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The deluge of benefits offered by the leafy greens are not concealed. Packed with nutrients that help boost immunity and prevent cancer, watercress stands out as being the superfood with multiple benefits. A member of the  Brassica family, watercress is scored top on the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) Food Scores and CDC's (Center for Disease Control) Nutrient Density list, which evaluates the nutrient content in a food. Simply put, watercress contains more iron than spinach, more vitamin C than orange and  more calcium than a glass of milk.
From the early times, watercress has been utilised for its medicinal as well as nutritional properties. The cultivation of watercress is effortless due to its fast pace of growth, and came to be known as 'poor man's food'. Although  watercress was demoted and used as a mere type of decoration, recent health trends and studies have revealed the plethora of health benefits the leafy green possess.
The regular consumption of watercress can help improve your bone health, fight infections, improve your skin and hair, improve your heart health among various others. Therefore, read on to know more about the amazing benefits of the semi-aquatic plant and the impact it can have on your body.
Nutritional Value Of Watercress
100 grams of watercress has 11 kcal of energy. It has a minute quantity of fat (0.1 gram), vitamin A (160 micrograms), thiamine (0.09 milligram), riboflavin (0.12 milligram), pantothenic acid (0.31 milligram), vitamin B6 (0.129 milligrams), iron (0.2 milligrams).
100 grams of watercress contains approximately 
- 1.29 grams carbohydrates
- 2.3 grams protein
- 95 grams water
- 120 milligrams calcium
- 21 milligrams magnesium
- 60 milligrams phosphorus
- 330 milligrams potassium
- 41 milligrams sodium
- 43 milligrams vitamin C
- 1 milligram vitamin E
- 250 micrograms vitamin K
- 9 micrograms folate
Health Benefits Of Watercress
The cruciferous leafy green, with its spicy peppery nature, is not to be avoided in your journey towards health. Get to know the advantages the semi-aquatic plant has to offer you.
1. Lowers blood pressure
Watercress has high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been proven to aid people with cardiovascular diseases. Lutein and zeaxanthin help lessen the occurrence of atherosclerosis or artery hardening, therefore reducing any hike in the blood pressure levels. Likewise, the calcium, magnesium, and potassium content in the greens have been proven to have a definite impact in reducing  blood pressure, as well as, improve the endothelial dysfunction and constrain platelet aggregation.
2. Improves bone health
The abundance of vitamin K in watercress is enough to meet your daily need. A lack of vitamin K can increase the risk of bone fractures and brittle bones. Incorporating watercress in your diet can improve your bone health by modifying the bone  matrix proteins, reducing the level of calcium excreted through urine and improves calcium absorption.
Watercress helps in reducing the risk of osteoporosis due to its calcium content and works to repair your bones by elevating the  osteoblasts production. Osteoblasts are the cells responsible for bone repairing and strengthening. Likewise, the folate content in the leafy green helps improve and maintain the bone  density.
3. Prevents cancer
The anti-carcinogenic properties of the leafy green help reduce or even prevent the onset of breast cancer. The 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) content in watercress  is proven to have preventive effects against breast cancer. It also acts as a protective shield for the tissues, during cancer treatments. Naturally, cruciferous greens are known to reduce and even prevent colon and lung cancer. The sulphur containing  compound, sulforaphane, gives the greens its cancer-fighting abilities.
Regular consumption of watercress is beneficial and a preventive method against the onset of lung, breast, and stomach cancer. A constant and continuous consumption (a period of 15 years or more) of watercress helps prevent colorectal cancer.
4. Improves thyroid gland function
Watercress is rich in iodine, the mineral which is essential for the functioning of your thyroid gland. Eating watercress will provide your body with the relevant  amount of iodine, thereby preventing any thyroid related disorders. Raw or lightly steamed watercress can help by balancing the uncontrolled production of thyroid hormones and avoid diseases like hypothyroidism or goitre.
5. Boosts immunity
Vitamin C is crucial for protecting your body against bacteria, virus, and fungi. The vitamin C content in watercress helps stimulate and improve  your immune system. The vitamins release the antioxidants which will repel the free radicals and any inflammation within your body. The elimination of the free radicals boosts and strengthens your whole immune system.
6. Improves cardiovascular health
The antioxidant carotenoid lutein content in watercress aids in preventing the onset of severe cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks  and coronary artery diseases. Being cruciferous, the leafy green helps reduce the LDL cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the possible development of cardio-related diseases. Likewise, vitamin C in watercress reduces damages caused to the heart tissue through oxidative stress by acting as an antioxidant. It also improves your cardiovascular health by transforming the embryonic cells into cardiac myocytes.
7. Prevents strokes
Studies have revealed that watercress can prevent the onset of strokes due to the high folate content. Individuals who incorporated watercress  in their daily diet were proven to have a very low risk of strokes whereas it was high in the case of individuals who did not consume folate-rich foods. The high levels of carotenoids also lower the risk of strokes.
8. Improves cognitive functioning
Consuming vitamin C can help improve your brain functions. It prevents any form of cognitive shifts or declines such as Alzheimer's or anything related to ageing, by repairing the brain tissues. Regular consumption of watercress can  help the neuron building activity, critical to your brain health. The folate content in watercress is equally beneficial in preventing the cognitive decline caused due to ageing.
9. Treats diabetes
The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid in watercress plays a central role in lowering the blood glucose levels. Incorporating watercress into your daily diet can help prevent the changes caused by oxidative stress. One of the other major roles  played by the antioxidant is in increasing the insulin sensitivity. The low fat, calories, cholesterol, and sodium content in watercress is optimal for a diabetic person because the amino acids and the fibre content will keep your stomach full and regulate the insulin and glucose level in your blood.
10. Aids in weight loss
Watercress has no fat and very low-calorie content. It is extremely beneficial if you are looking forward to losing some weight because, the high content of the amino acids  and fibre can appease your hunger for a longer period of time, as the fibre makes you feel full. This effectively avoids the constant need to snack, which is one of the major causes of weight gain.
11. Improves eyesight
Vitamin C plays an effective role in minimizing the development of cataract risk. The high amount of vitamin A in watercress also has a central role in  improving your eyesight, as the vitamin helps maintain healthy eyes and prevents the onset of any visual problems or disorders such as macular degeneration.
12. Prevents anaemia
Watercress has a high content of iron, that is responsible for the development of necessary haemoglobin. The iron  content in the leafy green plays a major role in the maturation of the red blood cells into bone marrow. Also, the vitamin C content in the green improves the iron absorption and thereby preventing any form of iron deficiency.
13. Manages gallbladder function
Studies have revealed that watercress has the potential to lower the formation of gallstones. The high water content  in the leafy green vegetables help in flushing out the toxins and clearing out any obstructions in the path of gallbladder functioning. The flushing out helps in avoiding gallbladder inflammation, as there are no restrictions in the path.
14. Prevents cough & cold
Watercress is known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties that help in preventing and curing cough and cold. Leafy vegetables, in general, are known to have cold curing powers. Sulphur glycosides present in watercress helps in curing coughs and even long-term bronchitis. The vitamin C content in watercress gets rid of cold, as it not only boosts your immunity but also gets rid of respiratory tract infections.
15. Strengthens teeth
Watercress is enriched with bountiful of calcium. An excellent source of calcium, the leafy green can be extremely beneficial  for your teeth. Regular consumption can strengthen your teeth as well as cure bleeding gums.
16. Acts as an antidepressant
A lack or low level of folate content in your body has been linked with the onset of depression. By interacting with the neurotransmitters (pathways of the central nervous system), folate impacts the production of neurochemicals (serotonin). Incorporating watercress into daily diet is known to have had a positive impact on cases with depression.
17. Relives paediatric asthma
Children suffering from asthma are advised to consume watercress on a daily basis, or according to the doctor's advise. The vitamin C content in the leafy green is proven to provide relief from asthma. The effect of watercress varies from one  child to another.
18. Helps in pregnancy
Watercress plays an important role in the development of the embryo. The folate content in the cruciferous vegetable plays a critical role in the process of cellular division, during pregnancy. Consuming watercress during pregnancy  can help reduce any embryo-related ailments.
19. Eases diarrhoea
Watercress is widely known for its high amount of fibre. The fibre helps in binding the stools and thereby reducing and gradually stopping diarrhoea. Watercress will help in easing diarrhoea, improves digestion and metabolic activities and balances the gut-flora. However, it has to be taken in controlled quantity due to its water content.
20. Cures infections
The antibiotic properties of watercress make it highly useful in curing  infections. The regular consumption of watercress improves your body by fighting off different types of fungal and bacterial infections, especially the ones in the colon and intestines.
How To Prepare Watercress For Consumption?
- Place the watercress on a chopping board.
- Use a sharp knife or scissors to trim the thick stalks from the watercress.
- Snip off dead or damaged leaves, which will be yellow or brown in colour and shrivelled.
- Wash the watercress in cold water (cold water is important, so as not to wilt the watercress before its time).
- Soak the watercress in cold water (if the watercress is a bit floppy).
- Drain and gently pat dry with a paper towel.
How To Incorporate Watercress Into Your Daily Diet?
The most common means of consuming the leafy green is by adding it in salads. However, that is not the only way to get the benefits of watercress into your body.
- Finely chop watercress and add it to pasta sauce.
- Add it in an omelette or scrambled egg.
- Use the leafy green as an extra addition in your favourite juice or smoothies.
- Sauté or semi-boil the watercress and enjoy as a side dish with chicken or fish.
- Add it to any type of soups.
- Add the leafy green to a sandwich, wrap or burger.
1. Watercress soup
- 2 potatoes
- 2 onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 3 bunches of watercress
- Peel and roughly chop the potatoes, onions and garlic.
- In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil, and sauté the potato, onion and garlic until the onions are translucent.
- Add the stock and simmer until the potato is soft.
- Chop and add the watercress and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Using a blender, liquidise the soup until smooth.
- Serve with some crackers!
What Are The Potential Health Risks?
- Long-term and large amount consumption can cause stomach issues or kidney problems.
- During pregnancy, watercress may cause a miscarriage by starting menstruation.
- If you using blood-thinners such as warfarin, it is best to begin the consumption of watercress after a consultation with your doctor.
- Before consuming, consult your doctor if you have any cardiovascular diseases.
- Avoid consuming watercress if you have intestinal or stomach ulcers.
- Avoid consuming if you have kidney diseases.
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