Did you know that Watercress ranked number 1 on the CDC’s list of powerhouse veggies? Yes, that’s true! Rich in all the essential vitamins and minerals, there are countless benefits of watercress than you can ever imagine.
The history of use of watercress (Latin name: Nasturtium Officinale) in the daily diet goes way back in the Roman times where it was just used as a mere side dish. But now, all the health freaks have realised the health benefits of watercress and are having it in the form of soups or smoothie! How great is that? So, it’s a call out for all the salad lovers as it’s time you throw in some of the delicious watercress on your salad and enjoy a healthy-tasty salad.
Watercress in a semi-aquatic herb with white flowers that resembles the shape of a cross. The plant belongs to mustard family commonly found in cold, alkaline waters of spring. Watercress is mostly used in salad, smoothie and to garnish meats and other dishes where the peppery or pungent flavour is desired.
Physical Description of Watercress
Oval-shaped, soft and green leaves characterise watercress. The steam of this plant is light green or slightly pale in colour. Fully grown watercress has a length of 7 to 12 cm. Like in many mustard plants, during early summer, small white flowers occur in long clusters as a part of plant’s natural life cycle.
What does watercress taste like?
Watercress in its raw form has a peppery taste which diminishes once it is cooked giving you food a distinctive flavour. The pepper and pungent taste are due to a defence system known as the glucosinolate-myrosinase system . When tissue is damaged due to external force like tearing of the leaf, herbivory and pathogen attacks, the mechanism of isolating the two compounds, glucosinolate and myrosinase occurs producing several oils that have a variety of bioactive properties. This phenomenon gives a distinctive flavour and taste of watercress.
How to eat watercress plan?
The whole watercress is edible including flower, leaf, stem and roots. However, plants collected from the wild needs to be washed carefully before consuming as it can carry microscopic parasites like protozoan Giardia.
You better eat watercress raw as it loses its nutrition value, i.e. a proportion its health benefits when cooked. Despite that, watercress is also a useful ingredient when cooked. When watercress is cooked, it adds a unique flavour and taste to your dishes. You can even sundry or dry it in your oven to use it as spices, but the health benefits of watercress will be lost.
How to prepare watercress?
Watercress is commonly found in supermarkets, which need very little preparation before serving. Watercress is used mostly in salads, smoothies, sandwiches and soups; you can even use it to flavour your sauces and dressing your dishes. To get maximum benefits out of watercress, always use fresh plants in its raw form.
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Nutritional Profile of Raw Watercress
Watercress in low in calories but packs a variety of nutrients. Watercress being one of the best powerhouse fruits and vegetables, contains lots of beneficial components. One cup (34grams) of watercress contains only four calories but other nutrients including 53% vitamin A, 103% vitamin C, 106% of Vitamin K, 4% Calcium and 4% of Manganese. It contains 0 grams of fat, 0.8 grams of protein and only 0.4 grams of carbohydrates. However, these benefits of watercress are lost when cooked.
It also contains small amounts of phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and copper. Also, it is packed with plant compounds called antioxidants and other dietary fibers that are essential for our body.
For further details on the health benefits of watercress, see the full video below:
Health Benefits of Watercress
Watercress was ranked as number 1 on the list of CDC’s list of healthy veggies and here are the reasons why:
Rich in Vitamin K
As stated earlier, a total of 34 grams of watercress contains more than 100% of vitamin K.
Along with vitamin K, it contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. These are some essential nutrients that make up healthy bone tissue. High levels of vitamin K is required for our body to regulate bone regeneration and bone turnover. This boosts your bone health, making you less prone to fracture and other bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Hence, a balanced diet with watercress and other vegetables is necessary to have a positive effect on bone health.
May Prevent Cancer
Watercress is high in phytochemicals, hence consuming it on a daily basis might prevent certain types of cancer like breast cancer and colorectal cancer. These plants are rich in glucosinolates which get converted into isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are chemicals that have been known to protect the body against cancer. These compounds safeguard the healthy cells from carcinogenic substances and block the growth and spread of tumours. Studies show that isothiocyanates can prevent serious cancer such as colon, lung, prostate and skin cancer.
Acts as an anti-ageing agent
Everybody wants beautiful and healthy skin. Proper use of watercress in the right amount keeps your skin smooth and soft. Watercress is an important source of Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. These vitamins act as strong antioxidants that prevent skin infections. They also fight the free radicals and controls the formation of wrinkles. Moreover, watercress also purifies the blood and protects from skin cancer.
Helps in Pregnancy
Folate, a vital nutrient present in this magic plant prevents birth defects. It is very important for the development of the healthy embryo as it plays a critical role in cellular division. Also, folate is essential for breastfeeding women. Consuming 400mcg of folate daily protects from neural tube deficiency in infants. Besides this, folate is necessary for diseases like stroke, blood cancer, breast cancer, porous bone disease and depression.
Lowers Blood Pressure
People who have a regular intake of food containing a high level of sodium are supposed to have High Blood Pressure. The problem of hypertension also arises with the less consumption of potassium, calcium and magnesium. Watercress contains these three minerals in high amount which, when appropriately used, ultimately reduces the blood pressure. Apart from this, Watercress is also a rich source of dietary nitrates. They relax the blood vessels and increase the amount of nitric oxide in the blood. Moreover, dietary nitrates lower blood pressure and inhibit platelet aggregation.
Benefits Heart Health
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable that is also known to benefit heart health. A review of studies in over 500,000 individuals linked eating cruciferous vegetables to a 16% reduced risk of heart disease. The antioxidants, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin present in watercress have been associated with lowering the risk of heart attack and strokes. Also, watercress contains dietary nitrates, which can boost blood vessel health, reducing inflammation and improving the blood flow in the vessels.
Improves Bone Health
Watercress is a rich source of Vitamin K. One cup (34 gm) of watercress provides 106% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for Vitamin K. We all know Vitamin K facilitates blood clotting and stronger bones. The high Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese components in watercress play a fundamental role in maintaining the strength and density of bones. It prevents the bones from unwanted injuries. Moreover, Vitamin K improves calcium absorption in the body. Calcium compound helps in maintaining healthy bones and teeth.
Treatment of Diabetes
The fibre present in watercress reduces the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestine. Alpha–lipoic acid, an antioxidant present in watercress regulates the insulin and glucose level in blood. This prevents unnecessary fluctuations in blood sugar level hence preventing from diabetes. It is one of the widespread health benefits of watercress. Regular consumption of watercress reduces the condition of hyperglycemia.
Watercress for Hair
Watercress is a treasured plant. It contains an abundance of Vitamins and minerals which are very beneficial for the human body. The zinc and Sulphur in this veggie keep away the bacterial infections affecting hair. Watercress acts as a beautiful tegument hydrating agent, thus keeping away the scalp infections, thereby preventing hair loss. Similarly, watercress juice also promotes hair growth.
Watercress may also help to lower cholesterol and ultimately improve heart health. Though further research is needed, a 10-study in rats with high cholesterol showed that treating with watercress extract lowered the LDL cholesterol by 53% and total cholesterol by 34%.
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Helps in Weight Loss
Though it hasn’t been explicitly studied, watercress may have benefits for weight management as well. It’s an incredibly nutrient-dense food — one cup (34 grams) contains only four calories but provides several vital nutrients.
Therefore, if you are trying to lose some weight, adding this nutritious, low-calorie vegetable to your diet is certainly worth a try.
Boosts Eye Health
Like carrots and other vegetables, watercress is an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin C. These nutrients certainly helps to boosts eye health. The components like lutein and zeaxanthin are essential in maintaining eye health. Moreover, these compounds have also been linked to a lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Increases Immunity System
Watercress has a higher level of Vitamin C content, which boosts the immunity system. Vitamin C is known for protecting our body from several diseases. The citric acid in watercress nullifies the threat of bacteria, virus and fungi to a human body. Vitamin C in watercress increases the production of white blood cells. Higher the number of WBC, sooner the healing of wounds. Similarly, your ability to fight against diseases also increases. Thus, watercress, being a good source of Vitamin C, boosts the immunity power and reduces the risk of infection.
Facilitates Digestion Process
Watercress is a plant containing a huge amount of green pigments. The chlorophyll in watercress enhances the functioning of the digestive system. Drinking enough watercress juice aids the digestion process. The fibre and vitamin C available in watercress stimulate the gastric secretions, which aids in smooth digestion.
Cures Scurvy and Bleeding Gums
Vitamin C is found in abundance in this evergreen veggie. Health experts say that a lack of vitamin C causes scurvy and bleeding gums. Consuming watercress in your daily diet increases Vitamin C in your body and further helps to fight these diseases.
Likewise, the watercress plant is very beneficial for our skin, hair, eyes and other different body parts. It is also used for the prevention and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes and blood pressure irregularities. Similarly, this magic plant also boosts our immunity system.
Moreover, there are several other health benefits of watercress. This nasturtium plant also prevents cognitive decline, cures hangover problems, regulates the functioning of Thyroid. Likewise, watercress also helps in the proper functioning of the gallbladder. Another benefit of watercress is that it eliminates the problems of Anemia.
 Newman, R.M., Z. Hanscom, and W. C. Kerfoot. 1992. The watercress glucosinolate-myrosinase system: a feeding deterrent to caddis flies, snails and amphipods. Oecologia Vol. 92, No. 1 (1992), pp. 1-7.
 Yatskievych, G. 2006. Steyermark’s Flora of Missouri, Vol II, revised ed. Missouri Botanical Garden Press. St. Louis, MO. 1181 pp.