Welcome to the world of watercress

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Color plays such a vital role in our world. It can sway thinking, change actions, irritate or soothe our eyes, create certain moods, convey information, and influence decisions we make.


In 1920, Detroit Michigan police officer William L. Potts invented the four-way, three-color traffic signal. As we’re all aware…green means go, yellow means caution or slow down, and red means stop!

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Fortunately, when it comes to fruits and vegetables – green, yellow, and red mean go, go, go! When choosing produce, color matters.


Today’s highly nutritious green vegetable is watercress. Watercress’ name comes from the fact that it is an aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial herb with dark green leaves and bright white flowers that resemble a cross; hence the old name “Cruciferae” for the mustard family, to which the herb belongs.


Its leaves have a pungent, spicy, and peppery taste that actually acts as a defense mechanism against various aquatic herbivores such as caddisflies, amphipods, and snails.


Watercress is not only one of the oldest known leaf vegetables, but it’s also the most nutrient-dense. In a study, 47 foods were selected, and a nutrient-density score was created based on the percentage of the recommended daily value of 17 nutrients. Each food’s score represented the average of “percent daily values” per 100 calories. The best a food could score was 100. Using this system, watercress came out on top as the most “nutrient-dense” fruit or vegetable, achieving a score of 100.


Here are a few of watercress’ healthful benefits. 


Boosts immune function – Thanks to its high levels of vitamin C, watercress helps strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C is esteemed for its beneficial effects on immune activity. Studies establish that vitamin C deficiency has been linked to decreased immune function, and increased inflammation. 


May prevent certain cancers – Watercress contains high levels of specific phytochemicals that can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Watercress and other cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, which are naturally converted into compounds called isothiocyanates, by the process of being cut, chopped, or chewed (always chew fruits and vegetables more than you think you should). These compounds protect against cancers by safeguarding healthy cells from oxidative and environmental damage. 


Defends against osteoporosis – Watercress provides vitamin K (more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance), plus minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. These nutrients have a positive correlative effect on bone health. In fact, one study concluded that folks with the highest intake of vitamin K were 35% less likely to experience a hip fracture than those with the lowest levels. 


Great for weight loss – For those watching their weight, watercress can be a great addition, because one cup contains only four meager calories, yet contributes several essential nutrients. 


May protect eye health – The antioxidant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, found in watercress are imperative to eye health. In particular, they protect the eye against blue light. Blue light has shortened wavelengths and higher energy levels than other colors in the spectrum, which does provide certain benefits during daylight hours because they tend to boost attention and elevate mood. However, blue light may lead to age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin help filter harmful blue light from the eye’s central retina.


Watercress is one of the most nutrient-rich foods naturally available, as gram for gram, it contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more vitamin E than broccoli, and more folate than bananas. It is truly a superfood. 


David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com.