Watercress is a great superfood; gram for gram it is richer in Vitamin C than oranges, and higher in iron than spinach. It's also packed with Beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes.
Watercress (nasturtium officinale) belongs to the family Cruciferea, also known as the crucifers; the mustard and cabbage vegetables. It is one of the oldest known green vegetables and has a peppery flavor similar to cress and mustard. It is an aquatic plant, meaning it grows well in water, and the best watercress is grown in pure, fast-flowing, slightly alkaline water. This avoids the risk of contamination from pollution.
Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. The deep green leaves are also fantastic sources of the phytochemicals (plant chemicals) lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants and can mop up potentially damaging free radicals. Quercetin, a type of flavonoid and a powerful antioxidant, is also found in greater quantities in watercress than broccoli and tomatoes.
A study conducted in 2007 found that eating watercress regularly could help cut the chances of developing cancer. The work, carried out by the University of Ulster found that watercress cut DNA damage to white blood cells - considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.
"The results support the theory that consumption of watercress can be linked to a reduced risk of cancer via decreased damage to DNA and possible modulation of antioxidant status by increasing carotenoid concentrations."
Another study found that watercress contained a group of compounds including one called phenylethyl isothiocyanate which together could induce cell apoptosis (cell death), stopping potential carcinogens from becoming carcinogenic and stimulating cell defenses against carcinogenic assaults.
Tips on Using Watercress
References for further reading
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