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Is real Wasabi good for you? What are some health benefits?

Most of us enjoy wasabi, especially with your favorite sushi or sashimi. But the sad news is that most probably you are consuming the green paste condiment style, as this is more or less a substitute ingredient of the real thing.  The real stuff is really expensive.

The origin of wasabi started in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nara in Japan and was used in many ways. In its ancient hayday, it was generally sold as a whole or grated stem and as a dried powder. Fresh wasabi leaves were also sold and eaten giving you this spicy flavor which is similar to the spiciness of wasabi stems. 

Wasabi by lazythunk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by lazythunk - Fresh Wasabi

Let’s Look at What You Came For! The Health Benefits!

Eating wasabi has several health benefits, and for this part we are talking abou the real stuff and not the tube commercial version. First, it inhibits microbial growth in your mouth which in turn prevents the formation of cavities. The health effects are similar with eating chili peppers but the spiciness of wasabi can easily be neutralized with water as compared to pepper that has a long lasting spicy effect.

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Wasabi also possess anti-inflammatory properties that helps eliminate the inflammation in sores and injuries. But be careful when you ingest too much wasabi, or if you have low tolerance to spicy flavors, as it causes inflammation in the nasal passage which leads to congestion. Wasabi has ITC(-isothiocynates-) which blocks the enzymes that causes the formation of cancer cells. ITC enables the liver to effectively neutralize highly toxic substances that can spread throughout your body and cause different types of cancer. With this, wasabi is also considered a good detoxifying agent.

Wasabi by tonnoro, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by tonnoro - Wasabi (the real stuff) in Japanese Market

Wasabi also prevents your blood platelets from sticking together which will significantly reduce the chances of a heart attack and stroke. It can also relieve aching joints and asthma. In ingesting too much food from a feast or party, wasabi can be beneficial as it is rich in fiber thereby boosting digestion while cleaning your intestinal tract from harmful toxins.  The best part of all these health benefits is that you’re consuming this condiment with fish which are bounded with many nutrients itself.  In a way it produces a good balance of gut bacteria within your system.

A Little Background before you go

The plant itself is from the family family of cabbages and mustards. Called as the Japanese horseradish or Wasabia japonica(taxonomist name), is a totally different plant from the horseradish, although it has been often the substitute ingredient due to the scarcity of wasabi plant.

The real wasabi condiment that we should all know comes from the stems of the wasabi plant. It carries a pungent smell that is pretty similar to that of hot mustard rather than say a jalapeno. When consumed, you would think the tongue with sense the wasabi first but it is more nasal passages that it stimulates. In some high-end restaurants, the wasabi will be freshly prepared at the time of the customer orders since it is believed it is best consume within 20 minutes as the aroma’s, flavour’s and stimulation will dissipate. What makes wasabi gives its distinctive taste is the complex reaction of chemicals when the stems are grated. The natural chemicals in wasabi are highly volatile and enzymes are released during grating which gives a unique flavor.

One thing we would like to mention is to wash your hands after handling wasabi because like peppers, it can irritate the skin especially if you touch around your eyes with your hand.

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