Wasabi: Your go-to Vegetable

Parul Dube

June 30, 2022

Wasabi, also called Japanese horseradish, is a cruciferous vegetable that rises inherently along streambeds in mountain river canyons in Japan. It also grows in parts of Korea, China, New Zealand, and North America, where it is shady and moist. It is known for its robust and fragrant flavour and sharp green colour. Wasabi is an essential condiment for sushi and noodles in Japanese cuisine. However, if you have ever savoured wasabi, you know that a tiny bit goes a long way. Even a small quantity of this green paste is sufficient to add a significant flavour to sashimi and other Asian dishes. Plus, a tiny bit can offer some extraordinary health advantages. The health benefits of wasabi include providing anti-bacterial properties and addressing respiratory problems. 

It is vital to note that this green food you will discover at grocery stores or restaurants in the Western realm is generally not authentic wasabi. Instead, it is frequently a mixture of mustard, horseradish, and food colouring. To ensure you are reaping the real thing, look for those labelled “wasabi japonica.” Wasabi’s potential wealth of isothiocyanates serves various purposes, including health benefits. 

Nutritional Profile of Wasabi

The spicy taste of wasabi is different from the spiciness of capsaicin. It affects your olfactory sense. The chemical makeup of wasabi, like the high isothiocyanate compound levels, is responsible for its distinct smell and taste. In addition to these compounds, wasabi also has certain minerals and fibre with no cholesterol. 

According to USDA, 100 grams of wasabi paste contains the following nutrients.

  • Calories: 292 kcal
  • Protein: 2.23 g
  • Fat: 10.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 46.1 g
  • Fibre: 6.1 g
  • Sodium: 3390 mg
  • Potassium: 182 mg
  • Calcium: 41 mg
  • Phosphorous: 26 mg
  • Magnesium: 21 mg

Wasabi is generally low in fat, with only 1.74 grams per tablespoon. However, it is high in sodium. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of dried wasabi paste has 542 milligrams of sodium, about 24% of the approved intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams every day. Therefore, pay attention while eating them. In terms of minerals, eating a cup of raw wasabi equals 14% DV of zinc and 7% DV of iron. 

Potential Health Benefits of Wasabi 

Kill Harmful Foodborne Bacteria

Research indicates that food poisoning, also called a foodborne disease, is an irritation or infection of your digestive system resulting from foods or drinks that comprise pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The promising way to prevent food poisoning is to cook, store, clean, and handle foods appropriately. In addition, specific spices and herbs like salt can lessen the growth of pathogens that affect food poisoning.

Wasabi has an antibacterial effect against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus, two of the most widespread bacteria that cause food poisoning. These conclusions suggest that wasabi extract might prevent or lessen the risk of foodborne diseases. Furthermore, a study shows that wasabi is an antimicrobial agent against bacteria in sashimi. Sashimi is a raw ready-to-eat dish that might cause foodborne illnesses due to pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, restaurants serve wasabi alongside sashimi to reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria. 

Antibacterial Effect Against H. pylori. 

H. pylori are a bacterium that contaminates the small intestine and stomach. It is the primary reason for peptic ulcers and can result in stomach cancer and stomach lining inflammation. While nearly 50% of the world’s community is contaminated, most people won’t develop these problems. A study shows that wasabi leaves can be a natural remedy for stomach lesions induced by H. pylori. 

Anti-inflammatory Properties

Wasabi has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is your immune system’s reaction to injuries, infections, and toxins, such as dusty air or cigarette smoke, in an endeavour to conserve and heal your body. However, when inflammation evolves uncontrolled and persistent, it can contribute to several inflammatory situations, encompassing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. 

A study shows that wasabi suppresses enzymes and cells that facilitate inflammation. Furthermore, the 6-(methylsulfinyl)hexyl Isothiocyanate or 6-MSITC derived from wasabi inhibits several inflammatory factors and blocks inflammatory cytokines. As a result, wasabi shows potential usefulness as an anti-inflammatory agent. 

Anticancer Properties

Regular addition of wasabi to your diet can prevent certain types of cancer. The various isothiocyanate antioxidants like 6-MITC in wasabi stop the expansion of leukaemia and stomach cancer cells. In addition, wasabi can prevent tumour growth at a pre-clinical or pre-treatment size. A study shows that the 6-MITC and its chemical derivatives from wasabi can prevent the development of human oral cancer cells.

Some observational studies report that higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables like wasabi lessens your risk of breast, lung, prostate, and bladder cancer. Other cruciferous vegetables encompass kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and rutabaga. 

Wasabi Promotes Fat Loss

Some research indicates that the edible leaves of the wasabi plant contain solvents that suppress the development and formation of fat cells or adipogenesis. In addition, another study’s results show that a mixture called 5-Hydroxyferulic acid methyl ester separated from wasabi leaves inhibited the growth and formation of fat cells by changing the course of a gene involved in fat construction. 

Promote Bone Health

Wasabi has a position in bone health. A solvent in wasabi named p-hydroxycinnamic acid (HCA) boosts the bone formation and lessens bone breakdown. As a result, it can subdue the effects of arthritis, such as joint swelling and inflammation. Studies suggest that wasabi helps maintain bone integrity, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. In addition, the powerful isothiocyanates in wasabi reduce the aggregation at weak joint points that cause pain or discomfort.

Heal Respiratory Issues

Wasabi is a strong defence against specific respiratory tract pathogens. The gaseous release of allyl isothiocyanate from wasabi actively inhibits the proliferation of pathogens that cause influenza and pneumonia. After eating wasabi, the pungent smell and sensation clear the sinuses. It can help in the cases of common cold and seasonal allergies by stimulating the sinuses to open the nasal passageways to increase airflow. 

Protect Heart Health

Another reason for adding wasabi is to prevent cardiovascular issues because its anti-hypercholesterolemic properties lower high cholesterol levels. As a result, it lowers the risk of strokes and heart attacks. In addition, the isothiocyanates in wasabi prevent blood clot formation. These clots are the leading causes of strokes.

Ways to Add Wasabi to Your Diet

Most wasabi paste contains a blend of cornstarch, horseradish, mustard, and green colourant. It might not even include the authentic wasabi at all or has low-quality wasabi stems. Horseradish belongs to the exact plant family as wasabi and is known for its spice. Actual wasabi is hard to grow and thus costly, which is why horseradish comes as an alternative. However, you can buy profound wasabi paste, powder, and fresh wasabi online. Just read the caption carefully to ensure the product is valid. In addition, you can relish the unusual flavour and zing of wasabi by fulfilling it as a herb, spice, or condiment.

To incorporate wasabi into your diet:

  • Serve it with soy sauce and eat it with sushi.
  • Add it to noodle soup.
  • Use it as a condiment for grilled vegetables and meats.
  • Add it to dips, dressings, and marinades.
  • Use it to flavour roasted vegetables.

Possible Side Effects of Wasabi

As with any food, it is possible to be allergic to wasabi. For example, an allergic response is possible after overeating wasabi, potentially causing hives, wheezing, itching in the mouth, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. In the case of fake wasabi pastes, some people may also encounter an allergic response to food colourings used to develop their green colour.

You are not inclined to encounter long-term adverse health consequences from eating wasabi, but too much of it could make you uneasy in the short term. In addition, some people do not like the potent, sinus-clearing feeling wasabi can build in the nose and mouth. For others, the spiciness of wasabi could lead to a seizure, stomach upset or heartburn. 

Other side effects of wasabi are:

  • The isothiocyanate in wasabi worsens existing gastritis by irritating your stomach lining.
  • Wasabi contains hepatotoxin, which can damage your liver. But it isn’t harmful in small doses.
  • Due to its spicy, pungent profile, wasabi can trigger acid reflux. Limit or do not eat wasabi if you have stomach ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, or digestive disorders. 

Storage and Food Safety

Keep the sealed wasabi paste in a cool, dry place. You can store leftover wasabi paste in refrigerators where it can survive up to twelve months. Discard wasabi paste if you see any nasty odours, separation, defects, or brown spots. Raw wasabi root is much fresher in terms of safety and storage. Fresh wasabi root can last for about two weeks by refrigeration in a moist sheet towel. 


Everyone knows wasabi as a famous green paste served with multiple Japanese dishes like sushi and sashimi. It is an iconic condiment, which is a lot healthier than processed condiments. However, since authentic wasabi is not cheap, companies market imitation wasabi by blending mustard, horseradish, food colour, and other components. Therefore, make sure to buy the real thing when shopping for wasabi. 

More than a condiment, this green paste offers multiple health benefits. It keeps cholesterol in check, prevents food poisoning, tackles respiratory disorders, and treats arthritis. In addition, research is ongoing on their capacity to promote fat loss and brain and bone health. Also, keep in mind that most researchers use wasabi extract, making it hard to determine whether utilising it as a condiment or spice would have a similar effect. Furthermore, if you intend to eat more wasabi than usual, it causes gastritis, acid reflux, allergies, and liver damage. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What does wasabi taste like?

A. Wasabi’s taste is identical to a mix of mustard, cabbage, and horseradish. However, it has a strong, spicy flavour, different from capsaicin.  

Q. Is wasabi toxic to humans?

A. Besides the lachrymatory feeling, and clearing of the sinuses, there is no reported toxicity associated with wasabi consumption, although some people might encounter an allergic response. However, overeating wasabi can damage your liver.  

Q. What does wasabi do to your body?

A. Wasabi’s health advantages include preventing food poisoning, being antiparasitic, lowering cholesterol, and boosting respiratory health. In addition, the anti-hypercholesterolemic effects of wasabi prevent platelet aggregation. Wasabi also helps break down blood clots. 

Q. Why is wasabi so hot?

A. It is not spicy (spicy hot, piquant) in the ordinary sense. It is because it does not comprise capsaicin. However, allyl isothiocyanate, which generally has a potent reaction, causes the heating sensation.  

Q. Does real wasabi taste like horseradish?

A.Real wasabi seasonings are more herbal than the horseradish thing. It is hot but does not have a burning, lingering aftertaste. It tastes steady, cleaner and more “plant-like”, whereas horseradish paste in cafes is harsher and not as fresh-tasting. 

Q. Why do the Japanese eat wasabi with sushi?

A. Conventionally, wasabi is to make the fish flavour better and combat bacteria from raw fish. Its flavour brings out the fresh fish’s taste.  

Q. Why does wasabi hurt your brain?

A. Too much wasabi can release chemical vapours that affect your olfactory sense. It interacts with the brain receptor and encourages the cell to deliver a distress signal to the brain, resulting in burning, stinging, itching, choking, coughing, or drip tears. 

Q. Is wasabi good for blood pressure?

A. Wasabi includes a healthy quantity of potassium. Study shows that foods rich in potassium can positively impact blood pressure. Potassium in wasabi relaxes blood vessels, increasing blood flow and protecting you from high blood pressure. 

Q. How spicy is wasabi?

A. Wasabi is not entirely a spicy food. It is something with a particular flavour originating from a plant that can be used in relatively small quantities to put flavour into something. It is not spicy like capsaicin. 

Q. Does wasabi help with headaches?

A. One of the migraine causes is sinus pressure, generally caused by allergies. Wasabi clears the sinuses and conveys relief. In addition, wasabi contains sinigrin, an antibiotic component responsible for clearing congestion, thinning out mucus, and reducing headaches. 

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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