The health benefits of watercress have been known for centuries, but it isn’t a herb you hear about very often. Watercress is a popular european leafy green herb that grows along springs and slow running water streams. It has a faint pepper taste to it, and has been used in ancient times for medicinal uses in Europe, Central Asia and the Americas. It is closely related to mustard greens, garden cress, cabbage and arugula.
6 Major Health Benefits of Watercress
Loaded With Vitamin C
This leafy herb contains more vitamin C than some fruit and vegetables! You can get over 72% of your daily vitamin C from just 100 grams of watercress leaves. Vitamin C helps to scavenge free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Vitamin C not only helps boost your immunity against infection, but it also helps prevent iron deficiency anemia, and helps maintain bone health and keep skin supple and radiant looking.
This amazing little herb also happens to be one of the best vegetable sources for vitamin K! Just 100 grams of watercress leaves will leave you absorbing over 200% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin K! Vitamin K is important in bone health by promoting the strengthening and formation of bones (osteotrophic activity). Vitamin K also reduces the amount of neuronal damage in the brain and thus has been used in treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin A, which is important for skin, eye, bone, hair and nail health is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in our liver. Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant in our bodies, however, it is the carotenes (i.e., alpha carotene, beta carotene; the precursors of vitamin A) in the watercress that can either be turned into vitamin A or turned into antioxidants (the body does this! It is very intelligent and will turn carotenes from the plant into vitamin A only if your body needs it. The rest will function in your bloodstream as antioxidants – so you can’t really overdose on carotenes). Watercress is particularly rich in vitamin A with 100g of the leaves providing you with 70% of your RDA of vitamin A.
Relieves Stress, Anxiety & Depression
Watercress is also rich in B vitamins which help to relieve stress, treat anxiety and depression, aid in memory and relieve PMS. Some B vitamins also help cells burn fats and glucose for energy, whereas others help make serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter created in our brain). Not only do B vitamins do all of the aforementioned, but they also assist with the production and repair of DNA!
Detox & Regenerate
Glucosinolates in watercress help to boost and regulate activity of detoxification enzymes in the liver. When consumed, the glucosinolates in watercress are converted to isothiocyanates, which then have the ability to inhibit tumorigenesis by modulating the metabolism of carcinogens. This effect found to have an even stronger impact when consuming watercress that has not been cooked.
As an anti-inflammatory, watercress has been used for treating eczema, acne and other skin issues (again, we can thank vitamin’s A and C here). It can also be used as a liver tonic to help aid your liver in the detoxification process. It is also interesting to note that watercress is (in terms of calories) 85% protein, making it a great source of plant protein for vegans.
Next time you make a green juice, or a salad, add in some watercress to pack in some of the amazing benefits listed above! Your body will love you for it!
Gill, C., Haldar, S., Boyd, L., Bennett, R., Whiteford, J., Butler, M., Pearson, J., Bradbury, I., & Rowland, I. (2007) Watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr, 85, 504-510.
Rose, P., Won, Y., Ong, C., & Whiteman, M. (2005) B-Phenylethyl and 8-methylsulphinyloctyl isothiocyanates, constituents of watercress, suppress LPS induced production of nitric oxide and prostaglandin E2 in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Nitric Oxide, 12, 237-243.
Getahun, S., & Chung, F. (1999) Conversion of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates in humans after ingestion of cooked watercress. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev., 8, 447-451.