10 Impressive Benefits of Watercress

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

The health benefits of watercress include boosting immunity and providing thyroid support. Watercress is also treasured for its anticancer potential.

What is Watercress?

Watercress is a mineral-rich, green leafy vegetable. It is a cruciferous plant that is native to Europe and Asia. This nutritious vegetable falls under the Brassicaceae family. Its health benefits are obtained from the high content of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Watercress Nutrition Facts

The phytonutrients are where the health benefits of watercress are contained. According to the USDA, watercress contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. It is low in calories and so makes for a great addition to many weight-loss diets. [1]

Watercress on a wooden cutting board

Watercress is an overlooked leafy green that packs a powerful nutrient punch. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Watercress, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]95.11
Energy 11
Energy [kJ]46
Protein [g]2.3
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.1
Ash [g]1.2
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]1.29
Fiber, total dietary [g]0.5
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.2
Calcium, Ca [mg]120
Iron, Fe [mg]0.2
Magnesium, Mg [mg]21
Phosphorus, P [mg]60
Potassium, K [mg]330
Sodium, Na [mg]41
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.11
Copper, Cu [mg]0.08
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.24
Selenium, Se [µg]0.9
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]43
Thiamin [mg]0.09
Riboflavin [mg]0.12
Niacin [mg]0.2
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.31
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.13
Folate, total [µg]9
Folate, food [µg]9
Folate, DFE [µg]9
Choline, total [mg]9
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]160
Carotene, beta [µg]1914
Vitamin A, IU [IU]3191
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]5767
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]1
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]250
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.02
18:0 [g]0
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.04
18:2 [g]0.01
18:3 [g]0.02
Tryptophan [g]0.03
Threonine [g]0.13
Isoleucine [g]0.09
Leucine [g]0.17
Lysine [g]0.13
Methionine [g]0.02
Cystine [g]0.01
Phenylalanine [g]0.11
Tyrosine [g]0.06
Valine [g]0.14
Arginine [g]0.15
Histidine [g]0.04
Alanine [g]0.14
Aspartic acid [g]0.19
Glutamic acid [g]0.19
Glycine [g]0.11
Proline [g]0.1
Serine [g]0.06
Sources include : USDA [2]

Health Benefits of Watercress

The major health benefits of watercress are discussed in detail below.

Anticancer Potential

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that cruciferous vegetables may be helpful against cancer. Watercress has may help to lower the risk of cancer by decreasing DNA damage. [3]

Dr. Jonathan Swann et. al. from the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, carried out research on the impact of watercress on cancer. The findings of the study suggest that it has anticancer potential and it is also capable of helping in radiotherapy. [4]

Research published in the Nutrients journal suggests that watercress and broccoli extracts have shown an antiproliferative effect when it comes to colorectal cancer. [5]

May Improve Cardiovascular Health

Cruciferous vegetables like watercress are shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL or bad cholesterol. [6]

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology has published an article, which states that watercress has definite potential to protect your cardiovascular health. It suggested that this green vegetable could help to lower the bad cholesterol levels. [7]

Studies also suggest that watercress helps in regulating blood pressure as it is a rich source of nitrate. [8]

May Improve Bone Health

Studies show that the including of calcium-rich food such as watercress works in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium may help to repair and build the bones by increasing the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for this beneficial activity. [9]

Watercress may also be a good source of folate, which can play a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density. Post-menopausal women may also benefit from folate in their diet as a preventive against osteoporosis.

May Prevent Strokes

Including different vegetables in your diet can help you take your health to a great level. Foods like watercress are known to have a considerable amount of carotenoids. These compounds can prevent the occurrence of chronic conditions like stroke as they have possible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [10]

May Improve Brain Health

Cruciferous vegetables like watercress are possibly rich in isothiocyanates. Research published in 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research shows that broccoli and watercress have the potential to help prevent brain disorders. Moreover, these vegetables also help in delaying brain aging. [11]

May Boost Immunity

Watercress contains a huge amount of vitamin C, which is beneficial in improving immunity. It helps to increase the number of white blood cells in the body so that you are able to fight infections. [12]

Intake of vitamin C-rich food such as watercress is also beneficial in reducing the risk of blood cell damage and common colds.

May Reduce Oxidative Damage to Blood Cells

Research suggests that vitamin C along with vitamin E is effective in reducing oxidative damage to red blood cells. Though the study is based on supplements, it is also suggested that the consumption of foods such as watercress with these nutrients may be beneficial to health.

May Improve Eyesight

A 2016 study suggests that vitamin C might be effective in reducing the risk of cataract development. An inclusion of watercress with a good amount of vitamin C may be beneficial in protection against cataracts. [13]

May Prevent Common Cold

Vitamin C rich food is known to be an effective remedy for the common cold. A study on this immune protective ability of vitamin C shows that consuming food rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of a cold by 66 %. Watercress is a good source of vitamin C.

May Relieve Pediatric Asthma

A study on children suffering from asthma showed results of significantly increased forced expiratory volume (FEV) with vitamin C of at least 0.2g daily. These results varied with each child’s history of mold and dampness exposure. Those having no exposure saw a 37% increase and those with exposure, saw a 21% increase of FEV per second. Intake of food such as watercress may provide relief from pediatric asthma. [14]

How to add Watercress to your diet?

You can add watercress to many dishes in your diet.

  • Add some watercress to your salad and make it greener.
  • Replace lettuce with watercress in your burgers and sandwiches.
  • Add it to any soup of your choice.
  • Make it into a pesto, just like you make basil pesto.


Watercress is a beneficial food that is a strong preventive medicine when eaten daily. Doing so affects many body systems, repairs cellular damage, and prevents cardiovascular disease and thyroid imbalance with the nutritional value it imparts. The nutrients in it are also beneficial to women in the post-menopausal years to improve cognition and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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