Did you know that wasabi is full of nutrients and antioxidants, in addition to offering numerous potential health benefits? These reasons explain why wasabi has been cultivated and used as a medicinal plant in Japan for over 1,000 years.
Traditionally, wasabi is paired with sushi and sashimi, as it contains antimicrobial compounds that can kill the harmful bacteria often present in raw fish. But if you're thinking, "great, I'll put a little extra on my California rolls," wait a second; that green paste that comes with your order at sushi restaurants probably doesn't contain any real wasabi at all (just horseradish and food coloring). To get the nutritional benefits of wasabi, you need to be eating the real thing, which offers vitamins, minerals, and other nourishing things for your body in every part of the plant.
However, it's not as simple as picking up a fresh bunch of whole wasabi at your local grocery store or farmer's market. Wasabi is notoriously difficult to grow. In the wild, it favors shady areas near natural springs and mountain streams. While there are some successful wasabi farmers in the Pacific Northwest, real wasabi is generally expensive and hard to find outside of Japan.
Every part of the wasabi plant can be eaten—the roots, the rhizome, the leaf stalks, and the leaves—and each part contains a different balance of nutrients. Fortunately, anyone seeking real wasabi strictly for the health benefits can find wasabi supplements made from every part of the plant.
Let’s take a look at the different parts of the plant, and what they mean for your health.
The rhizome is the thick, root-like part of the plant which grows along the ground. The roots and stems grow out of the rhizome. It's the part of wasabi most frequently used in culinary applications, where it is usually grated, sliced, pickled, or made into chips—and it has the highest nutrient density of the wasabi plant.
Vitamins C & B6, manganese, and magnesium are just a few essential items in wasabi rhizomes.
The rhizome holds a high concentration of beneficial compounds present in wasabi, including key nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium.
The plant belongs to the cruciferous family, so you probably already eat its healthy relatives: broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, and brussels sprouts. Like these close cousins, wasabi is full of antioxidants, which can help fight off the free radicals in your body that are linked to the development of cancer and the effects of aging.
The Petioles (Leaf Stalks)
The petioles are the stems connecting the leaves of the wasabi plant to the rhizome. They can grow up to eighteen inches long and are the largest part of a whole wasabi plant by weight. They are sometimes prepared for consumption by pickling, along with the leaves.
Dried and ground wasabi stems can be used as flavoring, and the resulting powder can be used to provide relief from respiratory ailments.
The heart-shaped leaves of the wasabi plant typically grow to about five or six inches in diameter. They can be eaten fresh in salads, as they contain less of the distinctive, pungent heat of the petioles and rhizome.
Wasabi leaves have the lowest concentration of nutrients of any part of the wasabi plant, but they do contain beneficial compounds such as glucosinolates, which transform into isothiocyanates when the cells are ruptured and the glucosinolates combine with myrosinase in the presence of water. Isothiocyanates are phytochemicals currently being studied for their potential cancer-fighting properties.
Wrapping It All Up
Every part of a plant has its own unique mix of phytochemicals and special characteristics, relative to the whole plant, and wasabi is no exception. When used as a whole, wasabi is greater than the sum of its parts.
Wasabi is understood to help with respiratory issues and digestive function; it contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that provide health benefits to your body, and it's full of antioxidants that help to fight off developing cancer cells.
Its natural antimicrobial properties can destroy harmful bacteria, fungus, and mold. It's also a low-calorie food, and it can be added to almost any diet. Few plants can claim to be quite as advantageous to your overall health as wasabi.
It's definitely worth seeking out fresh wasabi, if available, for an unforgettable culinary experience. However, for your daily health, whole-plant wasabi supplements can be taken as an easy alternative. By carefully balancing every part of our greenhouse-grown wasabi plants in Your Wasabi capsules, we provide a well-rounded supplement that contains every benefit of this amazing plant.