Is Wasabi Good for You? Exploring Health Benefits and Risks

When it comes to exploring the world of unique flavors, wasabi is likely to make an appearance in your culinary journey. This pungent, spicy condiment often accompanies sushi and other Japanese delicacies, but have you ever wondered if wasabi is actually good for you? In this article, we’ll delve into the health benefits and potential drawbacks of incorporating wasabi into your diet.

Wasabi is not just a zesty addition to your favorite dishes, it also boasts numerous health benefits. As a rich source of antioxidants, wasabi can help reduce inflammation throughout your body.

Additionally, its antibacterial properties – thanks to the isothiocyanates it contains – make it an effective, natural antimicrobial agent. This makes wasabi particularly beneficial when consuming raw fish, as it helps combat the growth of yeast, mold, and bacteria.

Before you go slathering wasabi on everything, it’s essential to be aware of its potential downsides. Although healthy in moderation, excessive consumption may irritate your stomach or cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Always listen to your body and enjoy wasabi as a flavorful complement to your meals without overdoing it.

What is Wasabi

Is Wasabi Good for You

Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, is a plant native to Japan and has long been a staple in Japanese cuisine, especially when serving raw fish dishes like sushi and sashimi.

This green paste not only adds a spicy kick to your meal but also possesses some potential health benefits. Wasabi belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes other popular plants like broccoli, cabbage, and mustard.

Wasabi plants grow naturally in the wild, especially near cold mountain streams in Japan. They produce bitter-tasting rhizomes, which are harvested and processed to create wasabi paste.

To enjoy authentic wasabi, you should look for wasabi that comes from the root, or rhizome, of the plant itself. Wild wasabi is a rare and premium ingredient even in Japan, making it an expensive and somewhat exotic treat.

Wasabi vs Horseradish

Although commonly referred to as Japanese horseradish, wasabi is quite different from the horseradish typically found in grocery stores. Both plants contain a compound called allyl isothiocyanate, responsible for their pungent taste, but wasabi’s unique flavor profile distinguishes it from regular horseradish.

Authentic wasabi can be challenging to find, as most restaurants and stores use a mixture of horseradish, mustard powder, and artificial coloring.

Wasabi Paste

Real wasabi paste is made by grating the wasabi rhizome into a fine consistency, which releases the plant’s natural juices and intense flavors. This freshly grated paste loses its potent flavor over time, so it’s best to consume it shortly after preparation.

When you’re at a Japanese restaurant or purchasing a store-bought wasabi product, be aware that it might not be authentic wasabi but an imitation made from horseradish and other ingredients.

By understanding the differences between wasabi and horseradish and knowing how to identify authentic wasabi, you can fully appreciate this flavorful and unique element of Japanese cuisine.


Processing Wasabi

Real wasabi comes from the rhizome of the wasabi plant, which is part of the same family as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. To create the flavorful spice you know, the wasabi plant undergoes a process that involves grating and drying it, which releases its pungent, spicy flavor.

Powder vs Paste

When it comes to choosing between wasabi powder and paste, there are a few key differences you should be aware of.

Wasabi Powder:

  • Typically contains a blend of pulverized wasabi, starch, and sometimes additional spices
  • May contain cornstarch or flour as a filler
  • Requires mixing with water to create a paste
  • Shelf-stable and easy to store

Wasabi Paste:

  • Comes pre-mixed and ready to use
  • May contain additional ingredients like oil, salt, and sugar
  • Offers a more consistent texture and taste
  • Requires refrigeration after opening

Here’s a comparison of the two forms of wasabi:

AspectWasabi PowderWasabi Paste
IngredientsWasabi, starch, spices (optional)Wasabi, oil, salt, sugar (optional)
PreparationMix with waterReady to use
StorageShelf-stableRequires refrigeration after opening

In choosing between wasabi powder and paste, consider your personal preferences and how you plan to use the spice. Additionally, it’s important to be aware that many commercial wasabi products may contain a small amount of real wasabi, alongside horseradish, mustard, and other spices. Be sure to read labels carefully to ensure you’re getting an authentic product.

Nutrition Information

Without a specific brand or type of wasabi paste, it’s difficult to provide a precise nutrient profile. However, here are some of the potential nutrients that may be found in wasabi paste:

  • Energy: 46.7 kcal
  • Protein: 0.357 g
  • Total lipid (fat): 1.74 g
  • Carbohydrate: 7.38 g
  • Fiber: 0.976 g
  • Sugars: 2.11 g
  • Calcium: 6.56 mg
  • Iron: 0.08 mg
  • Magnesium: 3.36 mg
  • Phosphorus: 4.16 mg
  • Potassium: 29.1 mg

The main class of active compounds in wasabi, called isothiocyanates (ITCs), is responsible for most of the vegetable’s health benefits, including its antibacterial effects. ITCs are also present in other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage.

While the nutritional content of wasabi may not be as high as some other foods, it still offers some benefits that can contribute to your overall health. Incorporating wasabi into your diet can add a flavorful kick to your meals while providing you with some essential nutrients and health-promoting compounds.

Health Benefits of Wasabi

Wasab has potential health benefits. The following are four health benefits of Wasabi:

It contains antibacterial properties

Isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are found in Wasabi, have antibacterial properties. The antibacterial effect of wasabi extract may help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and treat peptic ulcers caused by the bacterium H. pylori.

It contains anti-inflammatory properties

Wasabi has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Test-tube studies involving animal cells indicate that ITCs in wasabi suppress cells and enzymes that promote inflammation.

It can potentially promote fat loss

Wasabi leaf extract has been shown to prevent the formation and growth of fat cells in test-tube and animal studies. Ingesting wasabi leaf extract may also hinder the growth and production of fat cells.

It contains anti-cancer properties

 ITCs extracted from Wasabi have been studied for their anticancer properties. Test-tube studies indicate that ITCs and similar compounds isolated from wasabi kill or inhibit the growth of human colorectal, oral, and pancreatic cancer cells.

Pros and Cons of Wasabi

Here are some potential pros and cons of eating wasabi:


  • Flavor: Wasabi adds a unique and intense flavor to dishes, which many people enjoy.
  • Health benefits: Wasabi contains compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  • Antimicrobial properties: Some research has suggested that wasabi may have antimicrobial properties that can help reduce the risk of food poisoning.


  • Spiciness: Wasabi can be extremely spicy and can cause discomfort or even pain if consumed in excess. It can also cause nasal irritation and tears to form in the eyes.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may have an allergic reaction to wasabi, which can range from mild symptoms like itching or hives to more severe reactions like difficulty breathing.
  • Cost: Wasabi can be expensive and may not be readily available in all areas.

Scientific Studies

In your exploration of whether wasabi is good for you, it’s important to consider the scientific evidence. Wasabi, a spice used in Japanese cuisine, is rich in isothiocyanates (ITCs). These compounds have been studied for their potential health benefits, such as anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects.

There is one study that investigated the inhibitory effects of wasabi roots, leaves, and allyl isothiocyanate (AIT) on the formation and genotoxicity of acrylamide (AA) in cooked foods.

The study found that wasabi roots and AIT effectively reduced AA formation, decreased DNA damage, and reduced CYP2E1 activity, while increasing glutathione S-transferase activity. These results suggest that wasabi roots and AIT may be effective in inhibiting the formation and genotoxicity of AA in cooked foods.

Another study looked at how an ingredient in Wasabi called 6-MITC can help reduce inflammation in cells. Researchers found that 6-MITC can block the production of certain molecules that cause inflammation, and this happens by interfering with a specific signaling pathway in the cells.

They also found that the effectiveness of different forms of 6-MITC depended on their chemical structure. These results suggest that 6-MITC could be useful for treating inflammation.

A study investigated the ability of Korean and Japanese wasabi roots, stems, and leaves to kill Helicobacter pylori, a type of bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and cancer. The researchers found that all parts of the wasabi plant had antibacterial activity against different strains of H. pylori.

The leaves had the strongest effect, even though they had lower amounts of the active compound, allyl isothiocyanate (AIT), compared to the roots. This suggests that other components in the leaves may also be effective against H. pylori.

What Do Health Experts Say About Wasabi?

Wasabi is a popular condiment often used in Japanese cuisine, and it may offer several health benefits. One of the primary components of wasabi is allyl isothiocyanate, a compound responsible for its pungent smell and potentially beneficial in reducing inflammation throughout your body.

Inflammation is your immune system’s response to infections, injuries, and toxins. Wasabi’s anti-inflammatory properties may help protect your body from harmful substances, such as polluted air or cigarette smoke. This may contribute to improving your overall health.

Additionally, wasabi may have a positive effect on blood clotting. It has been suggested that certain compounds in wasabi may help prevent the formation of blood clots, potentially reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

On the other hand, consuming wasabi may cause some discomfort in certain individuals, especially those suffering from acid reflux and heartburn. If you experience these symptoms, you might want to be cautious with your wasabi consumption.

As with any food or supplement, it’s essential to be aware of the potential adverse effects of 

Who Should Avoid Wasabi?

While wasabi offers numerous health benefits, certain individuals should be cautious when consuming this potent plant.

If you are Brassicaceae allergies

People with existing allergies to plants from the Brassicaceae family (such as cabbage, mustard, and broccoli) might have adverse reactions to wasabi, as it is also a member of this plant family. If you have any known allergies to cruciferous vegetables, it’s best to avoid wasabi.

If you have soy allergies

It’s crucial to avoid wasabi unless you’re confident that it’s authentic and contains no soy products. Some wasabi products may include soy ingredients, which can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. 

Authentic wasabi can be challenging to find, as many restaurants and products use a substitute made from horseradish, mustard, and food coloring, sometimes even containing soy as well. Check the product label or ask the restaurant staff to confirm the ingredients in their wasabi 

If you are on a sodium-restricted diet

Those following a low-sodium diet might want to consider avoiding wasabi peas. These popular snacks can be high in sodium, and consuming them in large amounts can contribute to increased blood pressure levels. Monitor your portion sizes and pay attention to how much sodium is present in the wasabi peas you consume.

If you have acid reflux or heartburn

Consuming wasabi might exacerbate your symptoms. Its strong, pungent flavor can irritate the esophagus and stomach lining, causing discomfort for those with sensitive digestive systems. Limit your wasabi intake if you’re prone to acid reflux or consider skipping it altogether in favor of milder condiments.

Alternatives to Wasabi

Wasabi Peas

Wasabi peas are a popular snack in which green peas are coated with a mixture of wasabi powder, salt, and sugar. They offer a crispy texture and a pungent, spicy flavor that’s reminiscent of traditional wasabi. You can enjoy these as a standalone snack or incorporate them into your favorite recipes, such as salads or even as a topping on a bowl of rice.

Substitute Ingredients

If you’re looking for alternatives to wasabi, whether due to unavailability, dietary restrictions, or personal preference, consider the following options which can still bring spice and pungency to your Japanese cuisine, salad dressings, or even your favorite chicken or pork dishes:

  • Horseradish: This root vegetable is often used to make artificial wasabi paste, as it shares a similar pungency and heat. It can be used as a 1:1 substitute for wasabi in most recipes.
  • Mustard: Various types of mustard also offer a similar heat and pungency to wasabi, depending on their strength. Spicy brown mustard, English mustard, and Chinese hot mustard are all potential substitutes.
  • Ginger: Although not as spicy as wasabi or horseradish, ginger offers a fresh, zesty flavor that can replace or complement the wasabi in some dishes.

When it comes to these substitute ingredients, consider their individual characteristics and adjust your recipes accordingly in terms of texture, heat, and flavor. Be mindful of any artificial colors that might be added to achieve the classic green hue of wasabi, as some people might be sensitive or allergic to them.

IngredientCharacteristicsBest For
HorseradishStrong, pungent, similar to wasabiSushi, sauces, dressings
MustardVarying levels of heat and pungency, depending on typeSalad dressings, marinades, dipping sauces
GingerZesty, fresh, less spicySushi, marinades, stir-fries

Keep in mind that substitutions might not exactly replicate the authentic flavor of wasabi, but they can still add the desired heat and zest to your dishes while incorporating a unique taste that complements your cooking style.


Wasabi has been used for centuries due to its medicinal properties and can indeed be beneficial for your health. Integrating wasabi into your regular diet can provide some promising health advantages, although more research is required for definitive conclusions.

Several studies have shown that wasabi contains compounds that may have antibacterial properties, which can help fight against foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Incorporating wasabi into your meals might help prevent these bacterial infections.

Remember to consume it in moderation as part of a balanced diet to enjoy all these potential advantages. Keep in mind that more research is needed to fully understand the extent of wasabi’s health benefits, so always consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns or specific health conditions.


Is wasabi good for you?

Yes, wasabi has several health benefits. It contains high levels of antioxidants and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Wasabi has also been shown to have antibacterial properties and may help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Are there any downsides to consuming wasabi?

Just like with any food, it’s essential to consume wasabi in moderation. Excessive consumption of wasabi might cause adverse effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s also important to consider potential allergies or sensitivities to wasabi or its components.

Is wasabi spicy?

Yes, wasabi is known for its pungent and spicy taste. However, the intensity of the spiciness depends on the part of the plant used, the way it is prepared, and the individual’s sensitivity to spicy foods.

Can you eat wasabi raw?

Yes, you can eat wasabi raw. However, it is more commonly consumed as a paste or powder that is mixed with soy sauce and used as a condiment.

Is wasabi related to horseradish?

Yes, wasabi and horseradish are both members of the Brassicaceae family and have a similar pungent taste. However, they come from different plants and have some differences in taste and chemical composition.

Is wasabi related to horseradish?

Yes, wasabi and horseradish are both members of the Brassicaceae family and have a similar pungent taste. However, they come from different plants and have some differences in taste and chemical composition.

Is wasabi expensive?

Yes, wasabi is considered a luxury ingredient and can be expensive. Authentic Japanese wasabi can cost up to hundreds of dollars per kilogram, while the more commonly available imitation wasabi is made from horseradish and mustard and is much less expensive.


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  • Marixie Manarang, MT, undergrad MD

    Marixie Manarang is licensed Medical Laboratory Scientist and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). For one year, she completed her internship training in a government hospital, primarily catering to retired veterans and their dependents. Through her preceptorships in medical school, she gained exposure to patients from various medical departments. Marixie’s passion for writing stems from her excellent medical background, being a mother, and a strong desire to assist the elderly and others in need. Education: Our Lady of Fatima University Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2012-2015), Angeles University Foundation Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2009-2011), Angeles University Foundation Bachelors, Medical Technology (2004-2009)






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