Mustard is a popular condiment made from the seeds of the mustard plant.
This plant is native to the Mediterranean region and related to nutrient-rich vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Both its seeds and leaves are edible, making it a versatile addition to your dishes.
Aside from its culinary uses, mustard has a history of use as a remedy in traditional medicine dating as far back as ancient Greek and Roman civilizations — and perhaps for good reason.
Modern science is starting to link mustard to health benefits ranging from lower blood sugar levels to increased protection from infections and disease.
This article reviews the science behind mustard and its potential health benefits.
Mustard is a source of nutrients
Mustard plants come in several dozen varieties, all of which are rich in nutrients.
Their leaves contain significant amounts of calcium, copper, and vitamins C, A, and K, while their seeds are particularly rich in fiber, selenium, magnesium, and manganese (1, 2).
Mustard leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, making them a versatile addition to salads, soups, and stews. They can be prepared in the same way as spinach, but will give a sharper, radish-like flavor to your meals.
Mustard seeds can be steeped in warm milk, whisked into salad dressings, ground, sprinkled into warm meals, or soaked and used to make mustard paste.
Mustard paste is arguably the most popular way to consume mustard. This low calorie condiment is a simple way to add a dash of iron, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus to your meals (3).
Source of beneficial antioxidants
Mustard contains antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds thought to help protect your body against damage and disease.
For instance, it’s a great source of glucosinolates, a group of sulfur-containing compounds found in all cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and mustard.
Glucosinolates are activated when the plant’s leaves or seeds are damaged — either through chewing or cutting — and believed to stimulate your body’s antioxidant defenses to protect against disease. Mustard seeds and leaves are particularly rich in the following (4Trusted Source):
- Isothiocyanates. This compound is derived from glucosinolates, which may help prevent cancer cells from growing or spreading (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
- Sinigrin. This glucosinolate-derived compound is responsible for mustard’s pungent taste and thought to possess anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, and wound-healing properties (7Trusted Source).
Mustard is also rich in carotenoids, isorhamnetin, and kaempferol. Research links these flavonoid antioxidants to protection from conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and perhaps even some types of cancer (4Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
The mustard plant has been used as a traditional remedy against various ailments for centuries. Recently, scientific evidence has emerged to support some of mustard’s proposed benefits (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source):
- May protect against certain types of cancer. Test-tube and animal research suggests that the glucosinolates in mustard may help kill cancer cells or prevent them from spreading. However, more human research is needed (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
- May lower blood sugar levels. One small human study suggests that taking blood-sugar-lowering medication together with a mustard green decoction may lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes more effectively than medication alone (15).
- May protect against psoriasis. Animal studies suggest that a diet rich in mustard seeds may help reduce inflammation and promote the healing of psoriasis-caused lesions (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
- May reduce symptoms of contact dermatitis. Animal research suggests that mustard seeds may speed healing and reduce symptoms of contact dermatitis, a condition in which the skin develops an itchy rash following contact with an allergen (18Trusted Source).
- May offer protection against infections. The antioxidants in mustard seeds may offer some protection against bacteria and fungi, including E. coli, B. subtilis, and S. aureus. However, some studies report no protective effects (19, 20, 21).
Though promising, the number of studies supporting these benefits remains small. Moreover, most have been performed in cells or animals using mustard extracts.
Therefore, it’s unclear whether consuming mustard seeds, leaves, or paste would exert similar effects. More research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.
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