Next time you’re making a salad you’re going to want to put strong consideration into adding this powerful superfood after discovering the benefits of watercress.
Watercress was always one of those vegetables I would pass by in the grocery store and never gave much thought to. I’d pick up the usual superfoods like kale, spinach, broccoli, etc.
Nowadays there isn’t a trip to the grocery store when I don’t go out of my way to find watercress.
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable so it’s in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. You can already tell watercress comes from a good family.
Lately, watercress has gotten a resurgence in popularity as a superfood so don’t be too surprised if it’s hard to find at your local grocery store.
It’s perfect score on Dr. Fuhrman’s Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) list, which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content, has brought this ancient superfood back into the spotlight.
Quick History on Watercress
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable that originally came over to North America from European immigrants. It’s thought to have originated in Greece, and to this day is still a staple of the Mediterranean diet.
It’s grown and found in natural spring water and has a slightly peppery taste. It’s thought to have come from mustards but don’t worry it doesn’t have a strong punch-you-in-face peppery taste like its ancient ancestor.
Roman soldiers used watercress as a staple in their diets as well, and even the Persian king Xerxes ordered his soldiers to eat it on long marches.
It also beat out all other competition to rank #1 on the CDC list of 41 powerhouse fruits and vegetables.
Researchers at William Paterson University scored foods by their content of fiber potassium, protein, calcium, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and other nutrients with watercress coming out on top.
Oh yeah, this is important if you happen to be a pirate… as early as 1636 the herbalist John Gerard heavily promoted watercress as a remedy for scurvy. Arrrgghhhh!!
A few more quick fun facts on watercress:
- more iron than spinach
- more calcium than milk
- more vitamin c than oranges
- 4x more beta-carotene than oranges
- more vitamin A than apples
- more antioxidants than blueberries
10 Super Watercress Benefits
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating watercress daily significantly reduced DNA damage caused by free radicals.
It also increased the ability of those cells to resist further DNA damage caused by free radicals. One of the known factors contributing to cancer is DNA damage from free radicals.
The compounds in watercress have been shown to decrease the risk of…
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- prostate cancer
- breast cancer
Phenethyl Isothiocyanate (PEITC) is a the cancer fighting ingredient in watercress. The more you can eat of this natural cancer fighting ingredient the better.
Dietary PEITC works by altering gene expression in cancer cells. This is game changing when it comes to preventing and fighting off cancer.
This group of men and women were fed 85g of watercress daily for 8 weeks and they found watercress to help reduce the risk of cancer by decreasing DNA damage and it’s high antioxidant levels.
Watercress Helps You Lose Weight
Watercress has also been shown to help decrease the risk of obesity and diabetes.
The powerful superfood contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoid acid that it known to…
- lower glucose levels
- increase insulin sensitivity
- prevent oxidative stress induced changes
The better your body is at controlling it’s blood sugar the better it will be to lose weight.
The big problem with eating sugar and bad carbohydrates is they’ll cause your blood sugar levels to spike. This leads to a hormonal chain reaction leaving your body storing more and more body fat.
Eating watercress will help you keep stable blood sugar levels and thus keep the fat off your belly.
If there really was such a thing as the Fountain of Youth I’d bet it had watercress growing in it.
A study led by Dr. Schenker found after 4 weeks of eating 80g of watercress daily the group showed 10 out of 11 females experienced visible improvements to their skin.
Not only that but 7 out of the 11 saw an improvement in their wrinkles, and even one woman experienced reduced facial wrinkles up to 39%.
Not to mention the majority of the group said they had increased energy levels.
Lower Blood Pressure
We all know having high blood pressure can lead to an early grave so anything we can use to lower it the better.
Watercress has high nitrate levels that have been shown to lower blood pressure levels.
Also the high amount of calcium, potassium and magnesium in watercress are all ingredients that have been associated with lowering blood pressure. They work by helping to take sodium out of the blood.
Even a 2013 study published in the British Journal Clinical Pharmacology found foods with high nitrate levels like watercress to reduce blood pressure and prevent plaque buildup in arteries.
Improves Eye Health
Watercress is packed with beta-carotene and carotenoids both of which known to improve eye health.
Lacking these crucial vitamins has been associated with an increase in cataracts and macular degeneration.
Beta-carotene can be converted in the body into vitamin A, and other great sources of it include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, oranges, sweet potatoes and carrots.
The 4th century Greek physician and father of modern medicine Hippocrates believed watercress to be the “cure of cures.”
He even built the first hospital in Kos, Greece near a river so he could grow plenty of watercress to help treat blood disorders.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
It appears Hippocrates was more than on to something as modern medicine has backed many of the amazing health benefits of watercress such as…
- blood cleansing
- it’s high vitamin c can treat sickness
- vitamin c + k helps with excessive bruising
Not too bad for a guy who lived over 2300 years ago!
We all know calcium is very much needed in our diets to keep and maintain healthy and strong bones.
I guess every one of our mothers was spot-on by telling us if we wanted to be strong we needed to drink our milk. Haha
Watercress fits the bill as every gram of it contain 1.5mg of calcium.
Pound-for-pound that’s more than milk!
I guess our mothers should have told us to eat more watercress if we wanted strong bones.
Also, watercress is high in Vitamin K which is an important nutrient considering there are many studies out there associating a low intake with higher risk of bone fractures.
Vitamin K helps to improve calcium absorption and acts as a modifier in bone matrix proteins.
Heart disease is the #1 early killer in the United States beating out even cancer. Every year the numbers just seem to climb higher and higher.
Many of these deaths could have been prevented by improving their diets and exercise programs.
Cruciferous vegetables, like watercress, have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Having high LDL cholesterol eventually leads to plaque buildup in the arteries and heart disease.
The high vitamin C content in watercress also works as an antioxidant that helps in reducing heart tissue damage caused by oxidative stress.
Supercharges Your Workouts
Now I bet you didn’t think watercress can improve your athletic performance did you…
Yes, the high nitrate content in watercress will reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise.
This means you can push yourself harder in your workouts before you burn out.
You can run, swim, bike, play and lift longer and harder so you can get leaner and stronger.
Even this study had 10 healthy young men eat a small bag of watercress daily then did a HIIT workout on a treadmill. They found the group who did not eat the watercress had more DNA damage.
Instead of just eating a small bag of it though I’d recommend eating a bigger bag to get the maximized benefits of watercress in your workouts.
Cure For Hangovers
Just about everyone reading this has had a bad hangover before.
And we’ve tried just about everything from greasy foods, sugar and even the hair of the dog.
Next time you’re feeling hungover (hopefully not too soon) just grab a big bag of watercress.
Many people swear by eating it when they’re hungover and it helps to take away some of the pain leftover from the fun the night before.
While on the subject of alcohol it should be noted that higher consumption of it can lead to the lowering of folate levels.
It’s been shown that lower levels of folate are correlated with an increased risk for depression.
Folate works in the neural pathways to increase serotonin, which is thought to give you those feelings of happiness and an improved mood.
Watercress has a high amount of folate and B vitamins to help you not have to deal with the debilitating effects of depression.
If you are going through depression I’d also recommended exercising and cleaning up your diet with more green vegetables.
How To Eat Watercress
There are an endless amount of ways you can eat watercress. You can…
- throw it in a salad
- put it in your sandwich
- blend it in your smoothie
- chop it up for soup
- dice it for your eggs
For all the ways you can eat watercress I would just say I wouldn’t recommend cooking it.
Cooking cruciferous vegetables can dramatically lower the content of many of it’s powerful nutrients.
Look for organic watercress as cruciferous vegetables are more susceptible to the dangers of pesticides.
If you’re in the grocery store look for deep green crispy leaves that are not wilting.
You can even grow watercress at home in your garden since you don’t need running water like Hippocrates did.
Watercress really has an amazing amount of health benefits and that’s really just getting started.
Watercress is one of my favorite superfoods and I try to get it in my diet somehow every day.
I’ll usually just toss it into my daily vegetable smoothie or I’ll just eat a bunch for breakfast with my morning eggs.
Any way you want to eat it as long as you do is what matters.
Pound-for-pound it’s rare you’ll find another superfood that has more benefits than watercress.
If you’re looking for more ways to get the health benefits of green superfoods like watercress into your diet check out my review of MetaboGreens.
There are lots of studies out there backing watercress amazing health benefits.
I guess the Roman soldiers and Hippocrates were really onto something, and were well ahead of their time with the benefits of watercress.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college level. He has over 10 years experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He hopes to be able to bring inspiration & results to people all over the world to live a healthier life through diet & exercise.