating. Many products are available on regular grocery store shelves, and most cities have an Oriental food market that offers more unusual items. One Japanese food that has some surprising health benefits is wasabi. Wasabi is a root vegetable often ground into a paste and served as a sauce in sushi restaurants. What are the health benefits of wasabi?
Wasabi is a rich source of chemicals known as isothiocyanates. These are the same anti-cancer chemicals found in broccoli and cabbage. These isothiocyanates appear to activate enzymes in the liver which detoxify cancer causing substances before they can do damage to the body. They also appear to interfere with other steps in the formation and metastasis of cancer cells. More importantly, they exert their anti-cancer effects without damaging normal cells.
The same isothiocyanates that give wasabi its cancer fighting capabilities also help to reduce inflammation by preventing platelet application. Researchers hope that wasabi may be used in the future to fight inflammation associated with such diseases as arthritis, asthma, and allergic reactions. More research is needed in this area.
Reduction in heart disease and stroke risk
Because wasabi inhibits platelet aggregation, it’s thought that it may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by preventing abnormal clot formation.
Not only does wasabi appear to prevent inflammation, growth of tumors, and abnormal platelet clumping, it also has anti-bacterial properties. One study demonstrated its ability to stop the growth of certain strains of bacteria that cause food poisoning. So convincing is the evidence that companies have already started making wasabi based antibacterial hand washes. It’s also thought that wasabi can kill the bacteria that cause dental caries.
One word of caution, much of the “wasabi” served at sushi bars and Japanese steakhouses is made of mustard, horseradish, and food coloring, with no wasabi added at all. Because the wasabi plant is difficult to grow, genuine wasabi is expensive. Some high end Japanese restaurants have real wasabi and will serve it to you if you ask for it. It can also be bought through various online distributors. To get the health benefits of wasabi, be sure you’re buying the real thing.