Watercress whose botanic name is Nasturtium officianale is an aquatic plant which bears small, round, slightly scalloped leaves, which, in summer, produce tiny white flowers that become small pods with two rows of edible seeds.
Watercress is low in calories but contains phytonutrients like isothiocyanates and antioxidants with a plethora of disease-preventive properties. Gluconasturtiin, a glucosinolate compound providing the peppery flavor, contained in the leaves and stems and providing phenethyl isothiocyanates, has been shown to inhibit carcinogens.
Watercress contains vitamin K which aids in the formation and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease. There’s also vitamin C, with 72% of the daily value, closely followed by vitamin A with 64%. Vitamin C provides top-notch infection-fighting power to stave off colds and flu, help maintain healthy connective tissue, and prevent iron deficiency. Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is essential for a properly functioning immune system and produces pigments in the retina of the eye, an absence of which can cause night blindness.
It also contains manganese which is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and calcium for strong bones and teeth come in high doses when you eat watercress. Antioxidant flavonoids like ß carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein protect from lung and mouth cancers. B-complex vitamins include riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid, all important for keeping your cellular metabolic functions at peak performance.
Nutrition Value of Watercress
Amount Per 100 grams
- Calories 11
- Total Fat 0.1 g
- Cholesterol 0 mg
- Sodium 41 mg – 1% RDA
- Potassium 330 mg – 9% RDA
- Total Carbohydrate 1.3 g
- Dietary fiber 0.5 g – 2% RDA
- Sugar 0.2 g
- Protein 2.3 g – 4% RDA
- Vitamin A 63% RDA
- Vitamin C 71% RDA
- Calcium 12% RDA
- Iron 1% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 5% RDA
- Magnesium 5% RDA
Nutrition Health Benefits of Watercress
10 Nutrition Health Benefits of Watercress
1. Reduces Cancer Risk
The phytochemical compound, that gives watercress their bitter flavor, stimulates the body’s natural defense promoting cellular protection.
Watercress is rich in vitamin C, which is also beneficial in reducing oxidative stress caused by cancer in high concentrations and preventing tumors. Folate is also is associated with low risk of cancer.
The antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene has anti carcinogenic properties as they help neutralise free radicals that may lead to cancer.
Scientific research found that the phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) in watercress may suppress breast cancer cell development. Studies at the University of Southampton study found PEITC may starve tumor growth of blood and oxygen by “turning off” a signal in the body. Researchers explained that “as tumors develop, they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply so they send out signals that make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumor, which feed them oxygen and nutrients.”
2. Heart Health
Watercress has shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL or bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and other chronic heart diseases.6 Watercress contains vitamin C which works as an antioxidant and helps in reducing heart tissue damage caused by oxidative stress. Vitamin C is an active component in the process of embryonic cells developing into cardiac myocytes and improving heart health.
3. Strengthens Bones
Watercress contains calcium which helps in repairing and building the bones by causing an increase in the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for strengthening bones. Watercress is also a good source of folate which plays a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density.
4. Foetal Development
Folate is essential for pregnant women as it helps reduce the risk of birth defects such as neural tube defect in babies as it plays a crucial role in a normal cellular division. Additionally, consumption of at least 400mcg of folate daily by pregnant women is shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube deficiency.
5. Acts as an antidepressant
Folate in watercress works with neurotransmitters, the pathways of the central nervous system, affecting production of neurochemicals such as serotonin thereby helping reduce depression. A meta-analysis of 19 studies, inclusive of 15,315 participants, showed that low folate level increases the risk of depression.
6. Brain Health
Consumption of vitamin C rich foods may be beneficial in preventing cognitive changes related to Alzheimer’s and aging; it also helps in protecting and repairing the brain tissues. It also works to reduce bleeding when the stroke has occurred.Other results have shown that those having sustained traumatic head injury often have lower blood concentrations of vitamin C. These studies suggest that the daily intake of vitamin C rich food
such as watercress may benefit in preventing damage and improving the outcomes of brain injury. In fact, high concentration of vitamin C may play a role in neuron building activity.
7. Eye Care
Watercress has high content of phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidants and help prevent oxidative stress on the eye thereby reducing eye problems. Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is essential for production of pigments in the retina of the eye, an absence of which can cause night blindness.
A European study suggests that vitamin C might be effective in reducing the risk of cataract development. An inclusion of watercress with a good amount of vitamin C may be beneficial in protection against cataracts.
8. Aids in Digestion
Watercress has high level of dietary fiber which ads bulk to the stool and helps in the bowel movement thereby reducing the risk of constipation and also diarrhea. The fiber also stimulates salivary and gastric secretions which aids in digestion.
9. Blood Sugar Level Regulation
The soluble fiber in watercress helps control blood sugar levels and prevent high blood sugar by reducing the absorption of carbohydrates from the intestine.
It also 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.Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral and autonomic neuropathy in
10. Treats Colds and cough
The sulphur glycosides found in watercress have been shown to modify bronchial secretions and exert an expectorant effect, which can be used to treat many forms of chronic bronchitis.
Vitamin C rich food is an effective remedy for common cold.3 A study on this immune protective ability of vitamin C shows that consuming food rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of a cold by 66 %.
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