The Health Benefits of Mustard

Mustard is a low-calorie alternative to higher-fat condiments.

Mustard annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

Prepared yellow mustard is one of the most common condiments used in homes around the country. The familiar topping is usually made by combining mustard seeds (Brassica alba) with vinegar, salt, lemon, and other ingredients.

There are also other varieties of mustard made from other types of mustard seed including brown mustard seeds (Brassica juncea) or black mustard seeds (Brassica nigra).

Health Benefits

Mustard is usually consumed in small amounts. When consumed as a condiment, it is not associated with significant health benefits. However, mustard is a low-calorie alternative to many higher-fat condiments like mayonnaise.

Different types of mustard seeds are used for health purposes. For example, some people use the white mustard seed to clear the voice, to increase urination, prevent infection, induce vomiting (best to do this only under the supervision of a doctor), or boost appetite.

Black mustard seeds are sometimes used to treat the common cold, reduce discomfort from painful joints and muscles, and reduce arthritis symptoms.

Some consumers use the mustard seed for healthier hair, skin, and nails.

However, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to support any of these cosmetic or medicinal uses of mustard or mustard seed.

Nutrition Facts

A single serving of mustard is usually about a teaspoon. A packet of mustard that you find in restaurants is often about a one-teaspoon serving. It is not likely that you will consume a lot of mustard because of the condiment's spicy, pungent, and salty flavor.

A serving of prepared yellow mustard provides only about 3 calories, according to USDA data. (One teaspoon of spicy mustard is also around 3 calories per serving.) Most of the calories in mustard come from carbohydrates, but because the calorie count is so low, these carbs are not likely to make a significant difference in your daily intake.

Dijon mustard may provide more calories, but not many more. A single serving of Dijon mustard may contain up to 10 calories.

There are no significant vitamins or minerals in a single serving of mustard.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Mustard is easy to find in almost every grocery store. You'll find prepared yellow mustard and Dijon mustard in the condiment aisle of most markets.

If you visit a specialty store, you can also find more exotic flavors. For example, you may see mustard made with honey, spicy peppers, and wine. You might also see course mustard varieties that have a distinct texture with seeds still intact.

It is smart to buy mustard in small quantities. The condiment can lose flavor with time. Since you probably will use mustard in limited amounts, you don't want to buy a large container that will likely spoil.

Once opened, store mustard in the refrigerator for up to one year.

Mustard imparts a strong, spicy taste that pairs well with meat and seafood. Mustard can also be used to make salad dressings.

Possible Side Effects

Mustard is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the United States Food and Drug Administration when consumed in amounts commonly found in food. However, if you use mustard for cosmetic or medicinal uses, you should exercise caution.

The Natural Medicines Database notes that applying white or black mustard to the skin for an extended period of time can cause burns, blisters, or ulcers. The source also notes that consuming large amounts of black mustard seed by mouth can damage the throat and cause side effects including heart failure, diarrhea, drowsiness, breathing difficulties, coma, and death.

Lastly, mustard and mustard seed allergies are not uncommon. According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign in the United Kingdom, other foods derived from the mustard plant—including mustard leaves, seeds and flowers, sprouted mustard seeds, mustard oil, and foods that contain these—are likely to cause reactions in people with a mustard allergy.

Symptoms of a mustard allergy may be mild or severe—they generally come on shortly after consuming the mustard product. You may experience a rash or a tingly, itchy feeling in the mouth. Difficulty breathing is also possible. 

Common Questions

Can I freeze mustard?

Mustard does not freeze well. It's best to refrigerate opened mustard.

What is a suitable mustard substitute in recipes?

Some cooks substitute mayonnaise or wasabi if they are preparing a recipe and don't have mustard on hand.

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