With its peppery flavour and vibrant green colour, the watercress has long been cherished as far more than just another salad green. This unassuming vegetable contains an astonishing concentration of vital nutrients for which it has been praised since ancient times.
Modern science is now revealing the secrets behind this superfood—once known as a cure for scurvy (pdf) among sailors at sea—and how it can help fight disease, strengthen the body, and add years to your life.
Why Watercress is Considered the Most Nutritious?
Unlike empty calories, watercress is packed with nutrients. It has a perfect nutrient density score of 100, meaning it provides maximum nutrients for minimal calories. The score ranks watercress first among 41 common fruits and vegetables, even outperforming nutrient-dense greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli. In other words, ounce for ounce, watercress delivers more essential vitamins and minerals than any other plant food.
In just 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of watercress, you get 95 grams of water, 2.3 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of carbohydrate, and 0.5 gram of dietary fibre. But it also contains a wealth of vitamins and antioxidants.
Watercress is high in vitamin C, with 100 grams containing 43 milligrams of vitamin C, around half the daily recommended dietary allowance for adults.
The leafy green contains even more vitamin A than mango, which is known for being high in this nutrient. Specifically, 100 grams of watercress provides 160 micrograms of vitamin A, meeting 18% of the daily value.
With 330 milligrams of potassium per 100 grams, watercress exceeds lettuce as a source of this essential mineral. This amount provides about 10% of the recommended daily potassium intake for adult men.
Watercress is exceptionally rich in vitamin K. A 100-gram serving contains 250 micrograms, over twice the recommended daily intake for adults. This vitamin is key for blood clotting and bone health.
Why You Should Eat More Watercress
Adding watercress to your meals can provide numerous health benefits.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in leafy greens like watercress have been shown to improve cardiovascular, gut, brain, eye, and bone health, Emma Laing, who holds a doctorate in foods and nutrition and is the director of dietetics at the University of Georgia and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told The Epoch Times. They may also help prevent certain cancers, diabetes, and immune disorders, she added.
- Lowers Risk of Chronic Diseases, Including Cancer
Watercress contains a wealth of antioxidants that work to counteract free radicals in cells, shielding against or lessening the harm caused by oxidation by curbing inflammation in the body. All of this can lower the risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease and many types of cancer.
Specifically, research shows cruciferous veggies, a group of vegetables watercress is a part of, may decrease the risk of cardiovascular mortality. It can also potentially be used for heart protection.
Studies show watercress extracts can lower cancer risk by reducing DNA damage and inhibiting tumour initiation, growth, and metastasis.
The antioxidant sulforaphane, abundant in watercress, can halt cancer cell growth and prompt cell death. It may confer protection by blocking carcinogen activation and regulating cell cycles.
Additionally, glucosinolates, sulphur-based compounds that give watercress its distinct aroma and zesty taste, are also associated with lowering the chance of cancer, Ms. Laing said.
- Manages the ‘3 Highs’
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar are nicknamed the “three highs” because they often coexist with central obesity, known as metabolic syndrome.
- Blood sugar level: Research shows watercress extracts can improve blood sugar and lipid levels in diabetic rats, suggesting potential benefits for managing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and dyslipidemia (unhealthy fats) in humans. The fibre in watercress may also help control blood sugar, as fibre broken down like other carbs, preventing spikes.
- Cholesterol: The same study on diabetic rats suggested watercress extracts could significantly lower total and LDL “bad” cholesterol compared to controls after four weeks. This reduction in lipids could decrease coronary disease risk. Another rat study found just 10 days of watercress extract supplementation reduced total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by 34.2% and 52.9%, respectively.
- Blood pressure: Watercress has been used in traditional medicine to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). The potassium, magnesium, and calcium contained in watercress may lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. In addition, “the presence of dietary nitrates (in watercress) can enhance cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure and arterial stiffness,” according to Krutika Nanavati, a New Zealand-based registered nutritionist and dietitian. Watercress also contains isoflavones that can lower high blood pressure by relaxing and widening blood vessels.
- Strengthens Bones
Watercress’ abundant vitamin K, calcium, and isoflavones may help maintain bone health.
Vitamin K helps in producing osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens bones. Studies link higher vitamin K intake to fewer hip fractures and improved bone density.
Calcium is also crucial for building strong bones. Isoflavones may stimulate osteoblasts (bone-building cells) and inhibit osteoclasts (bone-breaking cells), as per a meta-analysis of over 700 studies. Additionally, some studies show increased bone mineral density with isoflavone intake.
- Improves Gut Health & Enhances the Immune System
Watercress contains cruciferous vegetable derivative phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-cancer effects. It may improve gut health by disrupting cell membranes and enzymes and causing cell death in harmful gut bacteria.
The dietary fibre in watercress can also increase bacterial diversity and maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which benefits the immune system.
With its abundance of immune-boosting vitamins A and C and antioxidants, eating watercress can support overall immune function.
- Nourishes Skin & Hair
The many vitamins and antioxidants in watercress may promote healthy skin and hair. “Its abundant vitamin A helps create healthy skin cells, decreasing problems like acne, dry skin, and early aging,” Ms. Nanavati said.
“Additionally, watercress’ iron, zinc, and biotin can aid hair health by strengthening hair follicles and encouraging hair growth.”
- Hydrates the Body
With a 95% water content, eating watercress provides hydration almost like drinking water. As a natural diuretic, it can also help the body flush out excess fluid and salt, reducing bloating, lowering blood pressure, and improving conditions like hypertension.
Potential Adverse Effects of Watercress
A sudden surge in vitamin K intake can lead to blood clotting, and a sudden drop in its consumption may pose a risk of bleeding. Therefore, people on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin should exercise caution when consuming watercress. Ideally, they should maintain a consistent daily intake of this vegetable.
Watercress contains high levels of nitrates that bacteria can convert to nitrites. Research links high or moderate nitrite intake to an increased stomach cancer risk, while nitrates may decrease risk.
How to Best Eat Watercress
The peppery, slightly bitter taste of watercress makes it a versatile ingredient.
“Adding it to milder-tasting foods, such as eggs, cheese, rice, pasta, or stir-fry, pureed in a soup, or blending it into a pesto or a smoothie will improve its palatability,” Ms. Laing said.
You can also use watercress as a garnish for meats or fish, according to Ms. Nanavati.
* * *
Can a Dental Infection Cause a Massive Heart Attack?
For literally hundreds of years now, the idea that a dental infection could seed, initiate, and promote virtually all chronic degenerative diseases has been hotly debated in the medical and dental communities, often with much more passion and hyperbole than with science.
This “debate” continues today, and nothing encapsulates this focal infection link between the mouth and the body better than the root canal-treated tooth.
And while the root canal-treated tooth is certainly not the only significant source of dental infection and toxicity, it is easily the most devastating one—as you will soon see.
* * *
READ MORE: What To Eat To Defend Your Heart
Read more on LONGEVITY: Longevity Isn’t Really About Our Genes, Study Reveals
Liked it? Take a second to support Collective Spark.
We’d love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Collective Spark Story please let us know below in the comment section.