What Is Wasabi Good For?

Wonderful wasabi
Botanical name: Wasabia japonica or Eutrema japonicum

Wasabi Nutrition Facts

Wasabi has the kick that fans of Japanese cuisine crave, and is consumed fresh in green paste form for sushi or mixed as a powder into everyday treats. A member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbage, horseradish and mustard,1 wasabi is also known as Japanese horseradish.2 Note, however, that horseradish is a different plant, although it is often substituted for wasabi.3

Wasabi grows naturally in Japanese riverbeds, where widespread cultivation of the rhizome as a condiment dates back to the 12th century.4,5 There are many cultivars in the marketplace, the main ones being “Daruma” and “Mazuma.”6 Wasabi is commonly grated into a green paste for sashimi and sushi, and is also used in many other Japanese dishes and products.7

Real wasabi has a strong, hot flavor that dissipates within a few seconds and leaves no burning aftertaste8 — it is not oil-based, and therefore the burning sensation is short-lived compared to chili peppers. The sensation is felt mostly in your nasal passages because wasabi triggers the capsaicin receptors in this area.9

Be aware that most “wasabi” products available in supermarkets and restaurants contain only a minimal amount of wasabi, or sometimes even none at all. Instead, much of the product is actually made from horseradish, mustard and food coloring. This is because cultivating real wasabi is difficult, making it quite expensive.10

It’s quite rare to find real wasabi products outside Japan, and many products do not actually contain the wasabi plant as an ingredient.11 In the United States, authentic wasabi is typically found only at Japanese specialty stores.12

Health Benefits of Wasabi

Wasabi has anti-inflammatory,13 antibacterial,14 antiplatelet and potentially anticancer properties.15 It contains potassium, calcium and vitamin E.16 However, it does not qualify as a significant nutrient source because it’s used in small amounts as a condiment.17

Take note that only authentic wasabi provides these benefits, so there are plenty of reasons to demand the real deal. Unfortunately, since it is extremely hard to come by even in Japan18 (only 5% to 10% of restaurants outside Japan serve the real thing19), look for horseradish wasabi made from organic ingredients to protect your health. Horseradish can benefit your health as well — one study noted that it has anti-inflammatory properties.20

Make sure to avoid wasabi imposters sold at grocery stores,21 as they may be laden with artificial flavors and artificial colors, as well as GMO ingredients such as corn and soy. Be sure to check the labels, and use your own authentic wasabi if possible.

For more information on the nutrients in wasabi, check out the table below.22

Wasabi Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 tablespoon (5 grams), paste
  Amt. Per
Calories 14.6  
Calories from Fat 0  
Total Fat 0.545 g  
Saturated Fat 0 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 170 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 2.31 g  
Dietary Fiber 0.305 g  
Sugar 0.66 g  
Protein 0.112 g  
Choline 0.115 mg Vitamin K 0.155 mcg
Calcium 2.05 mg Magnesium 1.05 mg

Studies on Wasabi

Wasabi is not only celebrated for its culinary uses, but has also been investigated for its potential medicinal properties. Scientists looked at its isothiocyanates, particularly 6-methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate, which is believed to alleviate symptoms in disorders such as allergies, asthma, cancer, inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases.23 6-Methylsulfinylhexyl isothiocyanate is believed to act on Nrf2, a transcription factor involved in the antioxidant response.

A study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology24 examined the bactericidal activity of Korean and Japanese wasabi roots, stems and leaves against Helicobacter pylori. All parts of wasabi showed bactericidal activities against specific strains of H. pylori bacteria, which causes a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining that can result in an ulcer and associated symptoms.25

Wasabi Healthy Recipes:
Grilled Salmon With Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise

Wasabi Healthy Recipes


1 ½ limes

½ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ tablespoon wasabi paste (more to taste)

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets

Coconut oil for the grill


  1. Prepare a medium-hot grill fire.
  2. Cut the half lime into four wedges and set aside. Finely grate the zest from the whole lime. Cut the zested lime in half and squeeze the juice from one half into a small bowl (save the other half for another use).
  3. In a medium bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of the lime juice with the lime zest, mayonnaise, wasabi paste, ginger and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more wasabi paste if you’d like a stronger flavor.
  4. Run your finger along each salmon fillet to feel for tiny bones; use tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pull out any that you find. Season the fillets lightly with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise mixture onto the salmon fillets and refrigerate the rest. With your hands, spread the mayonnaise in a thin layer over all sides of the fillets.
  6. When the grill is ready, oil the grill grate using tongs and a paper towel dipped in oil. Grill the salmon until crisp, about four minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the salmon is just cooked through, another three to six minutes.
  7. Serve the salmon topped with a dollop of the mayonnaise and a lime wedge on the side. Pass the remaining mayonnaise at the table.

(From FineCooking.com26)

Wasabi Fun Facts

The flavor of wasabi is affected by how it is grated. The traditional way to grate it is with a sharkskin grater, also known as oroshigane, which resembles fine sandpaper. It is recommended to grate wasabi as needed, as the flavor and heat dissipate so quickly.27

Since real wasabi loses its flavor rapidly (in about 15 minutes when exposed to air),28 you can gather the shavings into a ball to keep them together for easy use as a condiment and to minimize air exposure. Wasabi that has lost its flavor can be revived back to life by adding a dash of lemon juice because it activates wasabi’s myrosinase enzymes.29

Wasabi aficionados will want to visit the Daio Wasabi Farm in rural Azumino City near Matsumoto. It is one of Japan’s biggest wasabi farms, and visitors can walk along trails leading to its fields. The farm sells a wide range of wasabi products such as wasabi paste, wasabi soft cream, wasabi soba noodles, and wasabi chocolate.30


Wasabi is most commonly used as a green-paste condiment for sushi and sashimi, and it is also added to a wide number of food products and Japanese dishes. It has a strong, hot flavor with short-lived burning sensations.

Wasabi is extremely difficult to cultivate, so be on the lookout for wasabi impostors made of horseradish, mustard and green food coloring. You can only get the potential anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiplatelet and anticancer benefits from the real deal.