Why Is Watercress Considered the Most Nutritious?Watercress is packed with nutrients with a perfect nutrient density score of 100, meaning that it provides maximum nutrients for minimal calories. The score ranks watercress first among 41 common fruits and vegetables, outperforming even nutrient-dense greens such as spinach, kale, and broccoli. In other words, ounce for ounce, watercress delivers more essential vitamins and minerals than any other plant food.
Why You Should Eat More WatercressAdding watercress to your meals can provide numerous health benefits.
Watercress has a list of noteworthy benefits, Emma Laing, director of dietetics at the University of Georgia and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told The Epoch Times.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in leafy greens such as watercress have been shown to improve cardiovascular, gut, brain, eye, and bone health, according to Ms. Laing.
1. Lowers Risk of Chronic Diseases, Including CancerWatercress contains a wealth of antioxidants that work to counteract free radicals in cells, shielding against or lessening the harm caused by oxidation by curbing inflammation in the body. All of this can lower the risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease and many types of cancer.
2. Manages the ‘3 Highs’High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar are nicknamed the "three highs" because they often coexist with central obesity, together forming what's known as metabolic syndrome.
- Blood sugar level: Researchers found that watercress extracts can improve blood sugar and lipid levels in diabetic rats, suggesting potential benefits for managing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and dyslipidemia (unhealthy fats) in humans. The fiber in watercress may also help to control blood sugar, as fiber can't be broken down as with other carbs, preventing spikes.
- Cholesterol: The same study on diabetic rats suggested that watercress extracts could significantly lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol after four weeks, as compared with control subjects. This reduction in lipids could decrease coronary disease risk. Another study in rats found that just 10 days of watercress extract supplementation reduced total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by 34.2 percent and 52.9 percent, respectively.
- Blood pressure: Watercress has been used in traditional medicine to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). The potassium, magnesium, and calcium contained in watercress may lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. In addition, “the presence of dietary nitrates (in watercress) can enhance cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure and arterial stiffness,” according to Krutika Nanavati, a New Zealand-based registered nutritionist and dietitian. Watercress also contains isoflavones that can lower high blood pressure by relaxing and widening blood vessels.
3. Strengthens BonesWatercress's abundant vitamin K, calcium, and isoflavones may help to maintain bone health.
4. Improves Gut Health and Enhances the Immune SystemWatercress contains cruciferous vegetable derivative phenylethyl isothiocyanate, a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-cancer effects. It may improve gut health by disrupting cell membranes and enzymes and causing cell death in harmful gut bacteria.
5. Nourishes Skin and HairThe many vitamins and antioxidants in watercress may promote healthy skin and hair.
“Its abundant vitamin A helps create healthy skin cells, decreasing problems like acne, dry skin, and early aging,” Ms. Nanavati said.
6. Hydrates the BodyWith a 95 percent water content, watercress provides hydration almost like drinking water. As a natural diuretic, it can also help the body to flush out excess fluid and salt, reducing bloating, lowering blood pressure, and improving conditions such as hypertension.
Potential Adverse Effects of WatercressA sudden surge in vitamin K intake can lead to blood clotting, and a sudden drop in its consumption may pose a risk of bleeding. Therefore, people on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin should exercise caution when consuming watercress. Ideally, they should maintain a consistent daily intake of this vegetable.
How to Best Eat WatercressThe peppery, slightly bitter taste of watercress makes it a versatile ingredient.
“Adding it to milder-tasting foods, such as eggs, cheese, rice, pasta, or stir-fry, pureed in a soup, or blending it into a pesto or a smoothie will improve its palatability,” Ms. Laing said.
You can also use watercress as a garnish for meats or fish, according to Ms. Nanavati.
When incorporating watercress into your diet, enjoy it in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, she said.