Mustard --- Top 10 Health Benefits

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Last updated August 3, 2016 (originally published August 21, 2012)
By Alisomber Reeves, Contributing Columnist

For many Americans, mustard is what's in the yellow bottle, to
be used on the foods we are fond of such as hamburgers and
dogs. But perhaps we Americans take the yellow bottle for
granted.  A study conducted by researchers at the College of
Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison  have estimated that 700 million pounds of mustard
are consumed every year by the world (and that the French are
the most enthusiastic participant to this number, squirting 1.5
pounds of mustard onto food per person per year - pourquoi
pas?)   If you are one of these Americans, allow me to
introduce you to a whole new world of diverse colors, flavors,
culinary possibilities, and health benefits that come from that
classic condiment.

Types of Mustard.  Mustard, the condiment, is made by
crushing and grinding seeds from the mustard plant and mixing
them with water, vinegar, and other spices and flavors.   The
mustard plant can also be used to make mustard oil and
mustard greens (dark leaves that look an awful lot like
spinach).  More specific types of mustard include:

Yellow Mustard.  This sounds like redundancy, but it turns out
that not all mustard is the bright yellow that we know and
love.  Yellow mustard may also be called American mustard,
and is generally used for barbecue foods like hot dogs, potato
salad, and deviled eggs.   Some varieties of yellow mustard
include Gisilba, Kirby, Ochre, and Tilney  (though you may have
to do some research to find out which variety of yellow
mustard you're using).

Whole-grain Mustard.  This is yellow mustard's more
sophisticated cousin.  Whole-grain mustard may also be called
"course-grain" mustard and has a stronger and fuller flavor
than yellow mustard.  Whole-grain mustard is more often
found as an ingredient to a marinade for chicken or lamb.  

Deli-style Mustard.  Also know as brown mustard, deli-style
mustard is less tangy than yellow mustard, and can be found in
deli sandwiches or on top of the heartier bratwurst.   One type
of brown mustard is excitingly known as Blaze.

Dry Mustard.  Dry mustard can be found as a seasoning in salad
dressings, sauces, and mayonnaise.

Mustard greens. Mustard does not have to be a spreadable,
yellow paste: it can also come in leafs, and known as mustard
greens, and used in salads or in other side dishes.   Mustard
greens are the leaves of the mustard plant that are usually dark
green but may also appear purple or red.

The various forms of mustard offer several health benefits.  
Read the list below for ten research-proven advantages of
mustard in its various forms.

Top 10 Reasons You Should Use Mustard

1.  Mustard: A Tangy Way to Get Your  Glucosinolates.
Glucosinolates are compounds that are sometimes used as anti-
inflammatories, anti-fungals, and anti-bacterials (there is also a
hopeful suspicion that glucosinolates may be anticarcinogenic).  
Simultaneously, glucosinolates give mustard the pungent zing
some of us love so much, and can also be found in broccoli and

In 2012, N. Ridley with the School of Chemistry at the
University of Edinburgh, teamed up with thinkers at the Wrigley
Global Innovation Center in Chicago  to isolate glucosinolates
from "three different Commercially available mustard seeds":
black mustard seed, organic black mustard seed, and yellow
mustard seed.  

They confirmed that all three types of mustard contained
glucosinolates, and were able to identify which type was more
prevalent in each type of mustard (the names of which are not
particularly relevant to most of us).

How convenient when American traditions also provide

Mustard Has Protein.  Odds are that if you're putting
mustard on a hamburger you're not too worried about getting
enough protein.  However, mustard itself has protein, so that if
you used it in more creative ways you could be adding protein
to your diet.  Some estimates suggest that there are 2.6 grams
of protein in two teaspoons of seed.

In 2011, researchers in Pakistan, including Ihsan Ullah with the
Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering at the
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agricultural University in Peshawar,  
observed how mustard in the diets of cows may increase the
protein content of their milk.  Adding mustard oil cake to
fodder improved the protein content of milk "significantly,"
raising the protein up 3.4%.

While what works for cow milk may not work for human
bodies, the above data is encouraging: mustard may be a good
tool for vegetarians to use on their diets, or anyone else
concerned about getting adequate amounts of daily protein.

Mustard Seeds Have Fiber.   Fiber is a substance found in
different types of plants that bulks up our diets, makes us feel
full, and helps to control weight.  You can add fiber to your diet
by eating whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables  -- or,
you could just use mustard every day.

In 2006, Punna Ramulu and Parachuri Udayasekhararao  with
the Food Chemistry Division at the National Institute of
Nutrition in Hyderabad, India,  analyzed the fiber content of
roots, tubers, vegetables, oilseeds, spices, and condiments.  
Results showed that soluble dietary fiber , the "component of
[total dietary fiber] responsible for health benefits" was "high"
in mustard, at about 25% (versus fresh coconut, say, at only

If you're not a fan of whole grains, and if eating fruits and
vegetables is as attractive to you as going to the dentist, using
mustard as your condiment of choice may be a compromise
between you and the dietary fiber that your body needs. (Read
more about
foods high in fiber.)

Mustard Seeds and the Mineral Selenium.  The sleek-
sounding mineral selenium has mineral has antioxidant
properties, which help prevent cellular damage.   The mineral is
also used to prevent cancer, treat heart and blood vessel
diseases, and even for arthritis, head injuries, and burns.  This
mineral-of-all-trades can be found in crab, liver, and poultry,   
and, according to research from 2011, in mustard.

About two tablespoons of mustard will give you 26.2
micrograms of selenium, about 48% of your daily
recommended amount.

In 2011 a team of experts from various parts of India,
including N. Tejo Prakash with the Department of
Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences at Thapar University
in Patiala,  collected Indian mustard (with the scientific name
Brassica juncea) and quantified the selenium levels using
"instrumental neutron activation analysis" in the seeds,
extracted oil, and oil cakes from the plant.  

They found "high uptake of selenium" by the mustard seeds,
which was best retained in the oil cakes.  The team concludes
that the selenium in mustard oil or cake provide an
"application" as "sources of chemotherapeutic
isoselenocyanates and exploitation of their bioactivity."

If that last sentence made your brain feel like a squeezed bottle
of mustard, fear not: all we need to know is that selenium is
good, and that mustard has selenium.  Pass the yellow bottle,

Mustard Boosts Omega-3 Levels.  What does alpha-linolenic
acid mean to you?  In some cases, it could mean the difference
between good health and bad.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is
found in plants, which our bodies can change into other types
of acid (which have long names that are shortened to EPA and
DHA) that may reduce inflammation, prevent chronic heart
diseases, and assist in brain development.  Alpha-linolenic acid
can be added to your diet vie flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, pumpkin
seeds, tofu , and, according to  research from 2011, mustard

In 2011, research from the Harvard Medical School and the
University of Western Australia, conducted by Dr. Jason Wu
with the School of Medicine and Pharmacology at the latter,
and others,  determined the ALA content of several foods for a
study on omega-3 and heart disease.  While seafoods contain
higher amounts of ALA (the most being Atlantic Herring with
909 grams of ALA for every 100 grams of fish), mustard oil
boasted 5.9 grams of ALA per 100 grams of mustard.  While
this may seem disappointing when compared to good ole
Atlantic Herring, mustard oil has more ALA than soybean oil,
walnuts, pecans, seaweed, kale, and kidney beans.

This information might seem on the hopeless side: under which
circumstances, for example, will any of us consume 100 grams
of mustard oil in one sitting?  Rather than looking to mustard
oil as our sole source of ALA, it may be something that we can
use in our cooking (instead of soybean oil, for example) to get
an extra boost from time to time.

Mustard Powder Versus Bladder Cancer: and the Winner is....

Bladder cancer occurs when tumors grow in the bladder, which
holds and releases our urine and is located in our lower belly.   
Though the causes of bladder cancer is not entirely known,
research from experts at The Johns Hopkins University
suggests a potential treatment for bladder cancer: mustard

In 2010, researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in
Buffalo, NY, and The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore,
including  Yuesheng Zhang with the Department of Cancer
Prevention and Control at the former,  studied allyl
isothiocynate (AITC), a substance "which occurs in many
common cruciferous vegetables" to see if these vegetables
could inhibit the development of bladder cancer.  The model
substance the team chose was an "AITC-rich mustard seed
powder," which they fed to rats. Results showed that in one of
the rat bladder cancer models, the mustard seed powder
"inhibited bladder cancer growth by 34.5%" and "blocked
muscle invasion [of the cancer] by 100%."  The team
concludes that mustard seed powder is "an attractive delivery
vehicle for AITC and it strongly inhibits bladder cancer
development and progression."

While mustard powder shows great potential in the battle
against bladder cancer, there is one more lifestyle change you
can make in the meantime (or simultaneously): quit smoking.  
Smoking has been shown to be associated with bladder cancer
and, quite frankly, probably isn't worth it.

Mustard Sprouts and Antioxidants.  Antioxidants protect our
cells against the harmless-sounding free radicals, which are not
harmless at all: free radicals can damage cells, and may be to
blame for heart disease and cancer.

Antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, the mineral selenium
(see above), beta-carotene, and other healthy minerals.  
Antioxidants can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry,  
and, according to research out of Egypt, mustard sprouts.

In 2009, researchers in Cairo, including D.A. Anwar, published
a study in the Annals of Agricultural Science that evaluated the
nutritional content of mustard sprouts (amongst other foods)
versus the nutritional content of seeds of the same plant(s).   
While  other foods contained some antioxidants, mustard
sprouts showed over 80% "antioxidant activity" so that the
team concludes that mustard sprouts, and possibly other
sprouted foods as well, have "high antioxidant activity and
higher nutritional value" than seeds from the same sources

Mustard sprouts may be harder to find at the local grocery than
the ubiquitous yellow bottle -- but it may be worth the hunt.

Worried About Losing Weight? --- Try Mustard Oil.  
Adiposity is a more scientific way to say "fat," and none of us
need to be told why excess body fat should be avoided.  In
2011, Indian researchers found a technique that may help us
to reduce our adiposity -- mustard oil.

In 2011, Zafar Ahmad Malik and colleagues at the Department
of Pharmacology, ISF College of Pharmacy, Moga, India  
analyzed mustard oil that has been traditionally used in India
and Bangladesh to lower the risk of metabolic disorders.  The
team evaluated how mustard oil effects changes in body
weight, adipose mass, and serum biochemicals in rats, which
were fed either a "normal" diet, a lard-based high fat diet, or a
mustard oil high fat diet, or a combination thereof.  After ten
weeks, lard based high fat diet rats gained more body weight
(which is perhaps not a surprise), and rats eating mustard oil
based high fat diet showed the lowest gain of body weight, as
well as the lowest gain of adipose tissue.  The team concludes
that mustard oil has a "potential anti-obesity effect by
regulating body weight gain, adipose tissue mass and lipid and
glucose metabolism."

The above news is encouraging: but of course eating mustard
oil will not decrease our adiposity without other lifestyle
changes.  We also need to make sure the rest of our diet is
healthy, and exercise never hurts (well, it might hurt in some
ways, but not our levels of adipose tissue).

Mustard and Digestion: Hopeful Friends?  Some of us eat the
right foods but have trouble digesting them (adding too much
fiber to the diet, for example, could lead to unintended un-
desirables, like constipation or bloating).  Research hot out of
the labs suggests that mustard may be an area to look for help
with our digestion.        

Just this year, in 2012, Zahirul Haque Khandaker and other
researchers with the Department of Animal Nutrition at the
Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh,  
experimented with what would happen after adding mustard oil
cakes to the diet of cattle over a period of 28 days.  They found
that supplementing the normal diet with mustard oil cakes
"enhances the intake, digestibility, and microbial protein
synthesis" in the cows.  

What works for cows won't necessarily work for us, but the
above study presents a possible direction of hope for those of
us worried about digestion.

“Golden Mustard” -- All of Mustard's Benefits Plus Vitamin

We've seen the power that mustard packs for our health (see
above) -- but experts are hard at work to make the yellow
condiment even better: they will not stop until they have found
the Golden Mustard.

In 2009, Jeffrey Chow with the School of Forestry and
Environmental Studies at Yale University, along with colleagues
with Princeton University,  experimented with ways to increase
the amount of vitamin A in diets in India, where only 34% of
children receive a previously-engineered supplement of vitamin
A.  Why not just slip the vitamin in to something that people
are already eating?  Enter, mustard.

The team found that mustard oil "can be genetically modified to
express high levels of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A,"
and experimented with the costs and benefits of various ways
of genetically modifying mustard to contain more vitamin A.  All
of the trialed interventions (methods of genetically modifying
mustard) were found to "potentially avert significant numbers"
of deaths due to inadequate vitamin A consumption.  The team
concludes that though GM fortification of mustard may cost
more than supplements of vitamin A, the fortification of method
could provide a wider reach, which makes it an "attractive

Why not make a good thing like mustard even better?


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