Food Focus: Watercress

Did You Know…

The characteristic bitter taste of the watercress leaf only occurs when the plant starts flowering.

Botanically related to mustard with a similar peppery taste that stimulants bile flow in the liver promoting detoxification and digestion, as well as stimulating other digestive juices.

Watercress contains detoxifying and cancer preventing sulphur compounds, the best being those in garlic and the isothiocyanates in watercress and the other brassica or cabbage family members (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts). Sulphur is vital for detoxifying alcohol, some medications and oestrogen, needed to help sex hormone balance and restore vigour in both women and men; also helping prevent hormone related cancers eg breast and prostate. Sulphur aids circulation, taking nutrients and oxygen to where they are needed in the body; important in healing all tissues – it is also used to make collagen with vitamin C, and keep skin firm and muscles and bones strong.
• Watercress has a large amount of folate as a green leafy vegetable, the name of this B vitamin coming from the word ‘foliage’ and the darker the leaf the more it contains.
• This is also true of the antioxidant carotenoids which protect the leaf from UV damage and so protect us from premature ageing internally and externally.
• High in antioxidants vitamins A, C and E.
• High iodine content, used to make thyroxine – the thyroid hormone which regulates metabolism and energy production and so help weight management.

Practical Tip
Choose dark green leaves with no yellowing parts. Most watercress is bought in sealed bags with added moisture, then inflated to protect contents. The leaves last longer like this (2-3 days unopened) but the cleanliness of these environments is debated so buy bunched open watercress where possible and eat immediately. Great as a lettuce alternative and against sweeter salad tastes, it is in the best selling commercial vegetable juice.

KCalories 11 kcal
Total fat 0.1 g
Protein 2.3 g
Carbohydrate 1.29 g
Fibre 0.5 g
Vitamin C 43 mg
Vitamin A 3191 IU
Vitamin E 1 mg
Beta carotene 1914 mcg
Lutein + zeaxanthin 5767 mcg
Folate 9 mcg


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