The Wonder of Watercress: The forgotten green making a culinary comeback

By admin
March 12, 2018

Watercress in water garden

Watercress, an aquatic plant that is a close cousin of mustard greens, kale, cabbage and arugula, has a long and storied history. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used watercress to treat patients and deemed it so important to his practice that he located his first hospital along a stream, where he could grow a plentiful supply of the ancient green. It was a staple in the diet of the Roman soldiers who conquered what was then known of the Western world. It has been grown and harvested throughout the ages and became widely popular among the working classes in 19th century England. In high society, proper ladies munched on tiny watercress and cucumber sandwiches at high tea. But over the past few decades, watercress all too often was overlooked and relegated to the lowly station of plate garnish.

Gram for gram, watercress has more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than whole milk, more vitamin E than broccoli and more folate than bananas.

Finally, partially thanks Dr. Joel Fuhrman and his Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), watercress is making a comeback and is being recognized for the super food that it is. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, two cups of fresh watercress (about 68 grams) contains only 7 calories and provides:

  • Fresh Watercress1.6 grams of protein
  • 0.1 grams of fat
  • 0.9 grams of carbohydrate (including 0.3 grams of fiber and 0.1 grams of sugar)
  • Consuming 2 cups of watercress will meet the following level of daily requirements:
  • 212 percent of vitamin K
  • 48 percent of vitamin C
  • 44 percent of vitamin A
  • 8 percent of calcium
  • 8 percent of manganese
  • 6 percent of potassium
  • Plus, 4 percent of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Health benefits of watercress for the whole body

A number of studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods, like watercress, decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight. The nutrients found in watercress may help to prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, maintain healthy bones and improve the treatment of diabetes. Following are some of the ways nutrients in watercress benefit some specific parts of the body.

  • Eyes. The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in watercress are needed in high concentrations in the lens and retina. Vitamin A and zinc are needed for night vision.
  • Liver. Glucosinolates are phytochemicals that may boost and regulate the activity of the liver’s detoxification enzymes.
  • Bones. Calcium, magnesium, manganese and vitamins A, C and K, all help to build and maintain healthy bones.
  • Hair and Nails. Iron, zinc and vitamin A are important for strong, well-shaped nails and healthy hair.
  • Skin. Vitamin’s A and C help keep skin supple and smooth and decrease the appearance of aging.
  • Immune System. Vitamin B6 is needed to make defensive antibodies and vitamins C and E help look after the specialist cells of the immune system.
  • Metabolism. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate. Vitamin B1, magnesium and iron help the body release the energy in food, boosting energy levels.

Ways to enjoy more watercress in your diet

Scrambled eggs with cressWatercress is as versatile as it is healthy. Enjoy its distinctive peppery flavor in salads, as a topping for other dishes, or add it casseroles, pasta dishes and sauces. Check out just a few ways to incorporate watercress into your favorite dishes.

  • With omelets and other egg dishes
  • In pasta sauces and soups
  • On sandwiches instead of, or in addition to, lettuce
  • Sautéed and served as a colorful side
  • Blended into a smoothie

Choose watercress with deep green crisp leaves and no signs of wilting. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few days of purchase.

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