There are certain foods that you probably don’t realize you’re eating because they’re part of a bigger recipe, and watercress is typically one of those foods. If you’re not sure what watercress is, it’s a plant that grows around water and falls within the leafy green vegetable category. Other similar plants include radishes and wasabi. You can certainly eat watercress on its own, as you can eat the shoots or sprouts of watercress.
While you might think of other vegetables first, watercress should certainly come to mind if you’re looking for an incredibly healthy food. The good news is that watercress is definitely attainable in many parts of the world, and is typically very inexpensive. To show you all the great things that watercress can do for your body, let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown and proven health benefits that you get from adding watercress to your diet.
Nutrition of Watercress
If you’re looking for a food that’s extremely low in calories, but packs a lot of nutrition, watercress is the way to go. With just four calories in each cup of chopped watercress, you’re getting a small dose of fiber and protein with a ton of vitamins. The most notable one in the group is vitamin K, offering up more than 100 percent of your daily recommendation. Vitamin A and vitamin C also play big factors in watercress, with about one quarter of the daily value.
Other vitamins that you’ll find in smaller amounts (around five percent daily value) include vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6. There isn’t a mineral that stands out as much as some of the vitamins, but watercress does contain a small amount of calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. With no cholesterol, no fat, no cholesterol and almost no sugar or carbs, watercress is a great thing to snack on.
We just pointed out how low in calories watercress is per serving, and many people actually consider it to be one of those “negative calorie foods.” This means that your body is exerting more calories to digest watercress than you’re actually getting from the food itself. While negative calorie foods have been disputed by doctors for years, you’re really not getting many calories at all from each serving.
One thing that you have to watch out for, though, is that watercress is obviously not all that filling. It makes a great addition to any diet as a quick snack, but you shouldn’t be basing meals solely on watercress. Another reason why it makes for a good part of a weight loss plan is it because it contains a bit of fiber, and getting your daily recommendation in fiber will help you feel more full throughout the day, so a wide range of high fiber foods goes a long way.
The most abundant nutrient that you find in watercress is vitamin K, which is one of the most important minerals you can get for your overall bone health. Many studies in the past 20 years have shown that vitamin K leads to a lower risk in osteoporosis, while also reducing the amount of bone fractures suffered by patients. How it works is that vitamin K allows your body to absorb more calcium (another nutrient found in watercress).
It’s extremely important for both young people who are developing bones to get enough vitamin K, as well as elderly people who are more at-risk for reduced bone health. You may have heard when you were a child that getting a glass of milk was the most important thing for your bones, but eating leafy green vegetables such as watercress has been shown to be even more beneficial in the long run.
It’s not only your bones that get a huge benefit from getting enough vitamin K, but your heart will see a benefit, as well. Along with other important vitamins and antioxidants, watercress has been shown in studies to boost heart health tremendously. While testing in humans is still early, laboratory mice that were given watercress everyday for a month experienced a dramatic drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides of nearly 50 percent. On top of that, they were able to raise their HDL (good) cholesterol.
Since vitamin C plays a big part in watercress, you’ll also lower your chances for other forms of heart disease. That’s because vitamin C reduces the oxidative stress in your heart and develops cells that can reduce or reverse tissue damage. Even just taking a watercress extract on a daily basis has been shown to have many of these heart healthy benefits.
Watercress is packed with antioxidants such as phytonutrients that doctors have been lauding for years as a big tool in the fight against cancer. Researchers have been looking at certain forms of cancer and the effects that watercress has, coming up with some very positive results. As watercress helps fight against free radicals that cause cancer, these researchers found a link between a lower risk of breast and colon cancer reduction and an increase in watercress intake.
Lung cancer was another big one, as even those that have smoked tobacco for years were able to lower their chances of cancer as cell damage was repaired through eating more watercress. Stomach cancer, colorectal cancer and thyroid cancer were all also on the list of cancer forms that can be prevented by eating more watercress in your diet.
Research has found that watercress is vital to one of the most important organs in your body; the brain. In some studies, the people who have gotten folate from watercress were less likely to show symptoms of depression as it helps your neurotransmitters release chemicals like serotonin to improve mood. You’ll also be able to improve your memory and cognitive health through the nutrients in watercress, even as you age.
Overall, watercress is tremendous for your brain, and can prevent stroke and age-related neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s. The brain is something we tend not to think about until it’s too late, so make sure to get more healthy foods like watercress in your diet. You’ll certainly thank yourself later.
You’re getting about a quarter of your daily vitamin A recommendation from each serving of watercress, and you can certainly have more than one serving at a time. Vitamin A is the biggest tool you need for vision health, as it’s shown to reduce the chances of macular degeneration and other age-related vision problems. Other antioxidants in watercress such as beta-carotene also help fight off the free radicals that can reduce your vision over the years.
Summing it Up
With all of these great benefits that you get from watercress, you’re probably wondering if there are any drawbacks to eating more. Doctors recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid using watercress as the interactions haven’t quite been figured out. For those that have had problems with kidney disease or ulcers, you might also want to stay away from watercress just to be safe.
You also don’t want to eat a diet that’s primarily watercress (especially when trying to lose weight) as you might not be getting enough of the overall vitamins and minerals you need. Other than those minor details, there really aren’t too many concerns at all when it comes to watercress. Whether it’s part of a larger meal or just something to snack on, watercress is great for your health in many different ways.