Wasabi provides a big brain boost for older adults, study finds

Wasabi / Peter Dazeley/GettyImages

Brain function declines as people age. While there’s no way to reverse the aging process, there are certain foods that boost cognitive health, including antioxidant-rich options such as berries and tomatoes.

Research has found that wasabi, a Japanese condiment, has brain-boosting benefits for older adults. Here’s what it can do and easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.

Wasabi: A Food That Boosts Cognitive Health

Wasabi, also called Japanese horseradish, is a plant native to Japan and some parts of Korea and Russia. It comes from the Brassica family, as does mustard. Traditionally, people grate the wasabi root to form an aromatic and slightly spicy paste, similar to hot mustard or horseradish.

Is wasabi good for memory? The short answer is yes. This green-tinged condiment offers more than a spicy kick. Its active ingredient, 6-methylsulfinyl hexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC), has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help multiple bodily functions, including boosting cognitive function.

The study divided 72 Japanese adults between 60 and 80 into two groups. One received 0.8 milligrams of 6-MSITC, while the other received a placebo pill with zero wasabi. Participants who took genuine wasabi pills showed a significant improvement in working and episodic memory performance compared to those who took the placebo tablets.

Working memory refers to how people process, use and remember information daily. You exercise it when memorizing your shopping list or recalling a phone number. It’s like a mental scratchpad where you jot down and process information you might need.

On the other hand, episodic memory refers to how you can obtain, store and retrieve information. It is a type of long-term memory that involves recollecting past experiences, such as your date with your partner last month.

While the study concluded significant improvements in these aspects, they did not find the same results in other cognitive areas.

Other Health Benefits of Wasabi

Wasabi is more than just a brain food. It comes with positive health effects — all of which are beneficial to older adults.

1. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is the immune system’s response to toxins, injuries and infection. When it becomes chronic, it can contribute to severe conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Wasabi helps suppress enzymes and cells that promote inflammation, including cytokines.

2. Antibacterial Effects

Wasabi is good for memory and gut. It can help treat H. pylori, a bacterium that infects the stomach. It can cause peptic ulcers and, in worse cases, stomach cancer and inflammation of the stomach lining.

3. Weight Loss Support

Edible wasabi leaves contain compounds that might support weight loss. Animal and test-tube studies show that wasabi can inhibit the growth of fat cells by shutting off a gene involved in fat formation.

4. Packed With Essential Nutrients

Wasabi contains vitamins C and D, which are essential for immune function. It also contains magnesium, which helps regulate the nervous system and help reduce the risk of depression.

3 Fun Ways to Incorporate Wasabi Into Your Diet

Now that you know wasabi is good for memory, it’s time to add it to your diet. Here are some ways to use and add wasabi aside from pairing it with your favorite sushi.

1. Add to Salad Dressing

Salads can be bland. If you’re looking for something to excite your palate, add wasabi paste to your dressing of choice. It might just become a new favorite.

If you want to explore new dressings, mix soy sauce, salt and wasabi and pour it over your greens. You can add dried fruits like apple slices and apricots to add a hint of sweetness and liven up the salad with ginger, shallot and citrus.

2. Make a Sandwich Spread

Any sandwich would benefit from wasabi’s kick. It’s as simple as adding your desired amount of wasabi to your spread to transform your lunch into a food that helps boost cognitive health.

It’s good mixed with mayonnaise, which tempers its spiciness, so it only adds a subtle heat. Since mustard and wasabi come from the same family, they taste great when combined.

3. Mix Into Mashed Potatoes

Give a classic favorite a spicy twist. Add wasabi powder or paste to mashed potatoes, mixing it with butter and cream. This combination of sweet and rich ingredients allows you to get all that zesty flavor without compromising your mashed potatoes’ texture.

Other Foods That Boost Cognitive Health

Along with proper diet and exercise, certain nutrient-dense foods aside from wasabi are also good for memory.

1. Salmon

This fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce depression symptoms and can boost memory and learning functions. You can enjoy it with your favorite pasta, garlic butter, capers and light lemon cream sauce.

2. Nuts

Almonds, walnuts, cashews and other nuts contain impressive amounts of minerals that support mental health. Despite their relatively high calorie levels, these foods don’t excessively contribute to weight gain.

3. Avocados

Avocados contain healthy fats and are a rich source of lutein, which aids brain health. They also have folate and vitamin K to improve mood, memory and concentration.

4. Coffee

Your favorite pick-me-up drink contains caffeine and antioxidants, which support brain health. Caffeine is known to improve mood, alertness and concentration. Coffee is only beneficial if taken in moderation.

5. Blueberries

These colored berries contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties like wasabi, making them delicious foods that boost cognitive health. They’re healthy and easy to add to your diet. Just sprinkle them over your oatmeal bowl or add to a smoothie.

Help Boost Your Cognitive Health With Wasabi

Wasabi isn’t only great in your sushi — it’s good for your memory, too. Given the versatile nature of this condiment, it’s easy to add to your favorite dishes. Try a dish infused with wasabi’s spicy kick and reap all the delicious rewards.

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