Watercress Health Benefits
Although watercress is an ancient vegetable that has historically been used to promote well-being, the interest in watercress health benefits is seeing a resurgence in popularity nowadays. This is the reason why it's often considered a new addition to the list of the latest superfoods, and obviously for good reason. Curious to know how beneficial is this herb? - keep exploring with us.
In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the most common potential health benefits of watercress from a bit scientific standpoint. But before we get into how watercress can help with human health and beauty, first, we’ll need to learn exactly what watercress is and what nutritional profile it has. So, let’s dig a little deeper.
What is a watercress?
Watercress, also botanically known as Nasturtium officinale, is a semi-aquatic dark, leafy green that grows in spring water. It belongs to the large species of the mustard family called Brassicaceae and is related to many other cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage, collard greens, radishes, turnips, and Brussels sprouts.
Watercress is popularly known for its pungent, peppery, slightly spicy, zippy flavor with a fresh leafy fragrance, making it highly desirable in various types of cuisine. The nutritional value of this herb has long been overlooked. But today, this herb is widely grown in various parts across the world for both as a flavoring agent and for nutritional purposes. Let’s take a quick look at the nutritional profile of watercress.
Watercress nutritional profile
Watercress is densely packed with a vast range of varying nutrients, but low calories. It’s an exceptional source of potassium and vitamin k, all of which play critical roles in many bodily functions ranging from blood clotting to regulating heartbeat to maintaining bone health.
In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked watercress at the top position in their list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables.
Vital nutrients found in watercress may include, but aren’t limited to:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin E
Watercress health benefits
Watercress and the nutritional compounds it contains have been found to possess several medicinal properties including antioxidant, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antiaging, all of which have significant potential to promote human health and beauty in many different ways. While most health benefits of watercress are attributed to its antioxidant compounds, the overwhelming range of vitamins and minerals contribute to its fame as a superfood.
Though scientists are still working to understand the full potential of this potent herb, results are promising so far. Research suggests that watercress has the potential to support different organ and bodily systems including heart health, eye health, bone health, and gut health, just to name a few.
Here’re some common potential health benefits of watercress what we know so far:
Watercress is rich in antioxidants
Watercress is exceptionally high in plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants play a critical role to protect against damage to cells, tissues, and even organs caused by harmful free radicals. Free radicals are particles that contain unpaired oxygens in their structure, making them awfully unstable, leading to oxidative stress and damage to cells, tissues, and even organs. Water has an incredible ability to neutralize these damaging particles and protect the body from oxidative damage.
Watercress benefits cardiovascular health
Research suggests that watercress may benefit the health of the heart and blood vessels in a number of ways. It has been found beneficial in lowering the levels of "bad fats" such as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterols while raising the levels of "good fats" like high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterols. In addition, the dietary nitrates found in watercress are helpful in reducing inflammation in the blood vessels which in turn improves the functionality of the blood vessels.
A 2008 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that watercress extract lowered triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol by 30%, 52%, and 34%, respectively, and increased HDL cholesterol by 27% just after 10 days.
Watercress benefits vision and eye health
Watercress is an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that act as potent antioxidants. Multiple studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin play a critical role in developing and protecting the structure and function of the eyes, making them essential components for vision and eye health.
A 2013 review in Nutrients showed that dietary sources (like watercress) of lutein and zeaxanthin are essential components for vision and eye health.
Watercress boosts immune health
Watercress contains extremely high levels of vitamin C. A serving of one cup of watercress provides up to 20% of recommended daily intake (RDI). There’re numerous studies that claim vitamin C plays an important role in assisting various cellular functions involved in the body’s inner defense mechanism, the immune system.
For instance, in a 2017 review study, researchers found that vitamin C plays a major role in supporting both innate and adaptive immune responses.
Watercress strengthens bones and teeth
Watercress is rich in minerals essential for bone and tooth health, such as calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. Vitamin K is important for building and maintaining bone tissues. One cup of watercress has the capacity to provide more than 100% of recommended daily intake (RDI) for this vital nutrient.
Watercress benefits hair, nail, and skin health (beauty benefits)
Watercress not only offers a wide range of health benefits but also several beauty benefits as well. The high amounts of plant nutrients, especially calcium, potassium, and magnesium have crucial roles in supporting the health of hair, nails, and skin. Moreover, this herb has a significant quantity of water content, making it highly beneficial for maintaining proper hydration which is vital for slowing down the aging of the skin (anti-aging).
Watercress is an impressive powerhouse of plant nutrients which is why considering it a superfood for the new generation is really worth it. It contains a whole variety of antioxidants that may help protect the heart, skin, and eyes. It’s also rich in minerals that are vital for bones, teeth, hair, and nails.
Additionally, watercress serves as a unique flavor to your dishes, making it a delicious vegetable to garnish your daily dishes. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you should obviously consider giving it a try.