Watercress is a leafy green vegetable that is often overlooked by people. It is loaded with a powerful nutrient punch. The leaves of this plant are small, and round. It has edible stems that have a slightly spicy flavor. The health benefits of watercress are mighty. Scientific research performed on this little green wonder reveals several reasons why we need to include it in the diet.
What is Watercress?
Watercress belongs to the Brassicaceae family of vegetables that includes kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Its cultivation began in the UK around two centuries back but now it is excessively cultivated in watery beds all across the world. Watercress is easily accessible. You can find it in all key supermarkets.
Nutritional Composition Of Watercress
Talking about its nutritional composition, watercress contains more than fifty important minerals and vitamins. It has more calcium than milk, more Vitamin E than broccoli, and more folate than bananas.
100g of watercress has over half of the recommended daily consumption of beta-carotene (Vitamin A), which is needed for a strong immune system. It aids in the improvement of iron in the body. Watercress contains Vitamin C more than oranges and other anti-oxidants that fight against free-radicals induced oxidative damage in the body.
This leafy green also has folate, iron, and, several phytochemicals that include lutein, glucosinolates, hydroxycinammic acids and flavonoids in it. The phytochemicals and nutrients present in it work synergistically.
This green vegetable also contains little amounts of riboflavin, thiamine, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, sodium, manganese, pantothenic acid, potassium, phosphorus, and copper. This excellent nutrient profile makes watercress healthy food to include as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet.
A single cup or 34 grams of watercress provides the following:
Carbohydrates: 0.4 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Fiber: 0.2 grams
Protein: 0.8 grams
Vitamin A: 22% of the RDI
Vitamin K: 106% of the RDI
Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
Manganese: 4% of the RDI
Calcium: 4% of the RDI
What Does The Research Say About Watercress?
- This cruciferous vegetable is seen to reduce the possibilities of different types of cancers in the body.
- Regular consumption of watercress significantly reduces DNA damage in the body
- Watercress has an abundance of the methylsulphinylakyl isothiocyanates and glucosinolate-derivatives phenylethyl isothiocyanate that shows a broad array of anti-tumor properties.
- Watercress extract has a beneficial effect on colon cancer causing cells in the body. It is found effective in the three phases of carcinogenesis i.e., initiation, metastasis, and proliferation.
- Watercress is beneficial in the prevention of cancer in smokers. In a study, smokers were given to eat watercress for 3 consecutive days. By the end of the third day, it was found that the activation of a prime cancer-causing carcinogen in tobacco was inhibited.
- A vitro study done on women who suffer from breast cancer showed that regular consumption of watercress extract repressed their invasive potential.
- Watercress is effective in a 50% reduction in the weight of human prostate tumour in a person.
- It is an ample source of major nutrients and carotenoids, that includes beta-carotene, and lutein that are linked with the maintenance of skin and eye health. Regular consumption of watercress causes an increase in beta-carotene levels by 33% and plasma lutein levels by 100%.
- People who ate watercress daily showed a reduction in plasma triglyceride levels by ten percent.
- Watercress has an abundance of antioxidants. 80g or one cereal bowl of watercress is equivalent to five servings of fruit and veggies a day. Due to this impressive nutritional content, it helps reduce the chances of several acute ailments.
- Watercress is low in calories. In this way, it helps in the weight management of a person.
Health Benefits Of Watercress
Watercress is a super healthy vegetable that is packed with plenty of vital nutrients. This low-calorie food is a versatile addition to your meals. Being high in antioxidants, it protects you from a wide range of critical ailments that includes heart ailment, diabetes and cancer. Let us look more about watercress health benefits in detail.
1. Helps Clotting of Blood
A single cup of watercress provides more than 100% of the recommended daily value for vitamin K. This is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for the clotting of blood and promotes healthy bones.
2. Reduces Risks Of Severe Ailments
Watercress is loaded with antioxidants that safeguard it against cellular damage caused due to free radicals. These are harmful molecules that result in oxidative stress that is the cause of several acute illnesses that includes cancer, cardiac ailment, and diabetes. Out of all other cruciferous vegetables, watercress has the highest amounts of antioxidants and phenols that help neutralize free radicals in the body.
3. Prevents Specific Types of Cancer
Watercress has high amounts of phytochemicals that can help lower the risk related to the development of specific kinds of cancer. This cruciferous vegetable has glucosinolates, that are activated to isothiocyanates when you cut it.
Isothiocyanates safeguard healthy cells from damage. It also inactivates carcinogenic chemicals and blocks the spread and development of tumors. Isothiocyanates prevent colon, prostate, skin and lung cancers effectively.
Isothiocyanates and sulforaphane suppress the development of breast cancer cells. It contains powerful anticancer compounds that help ward off various kinds of cancer.
4. Improves Heart Health
Low carotenoids level is one of the reasons for high blood pressure and heart disease. Watercress is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. It leads to a reduction of heart disease by 16 percent.
It contains potent antioxidants, carotenoids such as beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. High levels of carotenoids safeguards against the buildup of heart disease. It helps reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
5. Improves Blood Vessel Health
Watercress contains an abundance of dietary nitrates that boosts the health of blood vessel by lowering inflammation and reducing the thickness of blood vessels. Dietary nitrates increase nitric oxide in the blood that reduces blood pressure in the body.
6. Lowers Cholesterol Level
Diets high in cruciferous vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of heart ailments. Studies show that watercress extract is beneficial to reduce cholesterol levels in the body. It reduced bad LDL cholesterol levels and total cholesterol levels by 34%. In this way, it helps improve heart health.
7. Protects Against Osteoporosis
The high mineral content strengthens bones. Watercress contains essential minerals that are important for bone health. This includes magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. One cup of watercress fulfils the RDI of vitamin K that is required to form healthy tissues in bone and regulate bone turnover.
Calcium is popular for its impact on bone health, vitamin K, potassium and magnesium. A balanced diet is dense in nutrition that has a positive impact on bone health. It was observed that people who regularly consumed vitamin K were 35% less susceptible to bone fractures than those who consumed low amounts of this vitamin.
8. Boosts Immune Function
Vitamin C has a beneficial impact on the immune system. The deficiency of this vitamin C is associated with increased inflammation and immune function. Vitamin C helps increase the production of WBC that helps in fighting bodily infections. A single cup of watercress provides 15 mg of vitamin C. It is 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 17 percent for men.
Vitamin C makes you less prone to catch a cold. It also lowers the duration of viral infections by 8%. Watercress is a rich source of vitamin C that results in a healthy immune system and lessens your chances of infection.
9. Aids in Weight Loss
Watercress offers weight management to a person. It is a nutrient-dense food that provides a low level of calories to a person. A single cup of this vegetable provides only four calories but various important nutrients. People who are wishing to lose weight, should add this nutritious, and low-calorie vegetable to their diet. It will assist them in weight management.
10. Improves Athletic Performance
Dietary nitrates that you get from vegetables demonstrate heightened exercise performance in athletes. Watercress contains high amounts of it. This compound relaxes your blood vessels. It also increases the level of nitric oxide in the blood.
This in turn improves exercise performance in an individual. Dietary nitrate reduces the amount of oxygen needed at the time of exercise. It lowers resting blood pressure that may result in increased tolerance to exercise.
11. Effective In The Treatment Of Diabetes
Watercress has a potent antioxidant named “alpha-lipoic acid”. This compound can help:
- reduce glucose levels
- enhance insulin sensitivity
- prevent oxidative stress
Studies have shown that alpha-lipoic acid reduces nerve damage in diabetics. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted supplementary alpha-lipoic acid for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy. Daily supplementation of this acid helps lower several markers regarding this condition.
12. Slows Down Ageing
Collagen and elastin are broken down when your skin exposes to sunlight. Vitamin C and Isothiocyanate in watercress help prevent their breakdown and aids in their production. This will not just reduce wrinkles and cellulite but also leads to healthier, more elastic and younger-looking skin.
13. Fights Colon and Breast Cancer
Watercress has a Phenylethyl isothiocyanate that interferes with a specific type of protein that aids in the development of cancer in the body. It halts the spread of the cancerous tumours to other blood vessels. In this way, it starves the growth of the tumor and slows down the spread of cancerous cells.
14. Enhances Vision
Watercress is composed of Carotenoids such as Zeaxanthin and Lutein that are significant for eye health. It prevents your eyes to get exposed to blue light. This reduces light-induced oxidative damage that, in turn, results in age-prone macular degeneration. Vitamin C in these vegetables helps protect cataracts.
15. Maintains Healthy Iron Levels
Watercress has high amounts of iron, that is not commonly found in vegetables. This compound is beneficial to transform energy into a usable form of energy. Watercress vegetable is essential for the sound development of different faculties of the body.
A high amount of iron is futile if your body doesn’t have adequate Vitamin C for its absorption. Along with iron, watercress also contains the right amount of Vitamin C that helps efficient absorption of iron in the body. Regular consumption of watercress helps cure anaemia as well.
16. Boosts Bone Density
Another benefit of eating watercress is that it gives you stronger bones. It contains calcium and vitamin K that gives you dense bones. These are the prime nutrients that are responsible to improve bone density and develops bone health. 100g of watercress offer 1/4th of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of calcium that maximizes bone density.
A cup of watercress meets the daily requirement of Vitamin K in the body. This vitamin works by altering the proteins that make up the bone, enhance the way the body absorbs calcium, and lowers the amount of calcium excreted via the urine. This action of watercress makes it beneficial for growing children, and those who suffer from bone-related ailments. Regular intake of this vegetable reduces the chances of bone fracture too.
17. Keeps Your Gut Healthy
Gut bacteria are beneficial for long-term health. It helps develop the immune system and offers protection from bowel ailment. They also elevate your mood. Watercress is a great source of fiber and antioxidants that nurtures and activate these bacteria. It helps reduce toxin-induced DNA damage in the body.
18. Helps Recover Quickly Post Workout
Exercises lead to DNA damage in the body. It can increase lipid peroxidation. Eating watercress prior to your workout helps lower both. Its powerful protective effects help mitigate workout-induced DNA damage.
19. Regulates Blood Pressure
Watercress is a high-nitrate food that can enhance the supply of nitrous oxide. It makes the blood vessels more elastic and reduces blood pressure. In this way, it helps regulate blood pressure, and optimize oxygen usage at the time of the sport.
Are There Any Risks Related To Watercress Consumption?
Watercress contains nitrate in it. If you fail to properly refrigerate the watercress juice, it can lead to bacterial growth in the system. These bacteria can transform nitrate to nitrite oxide and can lead to contamination. Drinking such juice can be poisonous to health.
Do not overconsume watercress as the high level of nitrates can damage to your health. Such excessive levels can lead to a high risk of stomach cancer in the body. Due to these drawbacks, care should be taken when consuming vegetable juices containing watercress.
Ways To Add Watercress To Your Diet
If you want to avail the wonderful watercress health benefits then you should learn how to include it in your diet the correct way. Watercress is a nice substitute for spinach and lettuce. It is tender than other leafy greens such as collard greens and kale so that sauté quickly. It imparts a mild, and peppery flavor to your dish. Choose the one that comes with deep green, and crisp leaves. Always store it properly in the refrigerator. Use it in just a few days of purchase.
- Sprinkle it on the salad.
- Stir it into the soup.
- Use it as a replacement for lettuce in a sandwich.
- Turn it into pesto by blending it with olive and garlic oil.
- Serve it with scrambled eggs or omelette.
- Garnish any dish.
- Incorporate it into your pasta dishes, sauces, and casseroles.
- Throw a few into your smoothie or fruit juice.
- Prepare a pesto using it.
- Cut it and add it to your pasta sauce.
- Sauté it in a little amount of extra virgin olive oil and season it with black pepper powder
- Eat it as a topping for a parched potato or as a side dish.
- Add it to your sandwich, wrap, or flatbread.
Watercress is a highly versatile and nutritious leafy green that exhibits remarkable health benefits. The impressive nutrition profile of watercress makes it a stellar inclusion to your diet. Whether in the form of a juice, salad or soup, or to top any dish, watercress must be part of a well-balanced diet. This low-calorie vegetable will help you manage weight and improve overall health.
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