What Are the Health Benefits of Mustard Seed?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 26, 2022
4 min read

Mustard is produced from crushed mustard seeds and is widely used as a condiment to add taste to many Asian and Mediterranean dishes. With an increasing focus on including natural ingredients in food and other industries, mustard is fast becoming a preferred component in the preparation of new products. Read on to know about some of its health benefits.

Mustard belongs to the same family of nutrient-rich leafy vegetables as cabbage, broccoli, and kale, which are called cruciferous vegetables.

The seeds, as well as the leaves of this plant, have culinary value, and it’s known for its medicinal properties and pungent taste. Modern science has now started to recognize the various benefits that this plant offers.

There are many varieties of mustard that are all very rich in nutrients. Mustard seeds in particular are rich in several minerals such as copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, manganese, and selenium.

Mustard seeds are also a good source of several vitamins, including vitamins C and K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and folic acid. They have a high percentage of dietary fiber and are a valuable source of several bioactive compounds such as antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids. 

A 20-gram portion of mustard seeds contains:

  • Calories: 101.6 calories
  • Fiber: 2.44 grams 
  • Protein: 5.22 grams 
  • Fat: 7.24 grams 
  • Vitamin C: 1.42 milligrams
  • Vitamin K: 1.08 micrograms
  • Thiamin: 0.16 milligrams
  • Riboflavin: 0.05 milligrams
  • Niacin: 0.95 milligrams
  • Folate: 32.4 micrograms
  • Calcium: 53.2 milligrams
  • Iron: 1.84 milligrams
  • Zinc: 1.22 milligrams
  • Copper: 0.13 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 74 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 165.6 milligrams
  • Potassium: 147.6 milligrams
  • Sodium: 2.6 milligrams
  • Manganese: 0.49 milligrams
  • Selenium: 41.6 micrograms

Mustard is typically served in small quantities due to its strong, pungent flavor. 

Being a part of the cruciferous family, it’s rich in antioxidants and glucosinolates, a group of compounds that contain sulfur. There are also other chemicals such as isothiocyanates and sinigrin that are derived from glucosinolates and have specific health benefits.

One of the important ingredients of mustard seeds is sinigrin, which is responsible for its pungent taste. When mustard seeds are digested, it leads to the breakdown of sinigrin and the formation of a compound called allyl isothiocyanate (AITC). Research has shown that AITC has extensive antimicrobial properties that protect against a variety of bacterial strains. 

Sinalbin, which is present in some species of mustard, is also derived from glucosinolate and breaks down into a type of isothiocyanate. It has been shown to have even more potent antimicrobial properties than sinigrin.

Some studies have also shown the potent effects of AITC on the inhibition of enzymes that are essential for the metabolic activities of bacteria. This leads to membrane damage in bacteria and reduces their harmful impact. 

The severity of the antibacterial activity differs based on the type of mustard that the seeds are derived from, which dictates the number of glucosinolates present. All types of mustard seeds, though, exhibit considerable antimicrobial activity.

Phenolic compounds that are widely present in mustard seeds are known for their antioxidant activity. These phenolic compounds react with free radicals in the body and inhibit their harmful effects. Mustard seeds also contain tocopherols, part of the family of E vitamins, that are fat-soluble compounds and have extensive antioxidant capabilities.

Research has also shown the antioxidant activity of sinigrin that helps reduce the production of nitric oxide, the chemical that is widely attributed to the formation of free radicals in the human body.

Compounds that contain reactive nitrogen groups have also been linked to carcinogenic processes. Research has shown that sinigrin causes cancer cell death, although the exact mechanism of the anticancer activity of the glucosinolate derivative is still unclear. 

It’s hypothesized that the inhibitory effect of sinigrin is due to its modifying effect on certain enzymes that lower the risk of DNA damage to the tissues that are targeted by cancer-causing agents. Although this research is promising, further studies are needed to determine the exact mechanisms of its anticancer effects.

Research has found that sinigrin enhances wound healing abilities when used in combination with lipid-based phytosomes. Phytosomes are lipid (fat) molecules that help enhance the impact of herb-based chemicals (such as sinigrin) by enhancing their absorption.

Recent research has shown that mustard seeds could help with specific health conditions.

Lower blood sugar levels. A study in the Philippines showed that the intake of mustard seed extracts, along with blood sugar medication, may help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The effect of the medicines was more pronounced when they were taken along with the mustard extract.

Although eating mustard seeds is relatively safe, you should keep your intake in check. There have been incidences of dermatitis in people who have directly applied a mustard patch on their skin, and other research has shown the ill effects of erucic acid, a compound found in mustard. Erucic acid damages liver enzymes and could also affect fertility.

Yellow mustard seeds are extensively used in ready-to-eat foods that typically come in jars or squeeze bottles to be used in sandwiches or as dips. Brown mustard seeds are usually spicier than yellow mustard seeds. They are used in Asian dishes to add spice and flavor to cooked dishes. 

In many Indian preparations, mustard seeds (along with other spices and condiments) are heated in clarified butter or oil before being added as the final flavoring (called tempering) after the dish has been prepared. Mustard greens can also be sauteed with garlic for use in soups.

Mustard paste, made out of seeds, is one of the choicest preparations enjoyed across the world and is used as a dip along with other dishes.