It is a known fact that fruits and vegetables are important for your overall health and well being. Some foods fall under the category of super foods because they are highly rich in health promoting nutrients and antioxidants and hence pack more of a nutritional punch than others. Watercress (Nasturtium officinalis) is one such vegetable that is considered to be the best of super foods. Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, watercress, with its peppery flavor is a cruciferous vegetable that possess numerous health benefitting and protective properties.
Watercress can be used just like lettuce in sandwiches, salads, or other dishes. It can also be used as a wonderful tasty garnish. Other ways to enjoy this leafy green is to lightly steam or use them in stir-fries, soups etc. According to researchers at William Paterson University in New Jersey, watercress tops the list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables as it contains most of the critical nutrients important for our health. Bursting with over 15 vital nutrients and minerals, watercress contains more vitamin E than broccoli, more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach and more calcium than whole milk!
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Nutritional value of watercress
Watercress is a great source of the antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It contains high amounts of carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin that support the health of the cardiovascular system and help in protecting vision. This vegetable contains beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A inside the body. It is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate. It contains an impressive list of minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, iodine, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. All these nutrients work together as a team helping to maintain proper health and protection from various diseases.
Health benefits of watercress
Eating a well balanced diet along with plenty of exercise is the key to a healthy and long lasting life. Watercress is an amazing vegetable full of essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, all of which play a vital role in maintaining the overall health of your body. Read on to know more about the benefits offered by this super food:
Watercress has anti-cancer properties
Cruciferous vegetables, in general are well popular for their anti-cancer properties. Although little known, watercress also has immense potential in preventing as well as in managing cancer. The anticancer benefits of this leafy green vegetable may be attributed to its ability to protect the DNA against oxidative stress and damage caused by the free radicals by increasing the level of antioxidants in the blood. Studies reveal that watercress may be helpful in lowering the risk of various types of cancers including prostate, colon, and breast cancers. It may also be helpful in preventing the growth and proliferation of cancer.
The intake of water cress has been found to prevent various cancers as it contains phytochemicals known as glucosinolates that are hydrolyzed to form isothiocyanates, which have anticancer effects. Watercress is a rich source of nasturtiin, which is the precursor of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a compound that inhibits the enzymes responsible for activating many carcinogens. This compound also induces the enzymes associated with promoting the excretion of carcinogens.
Watercress is an excellent source of carotenoids
Watercress is rich in carotenoids, mainly lutein and zeaxanthin that are known to be highly beneficial for the health of eyes and the heart. The intake of these carotenoids has been found to lower the risk of developing eye problems like advanced age-related macular degeneration, which is the one of the causes of adult blindness. Since watercress contains high amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, incorporating it into your regular diet might help in preventing the occurrence of macular degeneration. According to studies, people with higher levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their blood were found to have less chances of developing atherosclerosis of the neck arteries. Also, those who have higher blood levels of lutein have a lowering risk of heart attacks than those with lower levels of this phytochemical.
Watercress is an anti-ageing food
Watercress is a rich source of antioxidants that help in eliminating the free radicals that are responsible for causing damage to the skin cells. The nutrients in this vegetable work together to slow down the process of ageing and may even help to reverse some of the damage caused. According to studies, eating 80 grams of watercress daily can improve the appearance of your skin by reducing wrinkles, pores, redness and sun spots.
Watercress and skin benefits
Eating watercress is an effective and healthy way to achieve beautiful and flawless skin. Having powerful anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, watercress is helpful in eliminating various kinds of inflammatory conditions like acne. Watercress also cleanses the affected area, thus preventing further infection. It offers a cooling and soothing effect on the skin, thus providing relief from itching, insect bites, sunburns and other skin conditions like eczema. The high levels of antioxidants in watercress help in improving skin health and also in lowering the risks of skin cancer.
Watercress and hair benefits
Watercress is a rich source of various nutrients that help in improving the health of your hair. It is a wonderful blood cleanser that helps in keeping your scalp clean and healthy. It helps in moisturizing the scalp, thus preventing dandruff and dry scalp.
The zinc and sulfur present in watercress helps prevent bacterial infections affecting the scalp. By keeping the scalp and hair healthy and clean, watercress helps in preventing hair loss. The nutrients found in this vegetable are effective in promoting hair growth.
Watercress lowers blood pressure
Calcium, potassium and magnesium are three minerals that help to dilate the blood vessels and bring down the blood pressure by expelling sodium out of the body. People who do not eat foods rich in these minerals are likely to have high blood pressure. Watercress contains high amounts of these minerals and hence consuming this vegetable can help to keep your blood pressure under check.
Watercress for healthy bones and teeth
Vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K along with minerals like calcium, magnesium and manganese found in watercress can help in maintaining healthy and strong bones and teeth. Calcium helps in preventing osteoporosis, a bone disorder that is characterized by a gradual loss in bone density, as a result of which there is increased the risk of fractures. This mineral is associated with building and repairing bones by increasing the production of osteoblasts. Watercress is also rich folate, a B group vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining bone density.
Watercress can fight anemia
Watercress is a rich source of iron, a mineral that is essential for the production of hemoglobin, an important component of red blood cells that helps in transporting oxygen to all parts of the body. Eating watercress therefore supplies your body with adequate iron content, thus preventing iron deficient anemia. This vegetable also contains good amounts of folic acid that plays a vital role in the maturation of red blood cells present in the bone marrow. Moreover, the, high amounts of vitamin C found in watercress allows for a better absorption of iron.
Watercress has anti-inflammatory properties
Watercress has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. The high levels of Vitamin C in this vegetable is beneficial in soothing inflammation, thus helping to relieve the symptoms of cold, flu as well as other inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatism.
Watercress strengthens your immune system
Watercress is an excellent source of vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), and beta carotene, all of which are very important for a maintaining a strong immune system. These nutrients help to get rid of toxins and prevent many ailments. Watercress stimulates our immune system to fight against cold, flu, cough and other respiratory problems.
Watercress has anti-microbial properties
Watercress is a powerful anti- microbial which helps in combating different types of bacterial and fungal infections.
Watercress is good for digestion
Watercress is an excellent source of chlorophyll, which stimulates the production of various enzymes associated with supporting and improving the functioning of the digestive system. These enzymes not only aid in digestion but also ensure the proper absorption of nutrients by your body.
Watercress promotes weight loss
Watercress is a low calorie food that is beneficial for aiding weight loss. It provides your body with all the essential nutrients without adding extra calories. The dietary fiber in this leafy green keeps you feeling fuller for long hours, thus reducing your likelihood of overeating or frequent snacking.
Watercress for cardiovascular health
Watercress contains high amounts of lutein, an antioxidant that has the ability to prevent the various cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and coronary artery disease. This carotenoid has been found to protect your arteries from the damages that can be caused by arterial plaque.
Watercress is good for people with diabetes
Watercress is a low fat, low calorie vegetable that is a wonderful food choice for people with diabetes. It has the ability to regulate the levels of glucose and insulin in the blood. This helps in preventing serious fluctuations in the blood sugar levels.
How to use watercress
Watercress is a versatile vegetable that is very easy to prepare. First trim off the stems, rinse them in cold water and then dry using a paper towel. If you are not using them immediately, make sure to keep them in a closed container and store in the refrigerator. This way they will keep fresh for up to four days. Raw and uncooked watercress has been found to have greater anti-cancer abilities because cooking can inactivate myrosinase, the enzyme which is responsible for hydrolyzing glucosinolates to form the cancer fighting isothiocyanates.
Although the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is important to health, new studies reveal that eating cruciferous vegetables like watercress may be particularly advantageous for your health. Watercress is a rich source of isothiocyanates and carotenoids that can fight off a wide range of diseases and keep you healthy. So add this remarkable leafy green vegetable to your diet and reap the various health benefits it offers you.