If you’re looking for a superfood, watercress is it because it provides many health benefits. It contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, folate, iron, and vitamins A and C, and it’s one of the oldest known leaf vegetables. It also a semi-aquatic plant, so it’s often found near water.
This perennial has also been revered as a superfood throughout the centuries. For instance, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, supposedly located his hospital next to a stream where watercress grew wild so he could treat his patients with it. During the sixteenth century, the herbalist Culpepper claimed it was a blood detoxifier, and later Irish monks pronounced it a “pure food for sages.” People also assert it is a mild stimulant, diuretic, and expectorant, and, moreover, it supposedly prevents macular degeneration, suppresses cancer, and builds strong bones.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of blindness in adults, and 1 cup of watercress contains 1,900 mcg of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants and both have been demonstrated to be eye-friendly nutrients. In fact, according to the American Society for Nutrition in a study published in 1994, “individuals in the highest quintile, or top 20 percent, of fruit and vegetable intake, specifically those rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had a 43 percent reduction in the risk of AMD relative to individuals in the lowest quintile of intake.” If you want to know what other foods contain these two carotenoids read The Eyes Have It When You Eat Your Greens.
Beside aiding in the prevention of AMD, University of Ulster scientists revealed in a dietary study that eating watercress daily significantly reduces DNA damage to blood cells. The research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that watercress increases a cell’s ability to resist DNA damage caused by free radicals, which helps prevent cancer. Apparently, the reason why watercress has cancer fighting abilities is due to its peppery flavor. The peppery flavor is created from a glucosinolate known as phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), and PEITC is what increases the body’s ability to resist certain cancer-causing agents.
Watercress is also a great bone builder. In fact, it’s better than milk for building strong bones. When you compare watercress to milk using the same number of calories, watercress beats milk hands down because it provides four times as much calcium as milk. When comparing a 1/3 of cup of watercress against the same amount of broccoli, tomatoes, or apples, watercress provides 17 percent of the daily recommended allowance, while raw broccoli provides 6 percent, tomatoes .8 percent, and an apple just .4 percent. In addition, 1/3 cup of watercress contains 200 mcg of vitamin K, which is required for proper bone formation and blood clotting, and unlike beet greens, spinach, parsley, and chives, it does not contain an excessively high amount of oxlates (per 100 grams beet greens have 0.61, spinach 0.97, parsley 1.70, and chives 1.48, where as watercress has 0.31). If you want to include watercress in your diet, here’s a bone-building receipe for Watercress-Walnut-Daikon Radish Salad.
As you can see, watercress is more than a garnish, and if you’re searching for total health, you’ll want to include watercress in any plan. It has innumerable vitamins and minerals and offers valuable health benefits. It not only protects you against AMD and cancer but also helps builds stong bones and prevents osteoporosis. It’s no wonder Hippocrates discovered it long ago and used it as a staple in his health practice. It’s also no wonder it’s recently been rediscovered by modern day nutritionists who want you to gain its benefits and suggest you eat it on a regular basis.