Watercress is a plant that some consider a super-food. If eaten raw daily it may make a significant difference in the ability of our body to fight cancer. Throughout history it has always been highly regarded for its medicinal virtues. Sea-faring men grew it aboard ship to fight scurvy. The Romans believed it to prevent baldness and stimulate intellectual centers of the brain. It has more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than orange juice and has more absorbable iron than spinach. It is a better source of Vitamin C, B 1, B 6, K, E, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc and Potassium than broccoli, apples or tomatoes!
Watercress was a staple part of the working class diet in the UK, most often eaten for breakfast in a sandwich. Known as “the poor man’s bread,” bunches were eaten on the go like a wrap. It’s easy to understand the lure of its peppery taste but the nutritional benefits are amazing as well.
The benefits of eating watercress start with the phytochemicals that the plant produces for the purpose of protecting itself from insects, pollution and climate fluctuations. When we eat the plant in its raw form these phytochemicals are then released by chewing and absorbed by our body. This gives our body the same ability to protect us from similar predators and environmental pollutants.
How does it work? Now for the technical side, watercress in particular contains one of the highest concentrations of glucosinolates per gram weight of any vegetable as well as high concentrations of carotenoids such as lutein and B-carotene. These phytochemicals have also been associated with various anti-carcinogenic properties including antioxidant activities.
According to numerous studies listed below watercress has impressive cancer fighting abilities:
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Number 2, dated February 1, 2007 states that watercress supplementation in diet reduces lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults thereby reducing the risk of several cancers in epidemiologic studies. The conclusion of the test reported that the results supported the theory that consumption of watercress can be linked to a reduced risk of cancer via decreased damage to DNA and possible modulation of antioxidant status by increasing carotenoid concentrations.
A University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute study, abstract number 5601, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research says that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, watercress, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower appear to stop human prostate cells from growing by affecting the expression of proteins. Phytochemicals called isothiocyanates (ITC) are generated when vegetables are either cut or chewed. Phenethly-isothiocyanates (PEITC) are highly effective in suppressing the growth of human prostate cancer cells at concentrations achievable through dietary intake.
An article in the Toronto Sun on October 12, 2008 written by Dr. Richard Beliveau states that scientific data supports watercress’s health benefits. Watercress distinguishes itself primarily by its exceptional content in phenethyl-isothiocyanate (PEITC) a highly reactive molecule that has several well documented anti-cancerous actions. It supports elimination of carcinogenic substances from the body, reducing the risk of damage to DNA that can lead to the development of cancer. It inhibits growth of several types of cancerous cells by death through the apoptosis process. It reduces the production of inflammatory molecules and it prevents angiogenesis which starve the cancer tumors. Dr. Richard Beliveau is Chairman of the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer at the University of Quebec at Montreal where he is a Biochemistry Professor. He believes that using watercress in its natural form is best in terms of retaining as much of its anti-cancerous molecules as possible.
The evidence seems quite convincing after many years of study by numerous professionals. It would seem we could all benefit from including it and other cruciferous vegetables in our family’s diets. I would encourage all to consider the evidence and make their own conclusions. With the levels of pesticides and other environmental toxins on the rise today we may want to take whatever precautions we can to counteract them in our bodies.
I offer this as helpful information to you but because I am not a medical doctor this information is not intended to claim watercress as a preventative or a cancer cure. I am merely passing on information that I found interesting and a plausible aid to maintaining your health.
For more information on natural ways to stay healthy and fit check out other articles on the Natural Living site.