Top 10 Watercress Benefits For Your Health

7 min read
Feb 8, 2024
Top 10 Watercress Benefits For Your Health

Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage are among the vegetable family that includes watercress. Watercress has the potential to improve athletic performance and promote bone and eye health.

Watercress is a leafy green that is sometimes disregarded but has a lot of nutrients .

Its edible stems and tiny, rounded leaves offer a flavor that is mildly spicy and peppery.

Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale are among the vegetables in the Brassicaceae family, which also includes watercress (1).

It was first grown as a weed in the UK in the early 1800s, but it is now grown in wet beds all over the world.

These are ten remarkable health advantages of watercress.

1. Rich in Nutrients, Especially Vitamin K

Though low in calories, watercress is incredibly nutrient-dense.

A food's nutritional density is determined by comparing its nutrient content to its calorie content. Watercress is therefore a very nutrient-dense meal.

In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control's Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables list (2), it comes in first place.

The following are the contents of one cup (34 grams) of watercress (3):

  • Calories: 4
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0.2 grams
  • Vitamin A: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 106% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 4% of the RDI

As you can see, watercress has over 100% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for strong bones and blood clotting, in just one cup (34 grams) (4).

Additionally, watercress has trace levels of pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, salt, copper, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 (3).

In brief 

has more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, among many other essential vitamins and minerals.

2. Elevated Antioxidant Content Could Reduce Your Chance of Chronic Illnesses

Watercress is a rich source of plant components known as antioxidants, which guard against oxidative stress-causing free radicals from damaging cells.

Numerous chronic disorders, including as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, have been linked to oxidative stress (5).

Thankfully, oxidative stress can be warded off with a diet rich in foods high in antioxidants, such as watercress, which may reduce your chance of developing these illnesses.

Watercress has more than 40 different types of flavonoids, a type of plant chemical, according to one study on the antioxidant components in 12 different cruciferous vegetables (1).

Actually, when it came to the overall number of phenols and its capacity to scavenge free radicals, watercress did better than any other vegetable in this investigation (1).

Furthermore, research has connected watercress's antioxidants to a decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer (6, 7).

In brief 

Has a very high antioxidant content, which may help prevent heart disease , diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

3. Has Ingredients That Could Stop Some Cancer Types

Watercress has a high phytochemical content, which may lower your chance of getting some cancers.

Glucosinolates, found in watercress and other cruciferous vegetables, are converted to substances known as isothiocyanates when they are eaten or chopped with a knife (8).

Chemicals like sulforaphane and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) are examples of isothiocyanates (9, 10).

By preventing the growth and spread of tumors, deactivating molecules known to cause cancer, and protecting healthy cells from harm, these substances prevent cancer (11, 12, 13).

Studies have demonstrated that the isothiocyanates in watercress can protect skin, lung, prostate, and colon cancers (9, 10, 14, 15).

Furthermore, studies show that the sulforaphane and isothiocyanates in watercress inhibit the proliferation of breast cancer cells (16, 17).

In brief 

Includes strong anticancer substances known as isothiocyanates, which have been demonstrated to prevent a number of cancer types.

4. Advantageous for Heart Health in Numerous Outstanding Ways

Consuming watercress has a number of potential heart-healthy benefits.

The Vegetable Watercress Is Cruciferous

Watercress belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family. Consuming a lot of cruciferous veggies may be good for your heart.

Eating cruciferous vegetables was associated with a 16% lower risk of heart disease, according to a review of studies including over 500,000 people (18).

Antioxidants Improve Heart Health

The antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta carotene are found in watercress. Heart disease and high blood pressure are linked to low levels of these carotenoids (19).

Research has demonstrated that having high amounts of carotenoids can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in addition to preventing the development of heart disease (20).

Nitrates in Food Promote Healthy Blood Vessels

Dietary nitrates, which are also present in watercress, improve blood vessel health by lowering inflammation and your blood vessels' stiffness and thickness (21).

It has also been demonstrated that dietary nitrates reduce blood pressure by raising blood nitric oxide levels (22).

Watercress May Lower Cholesterol

Moreover, watercress may aid in cholesterol reduction, enhancing heart health.

Watercress extract treatment reduced total cholesterol by 34% and "bad" LDL cholesterol by 53% in a 10-day research conducted on high-cholesterol rats (23).

In brief 

Contains a host of possible heart health benefits, including as decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure. Heart disease risk is lowered in diets rich in cruciferous vegetables.

5. Vitamin K and Mineral Contents Prevent Osteoporosis

Numerous minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, are found in watercress and are essential for healthy bones (3).

Although the benefits of calcium on bone health are widely established, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium also have significant effects (24).

Bone health is positively connected with a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense vegetables (24).

Furthermore, 34 grams, or one cup, of watercress contains more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K (3).

Osteocalcin, a protein that constitutes healthy bone tissue and aids in controlling bone turnover, is a component of vitamin K (4, 25).

According to one study, those who consumed the most vitamin K had a 35% lower risk of hip fractures than those who consumed the least (26).

In brief 

Comprises more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, among other nutrients vital to bone health.

6. Enhanced Immune Response Owing to Elevated Vitamin C Concentration

Watercress has 15 mg of vitamin C per cup (34 grams), which is 17% of the daily requirement for males and 20% for women (3).

It is believed that vitamin C strengthens the immune system. Reduced immunological response and increased inflammation have been related to vitamin C deficiency (27).

By stimulating the development of white blood cells, which fight infections, vitamin C strengthens your immune system (28).

While research in the general population has not demonstrated definitively that vitamin C lowers your risk of getting the common cold, it does shorten symptoms by 8% (29).

In brief 

Is a good source of vitamin C, which lowers your risk of infection and supports a strong immune system.

7. Nutrient Density May Aid Weight Loss

Although it hasn't been well researched, watercress might also help with weight management.

One cup (34 grams) of this nutrient-dense dish has only four calories but is packed with several vital nutrients (3).

Including this nutrient-dense, low-calorie vegetable in your diet is definitely worth a try if you're attempting to lose weight.

In brief

Is an extremely nutrient-dense vegetable that can make you feel full for very little calories, which may help you lose weight.

8. Nutritional Nitrates Could Improve Training Performance

Dietary nitrate levels are high in vegetables in the Brassicaceae family (30).

Naturally occurring substances called nitrates can be found in foods including watercress, radishes, and beets (31).

They may enhance exercise performance by relaxing blood arteries and raising blood levels of nitric oxide (31).

Furthermore, dietary nitrate decreases oxygen requirements during exercise and lowers resting blood pressure, both of which may improve exercise tolerance (32).

Athletes have shown enhanced exercise performance in several trials on dietary nitrates from beets and other vegetables (31).

Nonetheless, a small study using 100 grams of watercress per day for seven days in healthy persons discovered that watercress enhanced the production of carbon dioxide during exercise, which may have a detrimental effect on performance (33).

There isn't enough proof to say with certainty that watercress makes athletes perform better, but a good deal of research suggests that dietary nitrates may boost exercise performance.

In brief 

provides food nitrates, which have been connected to enhanced athletic performance. Studies on watercress, however, are still lacking in order to validate these advantageous properties.

9. Packed with Vitamin C and Carotenoids, Which May Protect Eye Health

Lutein and zeaxanthin, members of the carotenoid family of antioxidants, are found in watercress.

Zeaxanthin and lutein have been demonstrated in numerous studies to be crucial for maintaining eye health (34).

Specifically, they shield your eyes against blue light toxicity (34).

Additionally, lutein and zeaxanthin have been connected to a decreased risk of cataract development and age-related macular degeneration (34).

Moreover, watercress's vitamin C content is linked to a decreased chance of cataract development (35).

In brief

Includes the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, which are vital for healthy eyes. Another excellent source of vitamin C that may help prevent cataracts is watercress.

10. Versatile Addition to Any Meal

There are many different recipes that call for watercress.

However, it is best consumed raw or very barely boiled to maximize the benefits of its active antioxidant components (36).

These are a few simple ways you may include watercress in your diet:

  • Sprinkle it on your salad.
  • Stir it into your soup near the end of cooking.
  • Use it to replace lettuce in a sandwich.
  • Turn it into pesto by blending it with garlic and olive oil.
  • Serve it with eggs.
  • Use it to top any dish.

In brief 

Is a flexible supplement to your daily eating schedule. Use it as a garnish for any dish or eat it in a salad, soup, or sandwich.

The Bottom Line

Powerhouse vegetables like watercress are incredibly low in calories and packed with several essential elements.

It has an abundance of antioxidants that can reduce your risk of heart disease and various cancer kinds.

It's an excellent source of minerals that guard your bones as well.

Furthermore, watercress is a great alternative to traditional lettuce or spinach and tastes great added to any meal.

Even though it's not the most widely consumed vegetable, watercress is a fantastic complement to any diet due to its nutritional value.