Wasabi Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Wasabi

Also called Japanese horseradish, wasabi is the root of a plant in the Brassicaceae family. When ground into a paste, it makes a piquant accompaniment to milder foods like fish, rice, or—most commonly—sushi.

If you’ve ever tasted wasabi, you know that a little bit goes a long way. Even a small amount of this green paste is enough to add a big flavor to sashimi and other Asian dishes. Plus, a little bit may offer some unique health benefits.

It’s important to note, though, that in the Western world, the green product you’ll find at grocery stores or served in restaurants is typically not true wasabi. Rather, it’s often a blend of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring.

To ensure you’re getting the real thing, look for products labeled “wasabia japonica.” Here’s what you need to know about the nutrition, health benefits, and uses of wasabi.

 Wasabi Nutrition Facts

Although Wasabi is low in calories, fat, and sugars, it can be high in sodium, so it's important to pay attention to labels when purchasing this green condiment. The following nutrition information, for 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of wasabi paste has been provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 47
  • Fat: 1.7g
  • Sodium: 542mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7.4g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 2.1g
  • Protein: 0.4g

Carbs

Wasabi is derived from a plant in the same family as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most of its calories come from carbohydrates. One tablespoon of wasabi paste contains just over 7 grams of carbs.

Fats

Wasabi is naturally low in fat, with only 1.7 grams per tablespoon.

Protein

Wasabi’s protein content is also quite low. One tablespoon contains less than 1 gram of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

In some wasabi pastes, a micronutrient to stay mindful of is sodium. According to the USDA, 1 tablespoon of prepared wasabi paste harbors 542 milligrams of sodium—about 24% of the American Heart Association’s recommended intake of no more than 2,300 milligrams per day.

If you’re on a low-sodium diet, wasabi’s flavor boost may not be worth the sodium it adds.  Wasabi also contains trace amounts of some other vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and potassium. However, because most people only consume a very small amount of wasabi at a time, these micronutrients aren’t likely to make much difference to your health.

Health Benefits

In addition to adding a flavor punch to your foods, wasabi offers a number of important health benefits. Here's how wasabi may benefit your health.

Antioxidants Reduce Inflammation

Wasabi root is rich in antioxidants, especially one called allyl isothiocyanate. This compound, also responsible for wasabi’s pungent smell, may have a role to play in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Research shows that high-antioxidant diets are associated with reduced risk of inflammation-driven diseases and health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

May Help Fight Certain Cancers

Some research has explored how the isothiocyanates in wasabi and other cruciferous vegetables could help prevent cancer. While it does appear that these compounds can have anti-tumor activity, more research is needed to determine exactly how (and how much) wasabi could combat cancer.

Could Reduce Food Poisoning Risks

If the fish in your sushi takeout was past its prime, the green paste on your plate just might help your body overcome the risk of food poisoning. A 2016 study found that wasabi had antibacterial properties that could fight e. coli and Staphylococcus aureus—two pathogens that frequently cause food-borne illness.     

Could Combat Stomach Ulcers

It might seem like a food as spicy as wasabi would only aggravate stomach ulcers, but the opposite may actually be true. One study showed that Japanese and Korean wasabi were effective for killing three different strains of H. pylori. This bacteria is commonly responsible for causing stomach ulcers. (However, research has yet to determine whether eating wasabi is an effective treatment for ulcers.)

Adds Low-Calorie Flavor to Foods

Last but not least, you may want to add wasabi to your condiment arsenal because it packs a lot of flavor in a low-calorie package. One tablespoon of wasabi is usually sufficient to accompany an entire roll of sushi (for under 50 calories).

Allergies

As with any food, it is possible to be allergic to wasabi. Many people feel like a too-large bite clears their sinuses, but an allergic reaction will be much more dramatic, potentially including wheezing, hives, itching in the mouth, stomach pain, or diarrhea. In the case of faux wasabi pastes, some people may also experience an allergic reaction to food colorings used to create its green color.

Adverse Effects

You aren’t likely to experience long-term adverse health effects from eating wasabi, but in the short term, too much of it could make you uncomfortable. Some people don’t like the strong, sinus-clearing sensation wasabi can create in the mouth and nose.

For others, the spiciness of wasabi could lead to an attack of heartburn or stomach upset. Additionally, the high sodium content in some wasabi pastes could be problematic for people on a low-sodium diet.

Varieties

By now, you’re familiar with the distinction between real wasabia japonica and imitation wasabi products. In addition to horseradish-based sauces and pastes, you also may find wasabi sold in powdered form.

As for the cruciferous plant itself, dozens of varieties of wasabi grow in different regions of Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea, and elsewhere around the world. If you plan to grow wasabi, you’ll need to pay attention to each variety’s ideal planting conditions—but for eating, the variety may not make a lot of difference to your taste buds.

Storage and Food Safety

Prior to opening, purchased wasabi paste can be kept in a cool, dry place. After opening, though, store any leftovers in the refrigerator, where they can last up to 12 months. Discard wasabi paste if you notice any unpleasant odors, separation, discoloration, or spots of mold.

Fresh wasabi root is much more delicate in terms of storage and safety. Kept in the refrigerator in a moist paper towel, fresh wasabi can last for about 2 weeks.

How to Prepare

Purchased wasabi paste is quite easy to use as a condiment. Simply serve a small amount alongside your favorite fish, sushi, or other Asian dishes. Or, get creative by including wasabi paste in recipes like burgers, vegetables, salad dressings, and more.

If you’ve obtained real wasabi root, you can enjoy it as a fresh-grated flavor addition to homemade sushi. Rinse the plant, trim its ends, and peel off its outer layer of skin (but only as far down as you intend to use). Then grate with a fine-holed grater, keeping the wasabi in a small pile. Fresh-grated wasabi can lose its flavor quickly, and minimizing its exposed surface area can prevent flavor loss.

Recipes

Healthy Wasabi Recipes to Try

 

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Article Sources
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