Real Wasabi, also known as Wasabia japonica, is often considered a functional food due to its potential health benefits. Real wasabi contains several compounds that are believed to contribute to its medicinal properties, including isothiocyanates, myrosinase, and polyphenols.
Isothiocyanates are sulfur-containing compounds that are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. They are known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties, and may also help boost the immune system. Wasabi is particularly rich in a type of isothiocyanate called allyl isothiocyanate (AITC), which is responsible for its distinctive pungent taste.
Myrosinase is an enzyme that is also found in cruciferous vegetables and is necessary for the formation of isothiocyanates from their precursor molecules. Real wasabi contains high levels of myrosinase, which is thought to enhance the bioavailability of the isothiocyanates in the body.
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that are found in many plant-based foods, including wasabi. They have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, protecting against oxidative stress, and improving cardiovascular health.
Overall, while more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of real wasabi, it is believed to be a nutritious food that may help support immune function and promote overall health and well-being. However, it is worth noting that many "wasabi" products sold in restaurants and supermarkets are actually made from a combination of horseradish, mustard, and food coloring, and do not contain the same beneficial compounds as real wasabi.