Have you ever wondered why raw sashimi and sushi are always eaten with wasabi? I have never really given it a serious ponder, as I thought that it’s been the practice of the Japanese for ages.
The answer lies in the antibacterial properties of wasabi. Firstly, wasabi is effective in suppressing microbes and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Secondly, wasabi helps to soften the fishy smell of the raw fish and thirdly draws out more of its flavor. So if you’re worried about eating your food raw, bear with the spiciness of the wasabi and getting teary eyed and watery nose.
The powerful, natural components of wasabi have been shown to fight off bacterial infections. In a recent study of the antibacterial properties of various foods and vegetables, wasabi ranked as the most successful antibacterial food against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infections). This means that food poisoning and other unfortunate conditions can be prevented by maintaining levels of isothiocyanates in the diet through the consumption of wasabi. Again, the isothiocyanates were proven to be the vital component that neutralized these potentially deadly bacteria within the body.
Some companies have begun to include trace elements of wasabi extract in their antibacterial creams and gels to boost their strength and effectiveness!
If you are a culinary purist, be sure to buy the real thing when shopping for wasabi. It is popular, but it is not cheap, and is not a widely exported product from Japan. Therefore, many companies create imitation wasabi from mustard, horseradish, and other components. The effect on your nose might be similar, but it is not a true wasabi experience, and it doesn’t give you all the same health benefits as true wasabi. High-end or traditional Japanese restaurants will typically have the genuine article, as well as specialty or import food stores.
Health Benefits of Wasabi
1. Kills Harmful Food-Borne Bacteria
Studies show that wasabi provides a powerful punch when it comes to protection against some bacteria. One study conducted at Chiba University’s Laboratory of Plant Cell Technology in Japan notes that using wasabi on potatoes made them more disease-resistant.
2. Prevents Tooth Decay
Due to its ability to eliminate bacteria, it’s a natural antimicrobial agent often used with raw fish. This is mainly because of the isothiocyanate vapors wasabi produces. These vapors help deter the development of yeast, mold and bacteria. Interestingly, it can also help prevent tooth decay by destroying the bacteria that may cause it.
3. Kills Cancer Cells
Wasabi contains powerful phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, called isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are sulphur-containing phytonutrients with strong anticancer effects. They occur naturally as glucosinolate conjugates in cruciferous vegetables, like wasabi. When the raw vegetables are chewed, the plant cells are broken down and an enzyme called myrosinase converts into isothiocyanates.
Their anticancer effects occur as they neutralize carcinogens — therefore, reducing the negative impact of the poisons. Studies have shown that isothiocyanates may help prevent lung cancer and esophageal cancer and can help lower the risk of other cancers, including gastrointestinal cancer. That means you can add wasabi to the list of cancer-fighting foods.
4. May Help Reduce Pain Caused by Inflammation
The compounds in wasabi might also help scientists develop a new treatment for pain. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco studied isothiocyanates in wasabi that trigger a reaction in the TRP receptors, which are responsible for sending a pain signal to the brain, in the nerve cells in our tongues and mouths.
A scientist bred mice that lacked one type of TRP receptor and found that the mice didn’t react to compounds that contained isothiocyanates. As well, evidence shows that the receptor is responsible for inflammation, which means the isothiocyanates may have blocked that receptor — which in turn could make for a useful painkiller.
5. Improves Gut Health
Studies have shown that the root has characteristics that may suppress bacteria found in the gut, such as gastric inflammation and possibly even stomach cancer. It’s possible that it can prevent food poisoning, which is one of the reasons it’s served with raw fish.
Wasabi peas are a great option for the intestinal tract since they help remove toxic substances from your body by helping eliminate the possibility of getting diverticulitis complications. The detox happens because the peas are high-fiber foods. That fiber is needed to help push stool forward and ready for expelling. Without fiber to add bulk to the stool, the colon has to work harder than normal, and the pressure from this may cause pouches to form in weak spots along the colon, creating discomfort and potentially contributing to leaky gut syndrome.
A Healing Condiment
Wasabi is a potent vegetable with impressive healing potential. Continued research on its natural compounds may lead to new treatments for many common and serious illnesses. With studies varying in their methods -such as some using quality wasabi while others use powder- it’s important to consult with your doctor before using wasabi to treat or prevent any illness.
Wasabi – Health Risks
Liver damage – Although the health benefits of wasabi seem overwhelming, there is one very important thing to remember. If you consume too much wasabi, in an effort to supercharge your body against cancer or heart disease, you may actually destroy your liver. It has a chemical component called hepatotoxin, which is fine in small doses, but if you flood your body with wasabi, the body won’t be able to process the toxin and it can lead to severe liver damage. Remember! Moderation in all things is important to maintaining a healthy body and mind.
Allergies – As always, avoid foods that you are allergic to, and if you are consuming a unique food like wasabi for the first time, be aware of the potential effects it may have on you. Consult your doctor for a full allergy panel to have a more comprehensive view of your allergies!