Watercress is a flowering plant that grows in bodies of water. It is part of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae. Watercress contains numerous vitamins and minerals. It is also high in fiber and protein. The nutrition facts of watercress can be found in this article. Besides this, you can also read about its health benefits.
What Is Watercress?
When you think of watercress, you likely think of a flowering plant in the water. This aquatic plant is part of the cabbage family, Brassicaceae. In its natural habitat, watercress grows on lakes and streams. It can also be grown in pots in your garden.
Watercress is best eaten raw but can also be used in cooked dishes. Cooked watercress loses many of its health benefits, though it does retain some of its flavor. You can also freeze watercress and use it in recipes. If you want to enjoy this tasty vegetable even more, you can dry it and store it in the refrigerator for a long time.
You can easily find this herb at your local supermarket. Its soft, mid-green leaves have a crisp edge. Its stems are paler, and the length is between 7 and 12 cm from end to tip. The plant also has edible white flowers in the early summer. Although more intense than spinach, watercress is best used in salads.
Watercress is an excellent food for anyone who is trying to lose weight. It is naturally low-calorie and fat-free and contains various essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, it is rich in phytochemicals, including lutein, quercetin, phenolic acids, and isothiocyanates. This isothiocyanate (PEITC) is a key contributor to the peppery flavor of watercress. In vitro studies, PEITC has been shown to have anti-cancer effects.
Nutrition Facts of Watercress
Watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein per cup. It also has a high vitamin K and A content and is a great source of trace minerals. In addition, it contains just 3.7 grams of calories per cup and has a low glycemic index. It also contains only 0.034 grams of fat per cup.
Nutrition facts for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of watercress include:
- Calories: 11
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Sodium: 41 mg - 1% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Potassium: 330 mg - 9% of the DV
- Carbohydrates: 1.3 g
- Protein: 2.3 g - 4% of the DV
- Fiber: 0.5 g - 2% of the DV
- Sugar: 0.2 g
- Protein: 2.3 g - 4% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 71% of the DV
- Iron: 1% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 5% of the DV
- Magnesium: 5% of the DV
- Calcium: 12% of the DV
Vitamins and Minerals
Watercress is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and is considered part of the fruit and vegetable food group. One cup of watercress has approximately 80 grams of nutrients. It would help if you aimed to consume five to eight cups of watercress daily to get the recommended five daily servings. Watercress is also high in antioxidants, which may help prevent several chronic conditions.
Watercress contains high vitamin K and calcium levels, contributing to strong bones and healthy blood clotting. It also contains antioxidant vitamins A and C, which protect cells from oxidative damage and support a healthy cardiovascular system. It also contains vitamins B1, B6, E, and magnesium. These vitamins help maintain the thyroid gland's health and stimulate metabolism.
Moreover, watercress also contains carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses. Watercress is also packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients, which may help cure various diseases.
Vitamin C is the most abundant vitamin in watercress, with about 15 mg per cup providing nearly 20% of your daily vitamin C intake. Vitamin C supports the various cellular functions of the immune system and helps the skin form a barrier against pathogens. It also acts as an antioxidant, which helps prevent oxidative stress, which is caused when free radicals react with free oxygen. Antioxidants help combat this damage by eliminating free radicals and preventing the formation of cancer-causing compounds.
Health Benefits of Watercress
Watercress contains compounds known as lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. These compounds also help to protect the body from light-induced oxidative damage and may help prevent certain types of cancer. However, it's important to note that watercress is best consumed raw or gently steamed because it is high in antioxidants.
Watercress is a peppery green vegetable closely related to cabbage and mustard. It has small, round leaves attached to light green hollow stems. Its taste is spicy, similar to that of arugula. Its flowers are not edible, but its leaves are nutrient-rich. It contains high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as riboflavin and vitamin B6.
Another health benefit of watercress is that it slows down the signs of skin aging. It contains a compound called isothiocyanate that prevents the breakdown of collagen, which results in a reduction in wrinkles and cellulite. It also contains nitrates, which lower blood pressure and help create elasticity in blood vessels.
Watercress is a leafy green full of nutrients and can bring many health benefits when you eat it as part of a balanced diet. But, like with many foods, it's good to know about potential downsides, especially for people with certain health issues. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to eating watercress:
Watercress has something called goitrogens, and if you eat a lot of it, it might mess with how your thyroid works. If you've got thyroid issues, especially hypothyroidism, it's a good idea to be careful and chat with your doctor before making watercress a regular part of your meals.
Watercress has oxalates, which can play a role in forming kidney stones in some people. If you've had kidney stones before or are more likely to get them because of oxalates, it's smart to not go overboard with watercress. Check-in with your healthcare provider for advice tailored to your situation.
Watercress has vitamin K, which is vital for blood clotting. That's generally a good thing, but if you're on blood-thinning meds or have clotting issues, you should watch how much vitamin K you're getting from watercress.
Some folks might be allergic to watercress, especially if they're already allergic to other plants in the same family, like cabbage and mustard. Allergic reactions can show up as itching, swelling, or trouble breathing. If that happens, it's crucial to get medical help right away.
If you're taking certain meds for things like high blood pressure, diabetes, or thyroid problems, eating a lot of watercress might affect how well those meds work. Checking in with your doctor is a good idea to ensure everything's okay.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's good to be moderate with watercress. While it's packed with good stuff, going overboard might not be the best, especially because of how it could impact your thyroid and the goitrogens it has.
While watercress is a healthy choice for most people, those with specific health issues should be careful. It's always smart to talk to a healthcare pro or a dietitian for advice that fits your health needs and situation.
Tips for Selecting Quality Watercress
When you're picking out watercress to make sure it's fresh and packed with nutrients, consider these down-to-earth tips to make the right choice:
Look for Bright Green
Go for a watercress with really green leaves. That color means it's fresh and full of goodness. Steer clear of bunches with yellow or droopy leaves because that might mean they're not so fresh.
Feel for Crispness
Pick a watercress with leaves that are crisp and firm. Don't go for slimy or wilted bunches—they might not be in the best shape.
Smell for Freshness
Get a watercress that smells fresh and a bit peppery. It might be going bad if it has a strong, not-so-nice smell. How it smells gives you a good idea of how fresh it is.
Tightly Packed Stems
Choose a watercress with stems that are packed in tight. If the stems are all loose, the watercress is older and might taste less good.
Check the Moisture
Look at how much moisture is in the watercress. The leaves should be crisp but not too dry or too wet. You want to find that sweet spot for freshness.
Say No to Yellow Flowers
Please don't go for a watercress with yellow flowers because that means it's gotten older. Younger watercress is usually more tender and tasty, so that's what you want.
Think About Organic
Suppose you can go for organic watercress. That means it's grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, which might be better for you.
Consider the Season
Keep in mind when the watercress is in season. It's usually best in the spring and early summer. Choosing it when it's in season can make it taste and be better for you.
Pick a Good Source
Get your watercress from a good place, like a local farmers' market or a store you trust. That way, you're more likely to get good-quality watercress that's been handled and stored the right way.
Remember these tips when choosing watercress; you'll be sure to get the most out of its nutrients and deliciousness.
Tips for Preparing Watercress
If you want to get the most out of your watercress while keeping it tasty and good for you, here are some down-to-earth tips to make it happen:
Give It a Good Wash
Before using your watercress, please wash it well to remove any dirt. Just put it in a bowl of cold water and swish it around. Do that a couple of times until the water looks clear.
Trim the Stems
Cut off the tough stems of your watercress to keep the tender leaves. You can use kitchen shears or a knife to remove the bottom part of the stems and keep the good stuff.
Spin It Dry
After washing, use a salad spinner to get rid of extra water. Dry leaves improve your salads and other dishes, so they stay cool.
Quick Boil for a Milder Taste
If you want a milder taste and a nice green color, try boiling your watercress for 10-15 seconds. Then, put it in ice water to stop it from cooking more. This can make it less bitter.
Throw It in Salads
Watercress is great in salads. Mix it with other greens, fruits, and a light dressing to match its peppery taste. It adds nutrition and a nice crunch.
Top Your Soups and Stews
Make your soups and stews look better and taste better by adding watercress as a topping right before you serve them. The green color and peppery taste can make the whole meal better.
Use It in Sandwiches and Wraps
Put watercress in your sandwiches or wraps. Its crispy texture and peppery flavor can add a good crunch and taste to other ingredients.
Quick Sauté for Warm Dishes
Try sautéing watercress quickly for warm dishes. A fast sauté with olive oil and garlic can bring out its flavor without losing its nutrition. Just be careful not to cook it too much so it stays crispy.
Make Pesto or Green Sauce
Get creative and use watercress in pesto or green sauces. Mix it with garlic, nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil to make a tasty and nutritious sauce for pasta, meat, or veggies.
Store It Right
Keep any leftover watercress in the fridge, ideally in a plastic bag with holes or wrapped in a wet paper towel. This helps it stay fresh for a longer time.
These simple tips will help you make the most of your watercress, making it a healthy and tasty addition to various dishes.
Tips on Including Watercress in Meal
If you want to add more greens to your diet, watercress is a wonderful addition to your menu. In addition to being a great addition to salads, it also goes well with meat. Add watercress sprigs to a grilled pork shoulder or a pepper steak with red wine sauce. You can also use watercress as a garnish for Asian or French dishes. Cooking the watercress until it is wilted will mellow its flavor and make it more versatile.
Its high vitamin C content is also an excellent source of antioxidants. These help fight oxidative stress and inflammation. Additionally, watercress is a rich source of vitamin K, which strengthens bones and prevents bone loss. It is also packed with vitamins A, C, E, and magnesium.
The flavor of watercress is reminiscent of other mustard family plants. It is mild early in the year and more pronounced during the summer. However, it is still best used in cooked dishes where it can add spice, so it's best to keep it milder.
Before cooking watercress, you should wash it thoroughly. Trim the stems if needed. Cooking the watercress kills parasites and bacteria and makes eating large quantities easier. Cooking the watercress also prevents it from harboring small snails and bugs.