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Watercress is a leafy green that is sometimes ignored and packs a strong nutrient punch. There is a peppery, mildly spicy taste to its thin, round leaves and edible roots.
Watercress is part of the vegetable family Brassicaceae, which also contains spinach, sprouts from Brussels, and cabbage.
Formerly considered a grass, it was first introduced in the early 1800s in the UK, but is now raised all over the world in watery beds including here in Thailand.
Here are 10 outstanding watercress health benefits.
1. Filled with nutrients, Vitamin K in particular
Watercress is poor in calories, but a broad variety of nutrients are packed.
In comparison to how much calories it produces, nutritional density is a representation of the nutrients a meal includes. Watercress is, thus, an incredibly nutrient-dense product.
In reality, it's ranked number one on the Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetable list of the US Centers for Disease Control.
Tiny concentrations of vitamin E, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and copper are also found in Watercress (3).
Watercress has many major vitamins and minerals, including over 100% of vitamin K RDI.
2. A high content of antioxidants can reduce your risk of chronic diseases
Watercress is filled with plant compounds called antioxidants, which are toxic substances that contribute to oxidative stress, guarding against cell damage induced by free radicals.
Several clinical diseases, including asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (5Trusted Source), have been linked with oxidative stress.
Fortunately, diets such as watercress that are high in antioxidant-rich foods may help defend against oxidative stress, which can reduce the risk of these diseases.
Over 40 distinct flavonoids, a form of plant chemical were identified in watercress (1Trusted Source) in one analysis on antioxidant compounds in 12 separate cruciferous vegetables.
In particular, in this analysis, watercress outperformed all other vegetables in terms of total phenol quantity and the capacity to neutralize free radicals (1Trusted Source).
In addition, studies have related the antioxidants in watercress to a decreased risk of cardiac disease, diabetes, and cancer (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Because watercress is rich in phytochemicals, the chance of contracting some forms of cancer may be minimized.
Watercress and other cruciferous vegetables produce glucosinolates that, when they are sliced with a knife or chewed, is triggered into compounds called isothiocyanates.
Isothiocyanates (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source) contain chemicals such as sulforaphane and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC).
Via shielding healthy cells from damage, inactivating carcinogenic chemicals, and preventing the growth and spread of tumors (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source), these compounds defend against cancer.
In order to avoid colon, breast, prostate, and skin cancers, isothiocyanates present in watercress have been seen (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Furthermore, evidence indicates that the isothiocyanates and sulforaphane present in watercress inhibit breast cancer cell development (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Watercress is one of the class of crops that are cruciferous. The health of the heart can benefit from a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables.
An analysis of studies in more than 500,000 individuals related the 16 percent decreased risk of heart attack to consuming cruciferous vegetables (18Trusted Source).
Improving Cardiac Protection with Antioxidants
Watercress includes beta carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein, which are antioxidants. Heart failure and increased blood pressure are correlated with low levels of these carotenoids.
Studies have shown that high carotenoid levels not only protect against heart disease growth but also reduce the risk of heart failure and strokes.
5. Contents of Minerals and Vitamin K Guard against Osteoporosis
Watercress has several minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, that are essential for bone health (3).
Magnesium, vitamin K and potassium also play significant roles , while calcium is widely recognized for its impact on bone health.
A healthy diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables is associated with a favorable impact on bone health.
Additionally, one cup (34 grams) of watercress supplies vitamin K with more than 100% of the RDI (3).
Vitamin K is a part of osteocalcin, a protein that makes up healthy bone tissue (4, 25Trusted Source) and helps control bone turnover.
In one report, individuals with the maximum vitamin K intake were 35 percent less likely than individuals with the lowest intake (26Trusted Source) to suffer a hip fracture.
6. Boosts immunity function due to large amounts of vitamin C
Watercress produces 15 mg per cup of vitamin C (34 grams), which constitutes 20% of the RDI for women and 17% for men (3).
For its positive impact on immune health, vitamin C is renowned. Vitamin C deficiency has been related to reduced immune function and increased inflammation.
By the development of white blood cells that combat diseases, Vitamin C enhances the immune system.
While tests have not proven conclusively in the general population that vitamin C reduces the likelihood of common cold, it reduces the period of symptoms by 8% (29Trusted Source).
7. Nutrient density can support the loss of weight
While it has not been researched directly, watercress can even have weight-loss advantages.
One cup (34 grams) comprises just four calories but includes many major nutrients (3). It is a highly nutrient-dense food.
Adding this healthy, low-calorie vegetable to your diet is surely worth a try if you're attempting to lose weight.
8. Dietary nitrates may boost athletic performance
High levels of dietary nitrates (30Trusted Source) are found in vegetables in the Brassicaceae family.
Nitrates are substances occurring naturally in foods such as watercress (31Trusted Source), such as beets, radishes and leafy green vegetables.
They relax the blood vessels and raise the volume of nitric oxide that can boost the efficiency of exercise in your blood (31Trusted Source).
In comparison, dietary nitrate reduces blood pressure at rest and decreases the amount of oxygen available during exercise, which may improve the resistance of exercise (32Trusted Source).
Several reports have shown increased fitness efficiency in athletes on dietary nitrates from beets and other vegetables (31Trusted Source).
However, a small analysis of healthy people taking 100 grams of watercress daily for seven days showed that during exercise, watercress increased the production of carbon dioxide, which could have a negative effect on results (33Trusted Source).
Although a large amount of study suggests that dietary nitrates can enhance workout efficiency, there is a shortage of definitive proof that watercress enhances athletic performance.
9. Rich in carotenoids, which may preserve eye protection, and vitamin C
Watercress includes lutein and zeaxanthin, which, in the carotenoid class, are antioxidant compounds.
Numerous tests have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin (34Trusted Source) are important for eye protection.
They protect your eyes, in fact, against harm from blue light (34Trusted Source).
A reduced chance of experiencing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (34Trusted Source) was also correlated with lutein and zeaxanthin.
In addition, vitamin C in watercress is often correlated with a lower incidence of cataract formation (35Trusted Source).
10. Any Food Flexible
In a large range of dishes, watercress may be used.
It is better ingested raw or gently steamed (36Trusted Source), however, to get the most benefits from its active antioxidant compounds.
Here are a few easy forms of incorporating watercress to your diet:
Sprinkle the lettuce with it.
Stir it at the end of cooking into your broth.
Using it in a salad to substitute lettuce.
Transform it into a pesto by combining the garlic and olive oil together.
With eggs, serve it.
To finish every dish, use it.
Watercress is a flexible supplement to your meal routine. Eat it or use it to garnish some dish in a salad, broth or sandwich.
Watercress is a powerhouse vegetable that is relatively low in calories but packs some essential nutrients.
It includes a plethora of antioxidants that can reduce the risk of cardiac disease and cancer across many ways.
It's also a decent source of minerals to keep the bones protected.
In comparison, watercress offers every meal a delightful comparison and is a welcome upgrade from the normal lettuce or spinach.
While watercress is hardly one of the most common vegetables, it is a stellar addition to your diet because of its nutrition profile.