Watercress is an aquatic plant, increasing consumption of which decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases. It leads to a healthier complexion, increases an individual's energy and also helps in reduction of weight. It helps to protect against cancer and also helps in lowering blood pressure.
Watercress is a rapidly growing aquatic plant, said to be one of the oldest leaf vegetables known to man. It is a dark, leafy green vegetable which grows in spring water. It is a brassica family member along with kale, broccoli, arugula and brussel sprouts. It has a hollow stem which floats while the leafy structure has a feather-like arrangement where leaves arise from both sides of a common axis. It has a tangy, peppery flavour with crunchy stems.
Watercress was known to be a staple diet of the ancient Roman soldiers. Watercress sandwiches was a staple of the working class in England. It contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than a banana. Watercress contains vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, calcium and phoshorous which are all required for a healthy body and mind.
It has effective cancer preventive phytonutrients that helps in preventing as well as stops the recurrence of lung, stomach as well as breast cancer. It has a high content of chlorophyll which helps in blocking the carcinogenic effects of foods which are grilled at very high temperatures as they contain heterocyclic amines.
Watercress is a member of the brassica family of cruciferous vegetable which has shown to have beneficial effects in thyroid health. Watercress like other brassicas work by reducing thyroid hormone production and are most effective when eaten raw. Watercress may also be lightly steamed so it doesn’t lose any of its nutritional value.
Watercress is also a good source of folate which plays a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density. Post-menopausal women may also benefit from folate in their diet as a preventive against osteoporosis. Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health. Eating just one cup of watercress helps to meet the daily need for vitamin K.
Low folate levels increase the risk of depression thus watercress is an important dietary supplement which helps to prevent this chronic disease.
Folate is important in the development of a healthy embryo. The consumption of 400mcg of folate has shown to reduce embryo related ailments in pregnant women.
Watercress contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.
Watercress contains vitamin C which helps in reducing the risk of cataract development.
Consumption of foods rich in vitamin C may be beneficial in preventing cognitive changes as related to Alzheimer’s and aging and protecting and repairing brain tissues. It also works to reduce bleeding when stroke has occurred. Daily intake of watercress may benefit in preventing damage and improving the outcomes of brain injury.
Watercress contains vitamin C which helps to build immunity and reduces the risk of catching a cold by 66%.
Children who suffer from asthama need to include foods rich in vitamin C in their daily diet. Watercress may help such children to provide relief from asthama.
Watercress is mostly used fresh in salads and may also be incorporated in pastas, casseroles and various sauces. It may also be used in soups for a subtle peppery flavour. It is also a standard ingredient for sandwiches in Britain during high tea.
Watercress contains a very high level of dietary nitrate. High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, and enhance athletic performance. Two cups of fresh watercress (about 68 grams) contains only 7 calories.
For individuals taking blood-thinners it is important to not suddenly begin eating more or fewer foods containing vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting. If improperly stored, nitrate-containing vegetable juice may accumulate bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite and contaminate the juice.
High levels of nitrite can be potentially harmful if consumed. Very high intake of cruciferous vegetables have been found to cause a decrease in thyroid hormone function in animals. It is better to eat a diet rich in variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
In the United Kingdom, watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 by the horticulturist William Bradbery, along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent. Watercress is now grown in Hertfordshire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. The town of Alresford, near Winchester, holds a Watercress Festival.
In recent years, watercress has become more widely available in the UK, at least in the southeast; it is stocked pre-packed in some supermarkets, as well as fresh by the bunch at farmers' markets and greengrocers. In the United States in the 1940s, Huntsville, Alabama, was locally known as the 'watercress capital of the world'.