Green, leafy vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants – and you need antioxidants to protect your cells against the oxidative damage they’re exposed to every day. When cells take a beating, it pays to give them a little extra antioxidant reinforcement by adding more green, leafy veggies to your diet. When most people make a salad, they add a variety of lettuces and sometimes spinach, but they forget about another leafy vegetable that’s loaded with health benefits – watercress. This green veggie with its unique, peppery flavor adds extra punch to summer salads while offering extra protection against disease. Here are five reasons to add watercress to your next salad.
It Has Anti-Cancer Benefits
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable just like broccoli and cauliflower. This family of veggies is a powerful source of natural compounds called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are converted to anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates when you eat them. Isothiocyanates offer protection against a variety of cancer types, especially ones that are fueled by hormones like breast and prostate cancer. Watercress is an especially good choice for women concerned about their risk for breast cancer. Compounds in cruciferous vegetables convert estrogens in the body to a less powerful form that’s less likely to over-stimulate breast cells.
It’s a Natural Detoxifier
Watercress contains a dietary compound called naturtiin. Naturtiin is converted to a modified form of isothiocyanate called PEITC. Once PEITC is formed, it turns off enzymes produced by the liver that activates carcinogens and other toxins, while turning on enzymes that help your body eliminate toxins and pollutants you’re exposed to every day. Who needs a colon cleanse when you can enjoy a watercress salad instead?
It’s Good for Your Vision and Heart Healthy Too
Two of the most common visual problems in older adults are cataracts and macular degeneration of the eye. Watercress is a good source of three vision-protecting carotenoids – beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Getting more carotenoids in your diet from sources like watercress helps to protect your eyes against these common diseases. The same carotenoids that keep your eyes healthy also help to protect your heart and blood vessels from plaque build-up that can lead to heart disease and stroke. Chalk two up for the carotenoids in watercress.
Watercress Helps You Recover After a Workout
Exercising places cells under tremendous stress. This causes cell-damaging free radicals to form. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, watercress because of its natural antioxidant activity help to protect cells against exercise-induced free radicals and muscle cell damage. Sounds like a good reason to top off your workout with a watercress salad.
Other Health Benefits of Watercress
Watercress has other health benefits that make it a good addition to the grocery cart. It’s a caloric bargain with only 4 calories in a single cup. Plus, it’s a good source of vitamin K, a vitamin that’s important for normal blood clotting and for healthy bones. It’s also a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin, vitamin C. In addition to its antioxidant activity, vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system and for keeping skin wrinkle-free due to its role in synthesizing collagen.
How to Get the Benefits of Watercress
You can enjoy watercress either raw or steamed, but eating it raw maximizes its health benefits. Exposing watercress to heat inactivates the enzyme that converts glucosinolates to cancer-fighting isothiocyanates, so when you cook it you reduce its anti-cancer benefits. Enjoy it, raw in a salad or as a replacement for lettuce on a sandwich or in a wrap. Use it as a pizza topping or puree it and add yogurt, milk and spices for a cool and refreshing summer soup. Enjoy the taste – and the many health benefits of this often overlooked and underappreciated green, leafy vegetable.
Tired of eating the same old boring salads? Pump up the flavor in your salad – and the health benefits – by adding watercress. Watercress is a powerhouse of disease-fighting chemicals. Here are five reasons to add watercress to your next garden salad.
Nutraingredients-USA.com. “Antioxidant-Rich Watercress Shows Sports Nutrition Potential”
Life Extension Magazine. November 2007. Pages 87-89.
Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2007 May; 18(3): 220-3.
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