Horseradish is a root vegetable known for its pungent taste and odor.
It has been used worldwide for thousands of years, typically for condiments and medicinal purposes.
This root contains multiple compounds that may provide health benefits, including antibacterial and anticancer effects.
This article tells you everything you need to know about horseradish, including its nutrients, benefits, uses, and side effects.
What is horseradish?
Horseradish is believed to have originated in Eastern Europe. It’s a cruciferous vegetable, alongside mustard, wasabi, cabbage, broccoli, and kale.
It has a long, white root and green leaves. When the root is cut, an enzyme breaks down a compound called sinigrin into mustard oil.
This oil, known as allyl isothiocyanate, gives horseradish its telltale odor and taste and may irritate your eyes, nose, and throat.
The root is typically grated and preserved in vinegar, salt, and sugar for use as a condiment. This is known as prepared horseradish.
Horseradish sauce, which adds mayonnaise or sour cream to the mix, is also favored.
Horseradish is often confused with wasabi, another pungent condiment common in Japanese cooking. This is because the “wasabi” you get at most Japanese restaurants is horseradish paste mixed with green food coloring.
Authentic wasabi (Wasabia japonica) comes from an entirely different plant and is said to have an earthy taste. Additionally, it’s green in color instead of white.
Summary: Horseradish is a white root vegetable closely related to mustard and wasabi. Its pungent taste and odor lend a spicy kick to any dish.
Horseradish nutrition facts
Since horseradish is usually eaten in small amounts, a typical serving is very low in calories but contains several minerals and plant compounds.
One tablespoon (15 grams) of prepared horseradish provides:
- Calories: 7
- Protein: less than 1 gram
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 gram
It also boasts small amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, folate, and other micronutrients.
Moreover, this spicy vegetable is rich in various healthy plant compounds, including glucosinolates, which break down into isothiocyanates and may protect against cancer, infections, and brain diseases.
Summary: Horseradish is low in calories and boasts several minerals and glucosinolate plant compounds, which may have several health benefits.
Horseradish health benefits
Even in small amounts, horseradish provides several potential health benefits.
Horseradish may have anticancer effects
Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in this root vegetable may protect against cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and promoting their death.
Some horseradish compounds, such as sinigrin, may also act as antioxidants and fight cell damage caused by free radicals. These reactive molecules may increase your risk of diseases, including cancer, when levels become too high in your body.
Test-tube studies suggest that horseradish compounds may prevent the growth of colon, lung, and stomach cancer.
Furthermore, peroxidase, an enzyme in this root, helps activate and boost a potent anticancer compound that targets human pancreatic cancer cells.
While these results sound promising, more research is needed.
Horseradish has antibacterial properties
Allyl isothiocyanate, the oil released when horseradish root is cut, may have powerful antibacterial properties.
Studies suggest it may fight various dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, H. pylori, and Salmonella.
One test-tube study noted that isothiocyanates extracted from horseradish root killed six types of oral bacteria.
Another test-tube study found that these isothiocyanates prevented the growth of four types of fungi that may lead to chronic nail infections.
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Isothiocyanates may bind to certain enzymes to prevent bacterial cell growth, though the exact mechanism is not well understood.
Horseradish may improve respiratory health
Horseradish is known to cause a burning sensation in your sinuses, nose, and throat.
For that reason, it’s often used to relieve colds and breathing issues.
One study in over 1,500 people found that a supplement containing 80 mg of dried horseradish root and 200 mg of nasturtium was as effective as a traditional antibiotic at treating acute sinus infections and bronchitis.
These results suggest that horseradish may improve respiratory health, but more research is needed.
Summary: Horseradish contains glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which may protect against cancer, fight bacterial and fungal infections, and improve breathing issues.
How to use horseradish
Horseradish is mainly used as a condiment.
It’s typically consumed as prepared horseradish, made from the grated root, plus vinegar, sugar, and salt. Horseradish sauce, another popular garnish, adds sour cream or mayo.
These condiments are usually served in small amounts with meat or fish.
To make your own prepared horseradish, grate the root by hand or in a food processor, then store it in vinegar. You can buy the root in stores or online.
Horseradish is also sold in supplement and tea form.
As there is no established safe limit in these forms, consult your healthcare practitioner to ensure proper dosage.
Summary: Horseradish is typically preserved in vinegar or a creamy sauce and used as a condiment for meat and fish. It’s also sold as supplements and teas, but the safety of these products is unknown.
Possible side effects of horseradish
There’s limited information about the possible side effects of consuming too much horseradish in your diet or as a supplement.
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However, since horseradish is very pungent, it’s likely best to use it sparingly.
Too much of this spicy root may irritate your mouth, nose, or stomach.
It may be especially bothersome to people with stomach ulcers, digestive issues, or inflammatory bowel disease.
Finally, it’s unknown if horseradish is safe in high amounts for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Summary: Horseradish may irritate your mouth, sinuses, or stomach if consumed in high amounts.
Horseradish is a root vegetable known for its pungent odor and spicy flavor.
Its compounds may provide various health benefits, such as fighting cancer, infections, and respiratory issues.
Horseradish is most often consumed as a condiment. Supplements are best consumed under the guidance of a medical professional.