Watercress: 12 benefits and ways to consume

The watercress is a vegetable used in various recipes of everyday life and can be easily found in most countries of the world. Due to its nutritional characteristics, it can bring a series of health benefits, especially for the skin and the immune system , and may even prevent cancer!

No wonder that this vegetable occupies the first place in the list of Powehouse Fruits and Vegetables, which lists the fruits and vegetables that have the highest nutrient density and, consequently, the greatest number of benefits. ( 1 )

According to nutritionist Paula Morcelli, watercress “is a vegetable rich in iodine, iron , sulfur, phosphorus, vitamin A, C, E and complex B and has very low calories.” This composition makes it an excellent option to include in the diet, aiming at the body’s health and well-being in general.

The benefits of watercress for the diet

Also according to the nutritionist, “the vitamin C present in watercress helps to eliminate free radicals, preventing cancer, premature aging and improving immunity. The B complex vitamins, on the other hand, help in the proper functioning of the digestive system and motor coordination”.

Check out some of the main benefits that watercress can bring to your health:

1. Strengthening the immune system

Thanks to the presence of vitamin C, B9 and folic acid, watercress is able to strengthen the immune system, by stimulating the production of white blood cells and fighting the antioxidants present in the body.

2. Preventing heart disease and lowering blood pressure

This vegetable is rich in vitamin C , K and potassium. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cells. Vitamin K, known as “anti-hemorrhagic”, contributes precisely to blood clotting and the healing process .

Finally, potassium acts in the body by reducing blood pressure and, consequently, also reducing the risk of a stroke , for example. In addition, watercress also helps reduce and control LDL cholesterol .

3. Prevention of anemia

Folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, is well known for helping to prevent and combat some types of anemia . This is because this acid plays a key role in the body’s accumulation of proteins. Its deficiency is associated with blood disorders. Because it has this nutrient in abundance, eating watercress avoids these problems.

4. Pregnancy assistance

Folic acid is also essential for pregnancy, as it is directly related to the healthy development of the baby , preventing cases of anencephaly and other complications.

5. Hormonal and thyroid control

Watercress is rich in nutrients that act directly to control thyroid hormones. This benefit is directly linked to the presence of iodine , a substance that enables the thyroid to produce the necessary hormones.

6. Strengthening of bones and muscles

Vegetables contain vitamin K. In the right amounts, this nutrient contributes to the body’s absorption of calcium , strengthening bones and muscles.

7. Slimming aid

Low calories and high nutritional value are the main reasons why watercress is known as an ally of weight loss . It helps to promote satiety , making it possible to eat less and have all the nutrients necessary for the full functioning of the body.

In addition, it also has diuretic and astringent properties , preventing fluid retention and helping to eliminate toxins.

8. Controlling blood sugar levels

This point is beneficial both to help with weight loss and for the prevention of diabetes . After all, consuming watercress contributes to the control of blood sugar levels and, consequently, of glucose.

9. Improvement of the respiratory system

Watercress is known to alleviate the symptoms of various respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and rhinitis , thanks to the presence of anti-inflammatory and antioxidants in its structure.

10. Vision Benefits

Among the antioxidants present in watercress are lutein and zeaxanthin, from the carotenoid family, compounds well-known for their benefits for overall eye health. Either by preventing the development of cataracts , fighting ocular degeneration or protecting against the action of blue light – a spectrum present, above all, in LED lamps and which causes damage to the human eye. ( 2 )

11. Fighting cancer

The increased intake of this type of vegetable is directly linked to the reduction in the risk of cancer, mainly due to the presence of antioxidants and glucosinolate, the substance responsible for the spicy taste of watercress. ( 2 )

12. Contributes to fighting depression

The level of folic acid in the body is related to about 40% of cases of depression development, because this substance acts in the production of serotonin , which is responsible for regulating mood. ( 3 ) Watercress balances mood, avoiding peaks of sadness, which are very common in depression diagnoses.

Watercress Nutritional Table

100 gram servingAmount per serving
Energetic value17 Kcal
Protein2,7 g
Cholesterol –
Carbohydrate2,3 g
Fiber2,1 g
Calcium113 mg
Match51 mg
Ferro3,1 mg
Sodium7 mg
Potassium218 mg
C vitamin60,1 mg
Magnesium18 mg

* Daily reference values ​​based on a 2000kcal or 8400kj diet. Your daily values ​​can be higher or lower depending on your energy needs. Data taken from TACO, revised and expanded edition. ( 4 )

How to include the consumption of watercress in the food routine?

There are several ways to include this vegetable in your daily life, it all depends on your food preferences and habits you already have.

In nature

According to Paula Morcelli, the consumption of this vegetable in its raw version is the most recommended. Since, in this format, its properties are better utilized. For this, the best option is to eat with salads .

Miscellaneous recipes

Another very common possibility is to add some watercress leaves to fruit juices or detox drinks. It can also be used to season soups or saute  with garlic and onions. The leaves of this vegetable can be used as a substitute for lettuce or as an integral part of any recipe, such as pesto, for example.

Syrup

If mixed with honey, it becomes an excellent ally  in combating lung and respiratory problems, such as tuberculosis, bronchitis and coughs in general.

How much to consume?

If possible, try to consume up to one cup of watercress a day. However, it is worth looking for a nutrition professional to follow a balanced diet.

Characteristics and flavor

Watercress is a type of vegetable originating in Asia and Europe. Its scientific name is Nasturtium odddicinali and is known for its peppery, stinging flavor . Due to its status as a bitter food, it ended up not being widely accepted by the population.

To get around this problem, nutritionist Paula explains that “what can be done to soften this flavor is to combine this food with other softer and more differentiated ones”. 

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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