What is Watercress?

Watercress is a fast-growing and hardy plant that flourish in water or semi-aquatic environment. It has been known as a vegetable since ancient time and is commonly found in Europe and many parts of Asia. The plant is part of the Brassicaceae or cabbage family and noted for its flavoring, aphrodisiac and therapeutic properties. Watercress has small leaves arranged on either side of a stem with white and green flowers in clusters.

Watercress

Watercress

Nutritional Value of Watercress


Energy 11 kcal

Carbohydrates 1.29 g

Protein 2.30 g

Total Fat 0.10 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Dietary Fiber 0.5 g

Vitamins

Folates 9 mcg

Niacin 0.200 mg

Pantothenic acid 0.310 mg

Pyridoxine 0.129 mg

Riboflavin 0.120 mg

Thiamin 0.090 mg

Vitamin A 3191 IU

Vitamin C 43 mg

Vitamin E 1.0 mg

Vitamin K 250 mcg

Electrolytes

Sodium 41 mg

Potassium 330 mg

Minerals

Calcium 120 mg

Copper 0.077 mg

Iron 0.20 mg

Magnesium 21 mg

Manganese 0.244 mg

Phosphorus 60 mg

Selenium 0.9 mcg

Zinc 0.11 mg

Health Benefits of Watercress

  • Low calorie and very low in fats and recommended in weight reduction programs and controlling cholesterol levels
  • It is rich in vitamin C and help to fight infections and boost immunity.
  • Excellent source of vitamin-K and help formation as well as strengthening of bone. It also has the effect of limiting neuronal damage in the brain which is important for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It has an abundance of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
  • It consists of several important minerals which are essential for a healthy body. Potassium helps to control heart rate and blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium. Manganese is used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Calcium is necessary for healthy bone and teeth and maintaining heart and skeletal muscle activity. Sulphur is useful in absorbing protein, remove contaminants from blood, build cell and help to keep the hair and skin healthy.
  • Due to its high iron content, it is effective in the synthesis of haemoglobin and formation of red cells which is helpful in treating anaemia.
  • Its high iodine content has the effect of strengthening the thyroid gland and this help to prevent the retardation of growth and mental development.
  • The high content in soluble fiber helps reduce the absorption of carbohydrates which in turn control blood sugar levels. People suffering from diabetes will benefit from this property.
  • The sulphur glycosides have a therapeutic effect and relieve conditions like coughs and colds.
  • The combination of vitamin A and zinc together with phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin which are highly anti-oxidant, greatly improve the health of the eyes.
  • It activates the detoxifying enzymes in the liver to remove toxic substances and reduce hangover.

Prevention of Cancer

Recent researches by British scientists have indicated that watercress is effective in preventing certain types of cancer. The University of Southampton has reported that a plant compound known as Phenylethyl Isothiocyanate in the watercress is able to suppress breast cancer cell development by “turning off” a signal in the body and starving the tumour of necessary blood and oxygen to grow.

The tumours in cancer sufferers develop very fast. When they outgrow the existing blood vessels, signals are sent out to the surrounding normal tissues to grow new blood vessels into the tumours, feeding them with oxygen and nutrients. The researchers at the university found that watercress can block this process by “turning off” the function of a protein known as Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF).

Research leader, Professor Graham Packham conducted a pilot study with a small group of breast cancer survivors who were asked to fast before consuming 80g of watercress, and then went through a series of blood tests over the next 24 hours. On analysing the blood tests, his team discovered significant levels of the plant compound and the function of the protein HIF was noticeably affected in the blood cells of the participants.

These insightful studies were published in the British Journal of Nutrition and Biochemical Pharmacology. The team recognised that more work needs to be done to determine how watercress can help to prevent and cure cancer but they were excited by the great potential of watercress in treating cancer.

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Filed under: cancerNutrition

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