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The Mustard Seed: Humble Herb or Powerful Superfood?

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
A spoon full of mustard seeds, which are considered a superfood loaded with many nutrients that support good health.

Mustard seeds may not look like anything special but they are actually loaded with nutrients and can be exceptionally beneficial for the human body. Mustard seeds are important for a variety of reasons and it’s used all across the globe for a variety of purposes – many of which are related directly to health and wellness.

But, how often do you read about mustard seed in the headlines? Never. The mustard seed is largely overlooked and underappreciated. It seems that, because there is not an ongoing conversation about mustard seed, it has become a "humble herb." However, it has much of which to be proud. Let’s first take a look at how the mustard seed benefits the body, its nutritional value, the various types of mustard, and its role as it pertains to nutrition.

Four Ways the Mustard Seed Benefits the Body

Mustard seeds offer many health benefits. Here are four of the most significant.

1. Phytonutrients

Mustard seeds are rich in phytonutrients, which are bioactive food components that support various physiological functions. They enhance the immune system and have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-aging, neuroprotective, and antioxidant properties.[1]

2. Myrosinase

The Myrosinase enzyme, which is found in mustard seeds[2] is the only enzyme that can break down glucosinolates into absorbable nutrients.[3]

3. Alpha-Linolenic Acid

Mustard seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps support normal cardiovascular health.[4] ALA is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that has been tested as a possible measure for lowering triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and inhibiting clotting.[5]

4. Asthma Prevention

In animal studies, white mustard seeds have shown to be an effective asthma therapy. In a 2014 study, researchers concluded that white mustard seed cataplasm is a novel choice for anti-asthma therapy, and the overall assessment will soon be performed at the molecular level.[6]

Although the therapeutic benefits are nothing to scoff at, the true benefit of the mustard seed is its nutritional value.

Nutritional Value of the Mustard Seed

Mustard seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They contain minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Mustard seeds are an abundant source of vitamins as well: Vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, and more.[7]

Mustard plants also accumulate selenium, which is an important nutrient in its own right.[8] In fact, the human body cannot function properly without enough selenium. As a nutrient, selenium enhances the body’s own natural capabilities.

Quick History of the Mustard Seed

Mustard seeds are found all across the world and their benefits have been known for thousands of years. The earliest recorded mention of the mustard seed took place in India in the 5th century BC. It’s found in a story of Gautama Buddha. The story tells of a grieving mother sent on a quest to collect mustard seeds. It’s a parable about loss and acceptance, intended to comfort those who lost a loved one.

Mustard seeds are mentioned in Jewish and Christian religious texts dating back two thousand years. The use of the mustard seed in such contexts demonstrates just how significant the herb has been in daily life, as each of these examples used the seed as a familiar object that was easily relatable to the general public.

Mustard seeds are still in use today. Even though we usually don’t think of the seeds themselves, we consume mustard as a condiment. Mustard remains one of the most popular condiments in the United States, with more than twelve ounces of mustard consumed annually by every American.

What Is Mustard Made Of?

Mustard can have many, varied ingredients, depending on the type of mustard. The primary ingredient, however, is always the same: mustard seeds.

Most prepared mustard is some combination of powdered mustard seed, vinegar, and water. Others contain additional ingredients like oil, honey, sweeteners, and even beer or wine.

Yellow mustard is the most commonly used mustard in the United States. It’s mild and sometimes colored with turmeric. Dijon mustard gets some of its taste from vinegar and wine. Honey mustard is simply a combination of regular mustard and honey.

Even though most people recognize just a few types of mustard, there are literally thousands of brands and variations. Every year, mustard aficionados gather in Middleton, Wisconsin for the National Mustard Day and the opportunity to sample or buy up to 450 different types of mustard.

The complimentary ingredients in mustard have a significant impact on a mustard’s nutritional value.

Is Mustard Healthy?

Because of additional ingredients, certain types of mustard are healthier than others. For example, a basic mustard made from organic seeds, distilled water, and organic apple cider vinegar has far more nutritional value than a mustard loaded with artificial sweeteners or alcohol.

In general, mustard is a low-calorie food, but that doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Artificial ingredients may not increase the calorie count but they can be unhealthy in other ways. It is important to focus on nutrition instead of counting calories. There is more to health than surface-level numbers. Quality nutrition is a key pillar of health and wellness, not body weight or calorie count.

Why Nutrition Is Important

Nutrition is a cornerstone of true wellness. Many people consider wellness to be maintaining a certain weight, running a mile in a certain amount of time, or simply not feeling ill. Those are all important indicators, but true wellness is when the body can carry out its normal physiological functions, including its natural self-healing mechanisms. Just give your body the proper nutritional fuel it needs, and it will take care of the rest.

If you only think of mustard as a bright yellow hot dog topping, you’re not going far enough in appreciating its healthful benefits. Natural mustard seed contains phytonutrients, enzymes, and selenium. Next time you’re shopping for condiments, leave the bright yellow stuff on the shelf and look for something the residents of Middleton would approve of. There are many mustards that contain natural ingredients, including whole mustard seeds. They’re healthy and delicious.

References (8)
  1. Gupta C, Prakash D. Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents. J Complement Integr Med. 2014 Sep;11(3):151-69.
  3. Bourderioux A, Lefoix M, Gueyrard D, Tatibouét A, Cottaz S, Arzt S, Burmeister WP, Rollin P. The glucosinolate-myrosinase system. New insights into enzyme-substrate interactions by use of simplified inhibitors. Org Biomol Chem. 2005 May 21;3(10):1872-9. Epub 2005 Apr 14.
  4. Bradley P Ander, BSc, Chantal MC Dupasquier, BSc, Michele A Prociuk, BSc, and Grant N Pierce, PhD FACC FAHA. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their effects on cardiovascular disease. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2003 Winter; 8(4): 164–172.
  5. Lee Hooper, Roger A Harrison, Carolyn D Summerbell, Helen Moore, Helen V Worthington, Andrew Ness, Nigel Capps, George Davey Smith, Rudolph Riemersma, and Shah Ebrahim. Omega 3 fatty acids for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004; (4): CD003177.
  6. Du LN, Zhu WN, Liu XY, Chen WY, Yu X, Li M, Jin YG. Preparation, in vitro and in vivo evaluation of cataplasm of white mustard seed varnish to prevent asthma. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2014 Dec;39(23):4596-602.
  7. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 02024, Spices, mustard seed, ground. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  8. Bañuelos GS, Walse SS, Yang SI, Pickering IJ, Fakra SC, Marcus MA, Freeman JL. Quantification, localization, and speciation of selenium in seeds of canola and two mustard species compared to seed-meals produced by hydraulic press. Anal Chem. 2012 Jul 17;84(14):6024-30. doi: 10.1021/ac300813e. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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