17 Impressive Watercress Benefits

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated -

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

What is Watercress?

Watercress, a mineral-rich green leafy vegetable, is a cruciferous plant grown for centuries. The nutritious watercress falls under the Brassicaceae family. Its health benefits are obtained from the high content of vitamins and minerals. And, also due to the antioxidant properties of the phytochemical structure of watercress plant.

Watercress Nutrition Facts

Watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, and more folate than bananas. The phytonutrients are where the health benefits of watercress are contained. Watercress contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, which are required for a healthy body.

watercress in a transparent bowl on a wooden background

Nutrition Facts

Watercress, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]95.11
Energy [kcal]11
Protein [g]2.3
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.1
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]1.29
Fiber, total dietary [g]0.5
Sugars, total [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
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]43
Thiamin [mg]0.09
Riboflavin [mg]0.12
Niacin [mg]0.2
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.13
Folate, DFE [µg]9
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]160
Vitamin A, IU [IU]3191
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]1
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]250
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.03
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Watercress

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

Helps Prevent Breast Cancer

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that cruciferous vegetables may be helpful against cancer. Watercress has shown such an effective anticancer phytonutrient that even eating a single salad shows an increase in molecules into the body’s circulatory system that may possibly prevent and stop the recurrence of breast cancer. Based on a study those who ate at least 80 grams of watercress on a daily basis were shown to have beneficial results.

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. Findings of the study suggest that watercress has anticancer potential and it is also capable of helping in radiotherapy.

May Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Recent research published in the Nutrients journal suggests that watercress and broccoli extracts have shown an antiproliferative effect when it comes to colorectal cancer.

Improves Functioning of Thyroid Gland

Watercress has shown a beneficial effect on thyroid health. It works by reducing thyroid hormone production and is most beneficial when eaten raw. It is good to lightly steam watercress, in order to enjoy all of its nutritional value.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

In addition to the nutrient content of watercress, it also has many secondary metabolites that may help lower the risk of various chronic diseases. Cruciferous vegetables like watercress are shown to be beneficial in lowering LDL or bad cholesterol, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis and other chronic heart diseases. Watercress contains vitamin C which works as an antioxidant and helps in reducing heart tissue damage caused by oxidative stress. Vitamin C is an active component in the process of embryonic cells developing into cardiac myocytes and improving heart health.

health benefits of watercress infographic with picture

Improves Bone Health

Studies show that inclusion of calcium-rich food such as watercress works in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium works in repairing and building the bones by causing an increase in the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for this beneficial activity. This benefit of calcium is essential for the aging population, though the youth may also benefit if their lifestyle is sedentary, which promotes bone density loss. Watercress is also a good source of folate which plays 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.

Rich in Calcium

Many researchers agree that calcium is necessary and perhaps the most beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension. Calcium through food sources such as watercress is also shown to be safe against adverse cardiac effects. If supplemental calcium of 500 mg is added to the daily diet, it is enough for most women to boost their daily food intake. Though amounts up to 1000 mg daily are taken by some, risks of calcium deposits and health problems, which result from them may occur. Overall food sources remain the best way to maintain healthy levels of calcium in the body.

Many other studies have shown that the benefit of regular consumption of watercress may be from secondary metabolites and other phytonutrients which repair cellular damage and work effectively as a preventive against cardiovascular and thyroid diseases.

Rich in Folate

Folate is an essential nutrient that plays a role in preventing birth defects and daily health maintenance. Folate levels are affected by alcohol consumption. A diet rich in folate containing food such as watercress and other cruciferous vegetables can be preventive and even resolve certain health conditions.

Intake of folate-containing food may help in reducing the risk of depression, stroke, osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and neural tube deficiency in babies.

Acts as Antidepressant

Low folate levels may be caused by a lack of dietary intake or excessive alcohol intake. A meta-analysis of 19 studies, inclusive of 15,315 participants, showed that low folate level increases the risk of depression. Folate works with neurotransmitters, the pathways of the central nervous system, affecting the production of neurochemicals such as serotonin. With depression affecting a significant percentage of the world population, the addition of food with high folate content such as watercress is an important dietary supplement in reducing the risk of this chronic disease.

Prevents Stroke

A cross-sectional study of 662 adults showed beneficial results of foods fortified with folate in preventing stroke. If not eating fortified foods, large amounts of folate containing foods such as watercress need to be consumed in order to reach the same level of beneficial nutrient status.

Helps in Pregnancy

Folate is important for the development of a healthy embryo as it plays a crucial role in a normal cellular division. Additionally, consumption of at least 400mcg of folate daily by pregnant women is shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube deficiency. Watercress with its high content of folate may help in reducing the risk of these ailments.

Prevents Cognitive Disorders

Folate may act as a preventive against cognitive decline. Results of a study, of males aged between 50-70 years showed that participants given 800 mcg of folate daily were shown to have a beneficial effect on cognition and verbal fluency. An inclusion of watercress which has a high folate content may protect against cognitive decline.

Rich in Vitamin C

Studies suggest that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which indicates that it is excreted through urinary excretion on a daily basis. Both, dietary and supplemental daily intake helps in preventing diseases and treating many physiological systems when vitamin C is found in high concentration in the blood. Watercress contains a higher amount of vitamin C than an orange and is beneficial to providing and maintaining blood levels.

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

Improves Brain Health

Consumption of vitamin C rich foods may be beneficial in preventing cognitive changes related to Alzheimer’s and aging; it also helps in protecting and repairing the brain tissues. It also works to reduce bleeding when the stroke has occurred. Other results have shown that those having sustained traumatic head injury often have lower blood concentrations of vitamin C. These studies suggest that the daily intake of vitamin C rich food such as watercress may benefit in preventing damage and improving the outcomes of brain injury. In fact, a high concentration of vitamin C may play a role in neuron building activity.

Reduces Oxidative Damage to Blood Cells

A research study 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.

Improves Eyesight

A European 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.

Prevents Common Cold

Vitamin C rich food is 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.

Relieves 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.

Summary

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 watercress are also beneficial to women in the post-menopausal years to improve cognition and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Watercress could be consumed by those wanting to prevent as well as treat these types of conditions and is recommended as a powerful “superfood.”

About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She is currently pursuing Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University. 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. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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