Superfood Saturday: Watercress

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

A dark leafy green grown in natural spring water. Now that sounds refreshing and extremely healthy, doesn’t it? It’s watercress. And although it’s been around just as long as popular health foods like kale, this leafy green is relatively new to the superfood scene.

Part of the mustard family (and offering the same peppery flavor), watercress is native to Asia but is grown in Europe and the U.S. Watercress is one of the oldest known greens to be consumed by humans. Ancient Grecians often documented the use of watercress for medicinal purposes. And, in the 17th century, the British began to drink watercress soup, deeming it a blood cleanser.

In more modern times, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has declared watercress the healthiest food you can eat. That’s quite the title! So what makes this little freshwater leaf so super? Containing a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants, every inch of this herb does the body good.

Watercress is an amazing way to supercharge your diet.

Here’s the highlight reel:

1. It’s a vitamin K powerhouse.

Watercress has 312 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin K, which is critical to bone strength and healthy brain functioning.

2. Think you need oranges for vitamin C?

A 100g serving of watercress has almost 72 percent of the recommended daily value, only slightly less than an orange.

3. Depending on milk for you daily calcium intake?

No need. Watercress provides plenty.

4. Watercress is an excellent source of phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are found in plants and help protect the plant’s vitality. Growing research is suggesting it can do the same for you!

5. Watercress is full of antioxidants, offering protection from disease and free radical damage in the body.

Free radical damage is often connected to diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. For decades, studies have shown anti-cancer properties of cruciferous vegetables like watercress.

6. Watercress contains omega-3 fatty acids.

The American Heart Association recommends including foods rich in omega-3s to protect your heart. While cruciferous vegetables don’t usually hit this mark, watercress is an exception.

How to Cook with Watercress

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As a bonus, watercress is extremely low in calories. There are just four calories in a cup of watercress with half of those coming from protein.

So how do you work this guilt-free green into your diet? It can be added to your salad, steamed as a side dish or added as a topping to your sandwich. Or, you can even blend it in your smoothie for an added nutritional boost. Research has shown beneficial nutrients are absorbed in higher quantities in raw watercress. But, cooked or raw, the benefits remain.

Watercress is simple to prepare. Chop the tough stems off the watercress, soak it in water and drain. Pat dry with a paper towel, but be sure to wash thoroughly. For the best flavor and texture, eat it right after washing. Watercress is a strong flavor, similar to arugula. It’s easy to pull back the bite by blending it with other greens such as kale, spinach or Bibb lettuce. Variety is the key to life! Mixing it up will also ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients every day. Watercress is considered an unlimited Vegetable for those following the Nutrisystem program.

Bonus: Watercress season peaks in spring and early fall, but most grocery stores carry it year-round, so you don’t need to wait to jump on the watercress bandwagon!