If you pay any attention at all to the nutritional content of the food you eat, you've probably been hearing a lot about antioxidants in recent years. You probably know that antioxidant-rich foods are good for you and that they're associated with cancer prevention. Even so, do you really know what, exactly, antioxidants are, or how to make sure your body is getting the right amount of them?
Wasabi is full of antioxidants as well as other key ingredients for good health, making it a uniquely healthy plant to consume as a food or supplement. However, we particularly want to share information about why antioxidants matter. Awareness of the beneficial properties of antioxidants has been spreading rapidly, but it's always a good idea to know exactly what you're eating, why it's good for you, and how it affects your body.
An antioxidant is a compound that prevents oxidation, a chemical reaction that can cause cell damage in your body. The body has its own antioxidant system whose job is to help keep us healthy; however, depending on age, general health, and a variety of other factors, it may not do its job adequately. That’s where diet plays a role—there are a number of different, naturally-occurring substances in edible plants that have antioxidant properties: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-Carotene, selenium, lutein, and lycopene, among others.When we eat foods or take supplements containing antioxidants, they enter into our bloodstream and travel throughout our bodies, cleaning up cells that produce harmful waste products called free radicals.
Real wasabi contains a variety of nutrients with antioxidant properties.
Wasabi contains naturally high levels of vitamin C, as well as vitamin A. It's also thought to function as an "indirect antioxidant," by boosting your body's defenses so that your cells produce antioxidants on their own and "recycle" antioxidant molecules from food. This process allows antioxidants to stay at work in your body for a longer time.
"Free radical" is a generalized term that refers to molecules that have unpaired electrons in them. The unpaired electrons make them highly prone to having chemical reactions with other molecules, which means that they can attach and bind themselves to healthy cells in your body and damage them. Reactions between free radicals and DNA molecules are believed to cause mutations that can lead to the development of cancer.
Free radicals can be introduced into your body via the toxins in cigarette smoke, unhealthy foods, or other harmful substances, but you also produce them naturally, through normal metabolic activity. Maintaining a healthy balance of free radicals in your body is key to preventing the damage they can cause.
When an antioxidant molecule comes into contact with a free radical, it is able to transfer electrons from itself to the free radical. This action stabilizes the free radical molecule so that it no longer reacts with other cells by attaching itself or damaging them.
The theory is that, by eating foods and taking supplements that contain large amounts of antioxidants, you're boosting your body's ability to neutralize free radicals, thus reducing cell damage and lowering your risk of getting cancer.
Scientifically speaking, it's hard to say exactly how effective any specific antioxidant compounds might be at combatting dangerous, cancer-causing free radicals. However, certain antioxidant foods are strongly linked with reduced rates of certain types of cancers. Foods rich in beta-Carotene are associated with lower instances of breast cancer, and a diet with lots of tomatoes, which are full of lycopene, appears to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Antioxidants are thought to be a major part of why these foods are able to ward off cancer.
So how does wasabi fit into this picture? Plants in the cruciferous family, of which wasabi is a member, are particularly rich in compounds called glucosinolates. Cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower occurrences of colon, lung, rectal, and stomach cancer.
In addition to antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin A, and carotenoids, wasabi is particularly rich in certain glucosinolates which will, in turn, be converted to compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs) when the cell wall is ruptured (from chewing or processing in the presence of water). Studies have shown that ITCs may help the body eliminate carcinogenic toxins and support the production of tumor-suppressing proteins.
There are many fruits and vegetables you can eat on a daily basis to get more antioxidants into your diet. However, remembering shopping for, preparing, and eating "superfoods" and other antioxidant-rich produce every day can be challenging. Supplements can be a convenient, easy-to-remember way to get your daily intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals.
Your Wasabi supplements are made using the entire wasabi plant, ensuring that all the different concentrations of nutrients present in the various parts of the plant—the roots, leaves, stems, and rhizome—are represented. By taking advantage of the antioxidant properties of wasabi, you can enjoy a powerful and all-natural ally, when it comes to staying healthy, living long, and giving yourself every possible nutritional advantage.
The specific relationship between different types of antioxidants and the development of particular forms of cancer isn't yet fully understood, but regularly taking vitamins and minerals with antioxidant properties—many of which are necessary or beneficial to your health in other ways—can be an important part of an overall health and wellness strategy. With such a strategy in place, you can stay nutritionally balanced and able to fight off illness to the best of your body's natural ability.