Horseradish Packs a Lot of Heat and Health BenefitsNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Horseradish is not exactly what I would call your “everyday condiment.” In fact, most people consume it pretty rarely - perhaps in a Bloody Mary or paired with a reuben sandwich.
And when many people buy horseradish, they buy the prepared kind that conveniently comes in a jar (and mixed with vinegar to preserve its shelf life) at the store. So there may be people who don’t realize that horseradish is a root vegetable that comes out of the ground, and it looks like a little, rough log.
(You may find whole, fresh horseradish root at your local grocery store or farmers’ market. At the store, horseradish root powder should be available in the spice aisle, but I’m a firm believer of always buying fresh when possible in order to get the most nutritional bang for your buck).
But once you peel away the exterior of horseradish root, a white flesh will be revealed. Grating this flesh will release the volatile oils of the horseradish root and produce its distinct, pungent smell.
Warning: It may burn your eyes a bit (kind of like when you chop fresh onions).
After peeling fresh horseradish root, you can also cut it into chunks and keep it in a jar with vinegar in order to preserve it a bit longer and have horseradish infused vinegar. Another option is to store chunks of peeled fresh horseradish in the freezer. I plan on growing my own horseradish and getting creative in the kitchen. Most people consume just the root and not the leaves of the plant, however, horseradish greens are edible as well.
After doing some research, I was shocked to learn that horseradish is actually a cruciferous vegetable. This plant belongs to the Brassicaceae (Cruciferae) plant family, more commonly known as the mustard family.
Cruciferous vegetables are great for our overall health and may even help with stroke and heart attack prevention. Research has shown that cruciferous vegetables may reduce plaque buildup in the carotid arteries of older women.
And what gives horseradish its pungent smell and unique taste are compounds present in horseradish called isothiocyanates, which have strong antioxidant properties that may help prevent different types of disease by combating inflammation.
“Used by the ancient Greeks and the Egyptians for its medicinal value, horseradish was also considered to be an aphrodisiac and a universal cure-all for a host of ailments, including intestinal worms, coughs, gout, scurvy, food poisoning, tuberculosis, colic, and rheumatism,” according to the University of California, Berkeley.
Let’s explore some of the potential health benefits of horseradish, supported by recent research.
Horseradish may help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Reportedly, urinary tract infections are one of the most common types of bacterial infections (especially in women and children). UTIs are normally treated with antibiotics, however, “[t]he alarming increase in antibiotic resistance is a global threat to future treatment of infections. Therefore, alternative strategies are urgently needed,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH also discusses how a commercial preparation of horseradish and nasturtium (a type of flower known for its medicinal properties) was tested in a clinical trial and showed that it helped prevent recurrent UTIs.
“In vitro, the preparation exhibited antibacterial activity against a wide range of bacterial pathogens, including E. coli,” the NIH reports.
For what it’s worth, celebrity Dr. Oz supports consuming horseradish in order to prevent UTIs.
The University of Michigan states that the volatile oil from the horseradish root has been shown to kill bacteria that may cause a UTI.
(If you have a UTI or suspect that you have one, it is imperative to seek the advice of a competent healthcare professional so that you can receive a proper diagnosis and get the most appropriate treatment. But if recurrent UTIs are something you struggle with, perhaps it might not be a bad idea to start incorporating horseradish into your diet).
Horseradish may relieve chest and sinus congestion.
Because horseradish contains antibacterial properties, it may help prevent bacterial sinus infections. In addition to this, the pungent odor and spicy taste of horseradish may help clear out the nose and respiratory system.
“It also recommended using horseradish poultices topically to increase blood flow and relieve chest and sinus congestion for patients with respiratory disorders,” according to one source.
If you’re feeling congested, make a simple horseradish tea at home by adding some fresh grated horseradish, honey and lemon. An added bonus is horseradish is rich in vitamin C, which may help fight the common cold and flu.
Horseradish may help prevent cancer.
Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study about horseradish and noted that “...horseradish contains approximately 10 times more glucosinolates than its superfood cousin, broccoli,” according to this report discussing the study.
And apparently, consuming just a teaspoon of horseradish is enough to get the benefit.
The researchers found that glucosinolates in horseradish activated enzymes involved in detoxification of cancer-causing molecules.
Horseradish is nutrient-dense.
This plant is chock full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients we all need to stay healthy and help protect ourselves from the onset of disease, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, folate, vitamin C and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Precautions with horseradish?
Horseradish is naturally high in sodium. So if you have hypertension (or are prehypertensive), you definitely want to seek the advice of a competent healthcare professional before incorporating horseradish into your regular diet.
This source advises:
- Children under the age of four should not consume horseradish, as it may cause digestive tract problems for them because it is very spicy.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should steer clear of horseradish (talk to your OB/GYN).
- People with intestinal ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive tract conditions should avoid eating horseradish, as it may further irritate the digestive tract.
- People with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) should not consume horseradish. There is concern horseradish may make this condition worse.
- People with kidney problems should also avoid, as consuming horseradish may increase urine flow which can be a problem.
And as always, speak to a competent healthcare professional about the foods you include in your diet if you have any existing health issues or are taking any medications.
Do you like horseradish? How do you use this spicy plant? Please join the conversation.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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