Formerly considered a weed, nowadays people can enjoy watercress as a remedy straight from the garden and benefit from its many health benefits on a daily basis. Watercress is a dark, green, leafy vegetable that grows in natural spring water. In the past, people only used the leaf greens as a side dish. However, it is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Watercress as a remedy is one of the newest superfoods. But why is watercress so healthy? In this post we try to answer these and other questions as detailed as possible for you.
Why is watercress considered a remedy?
Watercress superfood used to be an often overlooked leafy green that contains many healthy nutrients. The small, round leaves and edible stems have a peppery, slightly spicy taste. The plant belongs to the cruciferous family, which also includes kale, broccoli, arugula, and Brussels sprouts. Possibly due to the watercress effect, this was a staple food for Roman soldiers. Watercress cultivation began in Great Britain in the early 19th century and today the green usually also grows in watery beds.
So if you want to eat a low-calorie diet, watercress contains nutrients and vitamins that can meet your daily needs. The newfound popularity is also, in part, due to a growing awareness of the dense nutrient content. For this reason, in this article, we explain the benefits of watercress, provide a breakdown of its nutrients, and outline the potential health risks for certain individuals. We also offer ideas on which watercress can be good for what and how you can include more of it in your diet.
Lower the risk of chronic diseases
High levels of antioxidants can lower the risk of developing chronic diseases. Watercress is full of herbal compounds that are considered antioxidants and protect against cell damage caused by free radicals. The latter are harmful molecules that lead to oxidative stress. In addition, medicine links oxidative stress to several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately, diets high in antioxidant foods like watercress can help protect against oxidative stress, which can lower your risk for these diseases.
A study of the antioxidants in 12 different cruciferous vegetables found over 40 unique flavonoids, a type of plant chemical found in watercress. In fact, watercress outperformed all other protein-rich vegetables in terms of total amount of phenols and ability to neutralize free radicals. In addition, studies have linked the antioxidants in watercress to lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
How healthy is watercress – watercress as a remedy for blood pressure
People who do not consume enough calcium, magnesium, and potassium are at risk of high blood pressure. These minerals are believed to lower blood pressure by releasing sodium from the body and helping to widen the arteries. In addition, it is important to note that taking these substances in supplement form does not provide the same health benefits as a healthy diet. So the fact that watercress is so healthy has to do with the fact that it contains all three of these healthy minerals. Correspondingly, this can help improve the uptake.
According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods like watercress that contain dietary nitrates have several blood vessel benefits. These benefits include lowering blood pressure, inhibiting platelet build-up, and maintaining or improving endothelial dysfunction. In general, research has shown that a diet that includes all kinds of fruits and vegetables can help a person maintain healthy blood pressure. In addition, watercress can also help lower cholesterol, which can improve heart health.
Healthy bones thanks to watercress vitamins
Vitamin K is a component of osteocalcin, a protein that forms healthy bone tissue and helps regulate bone turnover. A low intake of vitamin K can increase the risk of a broken bone. Sufficient vitamin K consumption improves bone health by modifying bone-building proteins. This will improve the body’s absorption of calcium while reducing the amount of calcium a person loses in the urine. So, consuming just one cup of watercress a day would help you meet your daily vitamin K needs. Watercress is also a good source of calcium, which can further support your bone development and strength. Watercress improves digestive function due to its high content of vitamin C and fiber, which stimulate saliva and gastric secretion and the motility of the intestinal tract.
Using watercress as a remedy for daily consumption can also have positive effects on your blood sugar. The green leaf contains the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid. This compound ensures, for example, a lower level of glucose. It also increases insulin sensitivity and prevents changes caused by oxidative stress that are common in people with diabetes. Studies on alpha lipoic acid have also shown that it can reduce nerve damage in people with diabetes. However, the dietary effects are still not entirely clear.
A 2019 study of 60 women with gestational diabetes found that daily alpha-lipoic acid supplementation reduced several markers of the disease. Other research from 2019 on 135 participants with type 2 diabetes found that a 600 milligram (mg) dose of alpha lipoic acid significantly reduced many signs of the condition. However, most of the studies used intravenous doses. There is uncertainty as to whether eating alpha lipoic acid in food offers the same benefits.
Provision of nutritional nitrates
Watercress, along with beetroot and other leafy vegetables, contains very high levels of dietary nitrate, which increases nitric oxide and can have positive effects on health. A 2019 study in rats showed that high intake of dietary nitrate can lower blood pressure. Further research into the effects of high doses of nutritional nitrates on humans has shown that it can decrease a person’s oxygen needs during exercise and improve athletic performance. However, another study found that moderate intake of nutritional nitrates doesn’t seem to have the same effects on exercise. So, more research in this area is needed to confirm the benefits of dietary nitrates.
Watercress as a cure for certain types of cancer
So what is watercress good for when it comes to cancer? Since the leaves are rich in phytochemicals, this can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Watercress and other vegetables in this family contain glucosinolates, which are turned into compounds called isothiocyanates when cut or chewed with a knife. In addition, isothiocyanates include chemicals such as sulforaphane and phenylethyl isothiocyanate. These compounds prevent cancer by protecting healthy cells from damage, inactivating cancer-causing chemicals, and blocking the growth and spread of tumors.
Isothiocyanates found in watercress have also been shown to prevent colon, lung, prostate and skin cancers. Research has shown that the isothiocyanates and sulforaphane contained in watercress suppress the growth of breast cancer cells. The natural product not only prevents cancer, but is also used in homeopathy against infections of the urinary tract. You can even use watercress to treat the skin if there are age spots or blemishes, for example. When used topically, watercress juice can be helpful in relieving skin eczema and other skin conditions. Its high levels of vitamins A and C, which are best obtained through juicing, therefore have a positive effect on skin health.
Vitamin C for a strong immune system
Watercress contains 15 mg of vitamin C per cup (34 grams), which is 20% of the daily requirement for women and 17% for men. Vitamin C is known for its beneficial effects on immune health. Vitamin C deficiency has been linked to decreased immune function and increased inflammation. In addition, ascorbic acid strengthens immunity by increasing the production of white blood cells that fight infections. Studies in the general population have not conclusively shown that vitamin C reduces the risk of colds, but they reduce the duration of symptoms by 8%.
Watercress nutrients for weight loss
Although not specifically studied, watercress may have weight management benefits as well. It’s an extremely nutrient-dense food – one cup (34 grams) contains only four calories, but provides several important nutrients. This can help you eat very few calories, which can therefore help you lose weight. So if you’re struggling to lose weight, adding these nutritious, low-calorie vegetable to your diet is certainly worth a try.
For people treating a bleeding disorder with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin, it is important not to suddenly change their vitamin K intake. This is because vitamin K plays an essential role in blood clotting and can interfere with some medications, including warfarin. Failure to refrigerate vegetable juice that contains nitrates can lead to a buildup of bacteria. These bacteria convert nitrate to nitrite and contaminate the juice. High levels of nitrite can be potentially harmful. People with cystitis should avoid or limit their consumption of watercress as it can lead to bladder pain. Those with hyperthyroidism may also want to limit watercress consumption due to its high iodine content. If you are on any medication, you should consult your doctor before eating watercress or drinking its juice. Watercress is so wonderfully effective in all its goodness that it can react with the medicines you are taking.
A 2016 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association compiled evidence from researchers at a workshop held by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. They made associations between high nitrite levels and an increased risk of gastric cancer. Because of this, you should take care to keep juices refrigerated, including those that contain watercress. Despite these risks, watercress is a very nutritious and versatile leafy green. People can include it as part of a balanced diet. Individuals should eat a varied diet that includes many different fruits and vegetables as key to healthy living.
A versatile addition to any meal
You can use watercress as a remedy in a variety of dishes as well. However, to get the most benefit from the active antioxidants, it’s best to eat the green leaf raw or lightly steamed. So here are some simple ways you can add it to your diet, such as a watercress salad:
- Prepare a watercress recipe towards the end of the cooking process as a watercress soup.
- Use the green leaves to make a sandwich.
- You can even make pesto with watercress by mixing it with garlic and olive oil.
- Watercress goes perfectly with eggs that you can serve with it.
In summary, it can be said that watercress is a powerful vegetable and contains several important nutrients, but is extremely low in calories. The plant contains a wide variety of antioxidants that can lower the risk of heart disease and various types of cancer. The cress is also a good source of minerals that protect your bones. In addition, watercress is a delicious addition to any meal and a nice change from the usual salad or spinach. While hardly one of the most popular vegetables, watercress can be an excellent addition to your diet because of its nutritional profile.