The health benefits of watercress are providing nutrition, boosting immunity, cancer preventive, and thyroid support. These health benefits begin with a single serving of watercress as a dietary supplement.
Watercress is a cruciferous plant grown for centuries as a mineral rich green leafy vegetable.1 A brassica family member of plant genus, Watercress has the health benefits of other brassica’s.1 This health benefit is obtained from the high content of vitamins and minerals and the antioxidant properties of the phyto chemical structure of watercress plant.1
Nutritional value of Watercress
Weight for weight, watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.1 Each phyto nutrient is where the health benefits of watercress are contained. These phyto nutrients and their benefits will now be discussed. Watercress contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus which are all required for a healthy body.
Health Benefits of Watercress
Watercress as Anti-carcinogenic
Breast Cancer: Watercress has such effective cancer preventive phytonutrient that even eating a single salad shows increase of molecules into the body’s circulatory system that may prevent and stop the recurrence of breast cancer.2 Based on a study those who ate at least 80 grams of watercress on a daily basis were shown to have beneficial results.2
Another study on the anti carcinogenic abilities of watercress showed great benefit when added to the diet as a cancer preventive for stomach and lung cancer as well as breast cancer.3
Watercress is shown to be effective in reversing DNA damage to white blood cell.2 This study of cigarette smokers who participated in eating 85g of fresh watercress daily had a 22.9 percent decrease in cellular structure damage.3 Also the cells were more able to protect themselves as shown when hydrogen peroxide was introduced to the cells and the damage was 9.4 percent lower than expected. 3
These studies suggest that the phytochemical compound that gives watercress and other cruciferous vegetables is also what gives them their bitter flavor.3 This phytochemical stimulates the bodies’ natural defense promoting cellular protection, The same study states that the anti-carcinogenic benefits may be from the antioxidants lutein and beta carotene since these were determined to be at elevated levels in the blood stream of participants.3 These studies conclude that there are benefits in the addition of watercress to the everyday diet including preventing the recurrence of breast cancer as well as preventing onset.3
Watercress is rich in vitamin C that may also be beneficial in reducing oxidative stress caused by cancer in high concentrations and preventing tumors.2 Folate also is associated with low risk of cancer. Daily increased consumption of folate over a ten year period by women showed results in of a 22% reductions in breast cancers.2 The increased daily consumption of folate did not pose any health risks and proved most beneficial protection against estrogen negative receptor breast cancer tumors rather than estrogen positive receptor tumors.2
Colorectal cancer: Though studies have shown mixed results, many have concluded that the dietary intake of folate over as part of a daily diet may act as a preventive against colorectal cancer.7 This benefit was seen more often when folate was taken for 15 years or greater.7
Thyroid health: Watercress is a member of the brassica family of cruciferous vegetable which hasve shown beneficial effect in thyroid health.8 Watercress like other brassica’s may work by reducing thyroid hormone production and are most beneficial when eaten raw.8 Water cress may also lightly steamed so not to lose nutritional value.8
Cardiovascular health: In addition to the nutrient content of watercress many secondary metabolites that may help lower risk of many chronic diseases.6 Cruciferous plants like watercress are shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL-Cholesterol which reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and other chronic heart disease.6 Watercress contains vitamin C which works as an antioxidant and help in reducing heart tissue damage caused by oxidative stress.2 Vitamin C is active in the process of embryonic cells developing into cardiac myocyctes and improving heart health.
Bone health: Studies show that inclusion of calcium rich food such as watercress works in reducing risk of osteoporosis.5 Calcium works in repairing and building bone by effecting the increase in the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for this beneficial activity.5 This benefit of calcium is essential for the aging population though the youthful population may also benefit if their lifestyle sedentary which promotes bone density loss.5Watercress is also a good source of folate which plays a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density.6 Post-menopausal women may have benefit from folate in their diet as a preventive against osteoporosis.6
Watercress and Calcium : Many researchers agree that calcium through dietary intake is necessary and perhaps most beneficial in the prevention of many diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. 6 Calcium through food sources such as watercress is also shown to be safe against adverse cardiac effects which is a concern for some that take high dose supplements.6 If supplemental calcium is added to the daily diet 500 mg daily is enough for most women to supplement their daily food intake.6 Though amounts up to 1000 mg daily are taken by some risks of calcium deposits and resulting health problems may occur.6 Overall food sources remain the best way to maintain healthy levels of calcium in the body.6
Many other studies have shown that the benefit of regular consumption of watercress may be from secondary metabolites and other phyto nutrients which repair cellular damage and work effectively as a preventive against certain cancers, cardiovascular, and thyroid disease.6
Watercress and Folate: Folate is an essential nutrient that plays a role in preventing birth defects and in daily health maintenance.4 Folate levels are affected by alcohol consumption.1 A diets rich in folate containing foods such as watercress and other cruciferous vegetables may work as a preventive and even to resolve certain health conditions.4
Intake of folate containing food such as watercress may help in reducing risk of depression, stroke, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and neural tube deficiency in babies.
Antidepressant: Low folate levels may cause by lack of dietary intake or excess alcohol intake.1 A meta-analysis of studies 19 studies, inclusive of 15,315 participants, showed that low folate level increases risk of depression. Folate works with the neurotransmitters pathways of the central nervous system effecting production of such neurochemical such as serotonin.1 With depression affecting a significant percentage of the world populations the addition of foods with high folate content such as watercress is an important dietary supplement in reducing risk of this chronic disease1
Stroke prevention: A cross sectional study of 662 adults showed beneficial results of foods fortified with folate in preventing stroke.2 If not eating fortified foods, large amounts of folate containing foods such as watercress would need to be consumed in order to reach the same level of beneficial nutrient status and health benefit.2
Pregnancy: Folate is important to the development of a healthy embryo as it plays an important role in normal cellular division.5 Additionally, consumption of at least 400mcg of folate daily by pregnant women is shown to reduce incidence of neural tube deficiency.5 Watercress with its high content of folate may help in reducing risk of ailments such as neural tube deficiency during pregnancy.
Cognition: Folate may act a preventive against cognitive decline. Results of a study, of males aged 50 -7- years of age, showed that participants given 800 mcg of folate daily were shown to have beneficial effect on cognition and verbal fluency.6 Inclusion of watercress which has a high folate content may protect against the cognitive decline.
Watercress and Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which indicates that it is excreted through urinary excretion on a daily basis.2 Studies have shown both dietary and supplemental daily intake may have benefits to preventing disease in and treating many physiological systems when vitamin C is kept in high concentrations in the blood.2 Water cress contain higher amounts of vitamin C than an orange and is beneficial to providing and maintain blood levels of vitamin C necessary for beneficial health effects.1
Intake of vitamin C rich food such as watercress is beneficial in repairing brain tissues, reducing risk of blood cell damage and common cold.
Brain: Consumption of vitamin C rich foods may be beneficial in preventing cognition changes as related to Alzheimer’s and aging and protecting and repairing brain tissue.2 It also works to reduce bleeding when stroke has occurred.2 Other results have shown that those having sustained traumatic head injury often have lower blood concentrations of vitamin C.2 These studies suggest that daily intake of vitamin C rich food such as watercress may benefit in preventing damage and improving the outcomes of brain injury and function.2 In fact high concentrations of vitamin C may play a role in neuron building activity.2
Blood: Research study suggests that vitamin C along with vitamin E is effective in reducing oxidative damage to red blood cells.2 Though study is based on supplements it is also suggests that consumption of foods such as watercress with these nutrients may be beneficial to health.2
Eyesight: A European sturdy suggests that vitamin C might be effective in reducing risk of cataract development.3 Inclusion of watercress with good amount of vitamin C may be beneficial in protecting against cataract.
Common cold: Vitamin C rich food is an effective remedy of common cold.3 A study on this the immune protective ability of vitamin C shows that consuming food rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of cold by 66 %.2 Watercress is a good source of vitamin C and its intake may help in reducing risk of cold.
Pediatric Asthma: A study on children with asthma’s showed results of significantly increased forced expiratory volume expiratory (FEV) with vitamin C of at least 0.2g daily.4 These results varied with each child’s history of mold and dampness exposure.4 Those having no exposure with 37% increase and those with exposure a 21% increase of FEV per second.4 Intake of food such as watercress may provide relief from pediatric asthma.
Watercress is a beneficial food that is a strong preventive medicine when eaten daily. Doing so effects many body systems, repairs cellular damage, and prevents cardiovascular, cancer and thyroid imbalance with the nutritional value it imparts.5,7 The nutrients in watercress are also beneficial to women in the post menopausal years to improve cognition and reduce risk of osteoporosis. Water cress could be consumed by those wanting to prevent as well as treat these types of conditions and is recommended as a powerful “super food.”1
1 Rachel Sixsmith. Watercress industry defends its traditions. Horticulture Week. 2009:23.
3Ordman AR. Vitamin C twice a day enhances health
5Anonymous. Best way to get your calcium. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Health Letter. 2012; 37:3-http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/harvard_health_letter/2012/October
6Manchali and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Functional Foods (Crucial facts about health benefits of popular cruciferous vegetables. Journal of Functional Foods, 2012; 4(1):94-106). www.newsrx.com/newsletters/Drug…/2012…11/160511201212807W.ht.
7The Daily Telegraph. Watercress can help prevent breast cancer. Sept.14, 2010. Edition.1
8 Fitzgerald J. The daily Telegraph. This week: how to nurture your thyroid.
//global.factiva.com.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/ha/default.aspxefits: 2Anonymous. Best way to get your calcium. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Health Letter. 2012; 37:3