Do you eat watercress? You should. Why? It’s tasty and healthy. Not sure how to get it into your diet? Don’t worry. We give you some great ideas and background on what makes watercress so good for you.
Spring has sprung. And with it, a new crop of fresh, delicious veggies are about to be hitting your dinner plates. If you’re looking to mix up your normal menu (there’s much more to life than iceberg lettuce salads and steamed broccoli), there’s no shortage of tasty new choices to try that come along with a new season. There’s no debating though, not all produce is created equal.
The term superfoods are one that often gets tossed around. But, no one can deny that some veggies are simply more nutritiously dense than others.
What exactly is a superfood?
The definition is a particularly nutrient-rich food that provides you with a powerful boost to your health and well-being.
You’re likely envisioning seas of kale and beets when you think of superfoods. But, one often-overlooked star that should have a regular spot on your plate from here on out is watercress.
What is it?
It’s the delicate-looking green that you’ll love not just for its surprisingly spicy flavor, but also the impressive nutrient profile.
What does it have to offer?
What’s the best way to get it into your diet?
We give you all the info you need to know about this underrated (until now) superfood green, and how you can work it into your diet this spring.
What Is Watercress?
If you’re like many people, you might not even know what watercress looks like. If that’s the case, then you clearly wouldn’t know how to pick it out of the produce section, much less why you should pick some up or what to do with it once you have. Watercress is hardly a mainstay in most modern diets. That doesn’t matter.
We think that should be changing soon.
Watercress is a leafy green, similar to collards, arugula or kale. It’s a member of the cruciferous family of veggies, along with stuff like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and arugula. Though it might be a relative stranger to most Americans, reserved usually for little more than a plate garnish, this veggie was a superstar in Ancient times. The father of medicine, Hippocrates, used it to treat his sick patients.
Watercress sandwiches were a staple of British diets up until the 19th century, and for good reason. Sometime after that, watercress was pushed aside as nothing more than a poor man’s food and became largely forgotten.
In appearance, it doesn’t look much more impressive than a common leafy weed. It’s smaller and more delicate than its heartier cousins like kale or mustard. An aquatic plant, watercress is often found in nature growing alongside streams and creeks, and as easy as it is to overlook, it shouldn’t be. In terms of both nutrients and flavor, it’s hard to beat.
Watercress Benefits And Health Perks
Watercress belongs to a supercharged class of veggie that has the power of specifically targeting the prevention of cancer.
How does it work its magic?
A number of studies have looked at a compound found in cruciferous veggies like watercress, which is known as 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM). This substance protects the body against cancer, but also plays a vital role once cancer has already occurred, in protecting the healthy organs.
On a study done with rats, those who were given DIM and then received radiation treatment were far better equipped to survive the radiation. The rats that weren’t given DIM died from it. Veggies with DIM have proven to specifically lower risks of lung and colon cancer. This comes thanks in part to sulfur-containing compounds. These have been shown to slow down or even entirely prevent many types of the disease.
If this weren’t reason enough to load your plate high with watercress, the green fights off disease and keeps your functioning at top notch by making sure common nutritional holes in your diet are filled. Let’s take a look at its nutritional lineup and how the vitamins and minerals in a serving of watercress can boost your health.
Watercress is unusually high in everything from calcium, vitamin C, K, A and B. Surprisingly, this little modest weedy plant has more bio-available iron in it than spinach does. Remember Popeye? He always ate spinach.
Spinach always gets the fame and glory for its iron content. It turns out Popeye should have eaten watercress.
Watercress Nutrition & Vitamins!
Vitamin C – You’ve no doubt heard of it since you were little and told to eat oranges and another citrus for your dose of C.
But did you know that watercress is also a great source of the crucial immunity-boosting vitamin?
A two-cup serving of these greens knocks out right at half of your daily dose. This ensures you’re able to fight off common colds and flu, plus heal and repair connective tissue. It also works to maintain the health of blood vessels, skin and fight off cancer-causing free radicals, just to touch on some of its perks.
Vitamin K – Believe it or not, just two little cups of watercress gives you more than 200% of the RDA of vitamin K. This vitamin is crucial for blood health, specifically the ability of blood to properly clot to prevent excessive bleeding. Vitamin K mainly comes from leafy greens such as watercress. You can also get it from meats, cheese, and eggs. If you’re on a vegetarian or plant-based diet, all the more reason to chow down on your greens to get your K in.
Vitamin A: A two-cup serving of watercress takes care of 44% of your RDA for vitamin A. This is a non-negotiable nutrient in terms of maintaining neurological function, healthy vision, clear skin, immunity and reducing inflammation, which is a root cause of many of the chronic diseases running rampant in our country.
Calcium – We all know you can’t build and maintain healthy strong bones or ward off diseases like osteoporosis, without ample doses of daily calcium. If choking down a calcium chew or chalky tablet every day doesn’t sound appealing, then you’re lucky.
Plenty of natural sources are packed with the mineral. Watercress gives you 8% of the RDA in just two cups. You’ve likely heard that animal products like milk and yogurt help strengthen your bones.
Leafy greens are just as good of an option.
Potassium – There’s truly a laundry list of reasons your body simply must have plenty of potassium to function properly. Not the least of which is its role in maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance, and keeping your heart, brain and muscle tissues healthy. Without enough potassium, none of the cellular function in the body can work as designed. So load up on watercress, along with other superfoods like spinach and sweet potato, to make sure you are getting your dose.
Dietary Nitrate – Not as well known as the nutrients we’ve just mentioned, dietary nitrate is a powerful component of watercress. It’s also something of a natural performance booster for athletes and anyone looking to improve their athletic performance. Eating a diet rich in nitrates can lower blood pressure. It can also allow your body to perform at peak condition with less required oxygen.
Watercress Recipes You Have To Try Out
Are you thinking it’s time to add watercress to your menu?
You won’t regret it. With that in mind, we give you some recipes. These will ensure you not only get a healthy dose of watercress into your diet, but you’ll also enjoy it.
Watercress Salad, Avocado, And Pineapple.
2 bunches watercress
2.5 pound pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into four 1-inch thick slices
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice or cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large avocado
1 small onion, slivered
Begin by prepping the watercress. Wash bunches in a colander with cold water to make sure all traces of sand and dirt are cleaned off. Pick off any sub-par leaves and the stems.
You’ll only want the tender leaves for this. Pat dry and keep in the fridge while making the rest of the salad.
Take your peeled, sliced pineapple rings and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and place in the oven, set to broil. Put the slices on a baking tray and place about 4 inches away from the heat. Let it brown on each side for about 5 to 10 minutes max, flipping over once. Take out once they’re golden brown and cut into one-inch chunks.
Assemble your dressing with garlic, olive oil, and vinegar or lime, cumin, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and adjust for taste as necessary.
Peel and cut avocado into one-inch cubes. Assemble salad with watercress, tossed with half the dressing, then add the broiled pineapple and avocado and toss with the remainder. Garnish with slivered red onion and serve.
This feeds six to eight.
Cold Noodle Salad With Watercress And Mint
2 cups cucumber noodles (about one large cucumber) using a 1/8-inch 3mm noodle blade
1/2 cup watercress, torn or chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup almond, sliced
Sesame seeds for garnish
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon mandarin orange, freshly squeezed juice
2 thin slices of ginger root, fresh
Small pinch of salt
The cucumber noodles are naturally very damp. You’ll want to remove any unnecessary liquids by dabbling them with a paper towel. Leave them wrapped in the paper towel to dry up as much as possible while you make the rest of the dish.
Assemble the dressing by whisking together the mandarin orange juice, rice vinegar, ginger root and toasted sesame oil in a small bowl. Let this sit for 20 minutes. During that time, every so often press down on the ginger slices with a spoon to squeeze out the flavor.
In a large bowl, combine the watercress, cucumber noodles and mint, and gently toss, using your hands. Next, add the sliced almonds. Dish the salad up into the bowls you’re serving it in, take out the ginger slices from the assembled dressing and drizzle it over the salad.
Watercress Sandwich With Turkey
2 slices white or whole-wheat sandwich bread
1 Tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 ounces roasted turkey, sliced thin
1/4 apple, sliced thin
1/2 cup watercress, removed thick stems
This one is so simple it’s hardly a recipe. You can switch up the turkey for your favorite lunch meat. If you’re on a plant-based diet, you could even switch it out for veggie-friendly burgers or tofu. Spread the bread with butter and then make a sandwich using the turkey (or whatever you like), apple and watercress.
With the increases in rates of cancer, this little plant can play a vital role in protecting your body and strengthening your DNA from the inside out. If you’ve taxed your body from harmful actions like smoking, or even healthy ones that still cause a drain on your system, watercress can literally help to repair internal damage.
Sure there are supplements you can pop.
But, nothing beats the real thing. So load up on fresh watercress regularly. Experts suggest eating it at least several times per week.
With the majority of deaths in this country caused by largely preventable chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke, eating watercress should be a no-brainer. When you consider its proven ability to fight disease, prevent illness and pack in your daily vitamins while adding some spice to your plate, it really makes you wonder:
Why aren’t more people eating watercress?
And, for those who aren’t, what are you waiting for?
By Emmy Schneider-Green
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