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Mustard: Super health food?

Posted Mar 06 2010 4:29am
Could mustard--yes, the yellow condiment you smear on hot dogs--be a super heart healthy food in disguise?

Consider that mustard contains:



No appreciable sugar

The vinegar slows gastric emptying, resulting in slower absorption of any carbohydrates and a reduced glucose area-under-the-curve. Of the little fats contained (about 3 grams per 1/4 cup), most are desirable monounsaturates. Mustards are relatively rich in selenium, with 20 mcg per 1/4 cup, helpful for protection against cancer and thyroid disease, and magnesium, 31 mg per 1/4 cup.

Turmeric is added to most mustards. One of the constituents of turmeric, curcumin, the substance that confers the bright yellow color, has been a focus of interest for its anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin has been documented to reduce activity of the inflammatory enzymes cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase, and reduce activity of inflammatory signal molecules, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin (IL)-1,2,6,8, and 12, and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP). Curcumin also has been shown to reduce LDL oxidation, a potentially important step in atherosclerotic plaque formation. Turmeric is used as a tea by Okinawans. (Hmmmm . . . )

Turmeric content of mustard can vary, of course. Likewise, sugar content. Look for mustards that are not sweetened, so avoid honey mustard in particular. Look for hot, brown, horseradish, Dijon, etc. If there is a downside to mustard, it's sodium content, though the 709 mg per 1/4 cup should only be a problem for those who are sodium-sensitive (African Americans, in particular).

So perhaps mustard isn't exactly a super health food. But it may have some bona fide health effects and should be used generously especially if you are concerned about blood sugar and inflammatory phenomena.

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