Wasabi Peas Nutrition
From the pisum sativum plant, the green peas in wasabi peas are part of the legume family. They are housed in pods, grown on vines and have been a staple in many cultures for hundreds of years.
They are one of the cheapest and most nutrient-dense veggies around. In a 170g serve of peas, you get 11g of carbohydrates, 4g of protein, a good amount of vitamin A, C, folate plus a heap of other nutrients.
There’s a volume of research in support of legume consumption, with most of the results suggesting that legumes help with cardiovascular health. Specifically, legumes aid in lowering LDL cholesterol and help maintain healthy blood pressure.
A large prospective cohort study lasting 19 years in duration, saw a reduction in coronary heart disease (CHD) risks. In this study, participants who ate legumes, including peas four times per week, had a 21% lower CHD risk compared to those who didn’t.
A 2014 systematic review of over 25 randomised controlled trials all reported on reductions in total, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are all associated with favourable outcomes in cardiovascular health.
The secret sauce - Wasabi
Wasabia japonica is a rhizome or root, similar to ginger and horseradish. It has a peppery, fresh taste and a vibrant green colour. You may know it as the green paste sitting quietly next to your salmon nigiri, hopeful that you’ll mistake it for avocado, to your peril!
Some people love it, others not so much, but when the right balance is struck, wasabi can be enjoyable. In an attempt to convince the doubters (myself included), here’s some of the evidence on the therapeutic properties of wasabi.
Various plant compounds unique to wasabi have been found in lab studies to have strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Among the active compounds are alpha-tocopherol (a type of Vitamin E) and ubiquinone-10 (CoQ 10). These compounds selectively prevent an inflammatory enzyme known as COX-1 by 28 and 32%, respectively.
Other studies demonstrated that the wasabi compound monogalactosyl diacylglyceride inhibited the growth of colon, stomach and lung cancer cells in vitro. Even more impressively, Kang et al. (2017) showed that wasabi extract actually causes cancer cell-death, leading the authors to propose wasabi as a potential ‘chemopreventive functional food and as a prospective treatment of colon cancer’.
Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is the specific polyphenol in wasabi that has antibacterial superpowers, as shown in a range of preliminary lab studies. Helicobacter pylori is a normally innocuous bacterium that lives in the digestive tract. In some people with a compromised stomach lining, it can cause havoc and instigate digestive symptoms like reflux and bloating. Garlic, green tea extract and now wasabi leaves and roots all show bactericidal properties in the treatment of H. pylori infection. AITC also inhibits the growth of E. coli and Golden Staph bacteria, as revealed in a 2016 study. While discussing the results, the authors stated ‘the antibacterial property along with its natural green color, unique flavor, and advantage to safeguard foods at the point of ingestion makes wasabi a promising natural edible antibacterial plant’.
A promising and intriguing insight is from a 2010 study on wasabi as having anti-aging properties. The polyphenol isosaponarin, which is found in wasabi leaves, was shown to instigate type-1 collagen synthesis in human fibroblast cells.
So... Are Wasabi Peas Healthy?
If, like me, you’re not a massive fan of wasabi, I’d suggest giving these little snacks a go. Surprisingly delicious and actually nutritious, they’re crunchy with a bit of heat and are almost unputdownable.
I’m pretty happy with the nutritional qualities of both green peas and the emerging therapeutic properties of wasabi, I might just be a new fan. Of course something that tastes like it might kill you HAS to be medicinal.
Hsuan, S. W., Chyau, C. C., Hung, H. Y., Chen, J. H., & Chou, F. P. (2016). The induction of apoptosis and autophagy by Wasabia japonica extract in colon cancer. European journal of nutrition, 55(2), 491–503. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-015-0866-5
Kang, J. H., Choi, S., Jang, J. E., Ramalingam, P., Ko, Y. T., Kim, S. Y., & Oh, S. H. (2017). Wasabia japonica is a potential functional food to prevent colitis via inhibiting the NF-κB signaling pathway. Food & function, 8(8), 2865–2874. https://doi.org/10.1039/c7fo00576h
Lu, Z., Dockery, C. R., Crosby, M., Chavarria, K., Patterson, B., & Giedd, M. (2016). Antibacterial Activities of Wasabi against Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Staphylococcus aureus. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 1403. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01403
Nagai, M., Akita, K., Yamada, K., & Okunishi, I. (2010). The effect of isosaponarin isolated from wasabi leaf on collagen synthesis in human fibroblasts and its underlying mechanism. Journal of natural medicines, 64(3), 305–312. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11418-010-0412-y
Oregon State University, Linus Paling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center, Food and Beverages, Legumes (2021). https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/legumes
Shin, I. S., Masuda, H., & Naohide, K. (2004). Bactericidal activity of wasabi (Wasabia japonica) against Helicobacter pylori. International journal of food microbiology, 94(3), 255–261. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1605(03)00297-6
Thomaz, F. S., Altemani, F., Panchal, S. K., Worrall, S., & Dekker Nitert, M. (2021). The influence of wasabi on the gut microbiota of high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-induced hypertensive Wistar rats. Journal of human hypertension, 35(2), 170–180. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41371-020-0359-8
Weil, M. J., Zhang, Y., & Nair, M. G. (2005). Tumor cell proliferation and cyclooxygenase inhibitory constituents in horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) and Wasabi (Wasabia japonica). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(5), 1440–1444. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf048264i