7 Health Benefits Of Watercress You Shouldn’t Miss Out On!

Benefits of watercress.
Fresh watercress in a jug with white muslin cloth

Delicious when sprinkled on a salad, served alongside eggs, stirred into soup, or blended into pesto –watercress is a must-have in your pantry. Cousin to broccoli and kale, it’s no surprise that its nutritional qualities have propelled this leafy green to the top of nutritionists’ lists. Here are all the health benefits watercress provides.

1. Boosts Heart Health

[pullquote]To get the most benefits from the active antioxidant compounds of watercress, eat it raw or lightly steamed.[/pullquote]


A diet high in cruciferous vegetables, a family that watercress is a part of, has been found to benefit heart health. In a study, individuals consuming cruciferous vegetables had a 16% reduced risk of heart disease.1 In addition to this, low levels of antioxidants like beta carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein, which watercress is rich in, are linked to heart disease and high blood pressure.2 3 Improving their levels has been found to protect against the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Besides these, dietary nitrates in this leafy green have been found to boost blood vessel health by reducing inflammation and decreasing thickness of your blood vessels, in turn lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.4 5

2. Strengthens Bones

A cup of watercress contains 41 mg of calcium, which makes up for 4.1% of your recommended daily intake, and is known to strengthen bones. In addition to this, it contains traces of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous, which have also been found to prevent bone disorders. Watercress also contains 85 mg of vitamin K (94.44% RDA), a nutrient that is a component of osteocalcin, a protein that makes up healthy bone tissue and helps regulate bone turnover.6 It has also been found to reduce the incidence of hip fractures.7 8 9 10


3. May Aid Weight Loss

The key to losing weight and still staying healthy is to eat low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. And watercress fits this bill. It packs in a lot of nutrients in just 4 calories a cup. Including it in your diet might help you meet your caloric needs without compromising on nutrition.11

4. Boosts Immune Function

A cup of watercress provides 15 mg of vitamin C, which makes up for 20% of your recommended daily intake.12 Deficiency in this vitamin is linked to decreased immune function and increased inflammation. It is also known to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells that fight infections. In addition to this, vitamin C might reduce the duration of the symptoms of the common cold by 8%.13 14 15


5. Maintain Eye Health

We often neglect eye health, but maintaining is vital to prevent age-related eye disorders. Watercress contains lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant compounds in the carotenoid family, that are essential for eye health. In particular, they have been found to protect against damage from blue light and age-related macular degeneration.  These antioxidants along with vitamin C in watercress keep cataract at bay.16 17

6. Improve Athletic Performance

Watercress is high in levels of dietary nitrates, which relax blood vessels and increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood. This has been found to improve exercise performance. In addition to this, dietary nitrates lower resting blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, which may increase exercise tolerance. So, if you’re a regular at the gym or are training for a marathon, including watercress in your diet might help.18 19


7. May Prevent Certain Types Of Cancer

Watercress contains glucosinolates, which are activated to compounds called isothiocyanates when they’re chewed on.20 And isothiocyanates include chemicals such as sulforaphane and phenethyl isothiocyanate, which protect against cancer by protecting healthy cells from damage, inactivating carcinogenic chemicals, and blocking the growth and spread of tumors.21 22 23 24 In particular, isothiocyanates have been found to prevent colon, lung, prostate and skin cancers. In addition to this, they might also suppress the growth of breast cancer cells.25 26