Watercress is a leafy green and an official ‘powerhouse vegetable’ which contains every nutrient the UN considers essential to health.1 Ancient Romans believed watercress could prevent baldness, and although we wouldn’t go that far, it’s undoubtedly good for you.2
The United States’ public health authority named watercress as the best vegetable you can get for nutrient density, which is the amount of goodness relating to calories provided.3
In this article, we’ll assess all the health benefits associated with watercress. We’ll look at the nutrients within watercress and advise you how to get more watercress in your diet. Finally, we’ll notify you of the risks associated with watercress consumption.
Benefits of eating watercress
Eating watercress as part of a balanced diet is associated with fantastic benefits for health, including:
Oxidative stress in the body is strongly associated with an increased likelihood of developing age-related diseases.4 Watercress combats oxidative stress in the body, thanks to its phenomenal antioxidant content.5
Better heart health
A study of 500,000 people found that those who eat leafy greens like watercress have better heart health than those who don’t.6
High cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of developing a wide variety of age-related illnesses.7 Happily, eating watercress is likely to lower cholesterol and boost health.8
Better eye health
Watercress contains compounds lutein and zeaxanthin, which are some of the best antioxidants we can eat to enhance eye health, according to scientific studies.9
Watercress nutrition values
A 34g portion of watercress contains10:
|Vitamin K||Vitamin C||Vitamin A|
|106% of RDA||24% of RDA||22% of RDA|
- Vitamin K is essential for wound healing and is associated with bone health11
- Vitamin C helps maintain the health of cells, skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage12
- Vitamin A helps the immune system to work at its best13
How to cook with watercress
Watercress is a versatile ingredient as it is small but flavourful, and as good raw as it is cooked.
Here are some recipes to help you incorporate watercress into your diet:
Heat watercress with leeks, potatoes, and cream (or plant-based milk) to make a delicious, nourishing green soup.
Blend watercress with cooked shallots and white wine to make the classic sauce that complements salmon or cod perfectly.
Incorporate watercress into your favourite stuffing recipe and enjoy with turkey or chicken.
Make a pesto of watercress, pine nuts, and parmesan to add to risottos or pasta dishes.
Potential risks from watercress
Watercress has been linked to food poisoning outbreaks, which food hygiene experts say is likely the result of the damp, warm conditions it’s sometimes grown in.14,15 If you’re worried about food poisoning risk, cook before use.
Although there’s a renewed interest in foraging watercress, foragers are advised to avoid wild watercress as if it’s picked from water contaminated with bacteria, it can cause illness.16
Last updated: 15 March 2021