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A To Z Of Watercress Benefits. Good-For-You Watercress Juice Recipe

By now you are probably well aware that leafy green vegetables are good for you, but perhaps you don't know all that much about the health benefits of watercress? No problem! We can change that in a jiffy.

Watercress may be one of the less familiar members of the greens, but it is one of the best veggies for your health you can have on the table. It will not just offer crucial support in maintaining your general health, but can even help you to make the most of your workouts!

What does watercress look like pictureWhat does watercress look like? What is watercress good for? - © Nada's Images / Dollar Photo Club

According to a study by Dr. Mark Fogarty and other researchers at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Ulster, watercress can help to protect your body from the free radical damage that is an inevitable part of high intensity exercise.

In this easy-to-read article, I will not only give you a delicious watercress salad recipe and a juice recipe, but will also answer all your questions about this veggie, including...

  • What is watercress?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it taste like?
  • What are the health benefits of watercress?
  • Can watercress help with weight loss?
  • What can be used as a watercress substitute?
  • How do I store watercress?
  • How do I start using watercress? (See recipes further down)

1. What Is Watercress And What Does It Look Like?

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is one of the oldest known leafy greens. It is a semi-aquatic plant and thrives along the muddy banks of slow-running water or brooks. The roots are more than happy in the dampness of the mud, while the hollow stems and leaves float on top of the water. Although the plant is native to Europe and Asia, it is widely available these days.

The plant's stems have clusters of delicate-looking, small, deep green leaves with a round to oval shape. It reminds me somewhat of baby spinach leaves in appearance, but are smaller.

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The watercress you see in the store or at the market can either be the whole plant still with the root attached, or it may be a bunch of loose stem secured with a rubber band. Either way, try and get it as fresh and dark green as possible.

Also look for thin, young stems to make sure that the watercress will be tender and not too strongly flavored. If the stems are too thick, you can use only the leaves.

Some folks see watercress as a herb, but it actually is a vegetable. It is not the same as chinese watercress, though. It is a valuable member of the mustard or cabbage family, also known by the scientific name Brassicaceae. Most of us probably know this group better as cruciferous veggies.

Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, mustard greens, bok choy, collard greens and daikon. All of these come loaded with a long list of powerful health-building nutrients.

2. What Does Watercress Taste Like?

Watercress has an unmistakable sharp, spicy and peppery taste. There can also be a slightly bitter undertone. Some folks compare the taste to that of radishes. It is a great way to add oomph to otherwise bland salads or dishes.

Please note: If you have any health concerns or ailments or are taking any medication (especially a blood thinner), talk to your doctor before increasing your intake of watercress.

If you are not used to eating or juicing watercress, you can ease into it by combining it with baby spinach.

If you want to make a sandwich with a bit of a bite, watercress will do it. It will look wonderfully fresh and colorful as well. It is a popular addition to salads, soups and in stir-fry recipes. It is used more and more as an attractive, yet nutritious garnish.

One of the easiest way to incorporate more of it into your diet, is through a variety of delicious juice recipes!

3. Watercress Nutrition

Watercress is an excellent source of protein and fiber and a wealth of other health-protecting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Here is a taste of some of the goodies with which this green will boost your nutritional health...

  • Beta-Carotene
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Folate
  • Glucosinolates
  • Iodine
  • Iron (more than in spinach)
  • Lutein
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Niacin
  • Potassium
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K (very high)
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Zinc

In a research study by Jennifer Di Noia PhD, of the William Paterson University of New Jersey, powerhouse fruits and vegetables were identified according to nutrient density scores. Watercress was the winning vegetable here, with a nutrient density score way beyond all the other contenders. Chinese cabbage and chard were in second and third place.

4. What Are The Health Benefits Of Watercress?

  • Cancer Protection

    In the research done by Professor Ian Rowland and his team of the University of Ulster, the results clearly showed that watercress consumption can reduce cancer risk by preventing DNA damage caused by free radicals.

  • Anemia

    The high iron content in combination with Vitamin C (higher than in spinach), can be of benefit if you have anemia

  • Digestion

    Bitter greens such as watercress, rocket, kale and dandelion greens support liver function and aid detoxification. This is useful if you have digestive issues. Watercress also is an excellent source of fiber.

  • Weight Loss

    Even though watercress is a nutrition treasure trove, you can have it all at a very low calorie cost. How does a measly 4 calories per cup of chopped, fresh watercress sound - ideal to add to your recipes if you are juicing for weight loss.

    As part of the cabbage family, this veggie also is specifically equipped with nutrients that can aid you in dropping those extra pounds. More about that later.

  • Your Eyes

    Watercress is superb for protecting the health of your eyes as you get older. This is due to the high levels of the two special carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin.

  • Bone Health

    The high level of vitamin K in particular, as well as the beta-carotene, vitamin C and mineral compounds in watercress will all help you to maintain strong and healthy bones.

  • Heart Health

    Watercress is one of the veggies that could help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. It may also help to reduce plaque in your arteries and reduce triglycerides, so it is great for your heart in general.

  • Keeping You Younger For Longer

    All the antioxidants in this green veggie work together to put the brakes on ageing. It can help to prevent age-related degenerative diseases and can even work to protect your brain function!

  • Younger-Looking Skin

    How about a facelift from the inside out? This doesn't seem far-fetched if you listen to the results of a study overseen by Dr Sarah Schenker, a leading nutritionist. She found that this veggie's unique combination of nutrients all work together to fight free radical damage and can therefore have a noticeable effect on the appearance of your skin.

    It not only helps to slow down the ageing of your skin, but may in fact even turn some of the already existing damage around! This is largely thanks to the beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. So, be sure to feed your skin from the inside with watercress!

    After having fresh, raw watercress daily for a month, participants in the study saw wrinkles being reduced by up to an astonishing 39%! As if this wasn't impressive enough, there were measurable improvements in skin texture and brown spots to boot. Added to that came the bonus of experiencing more energy and better health in general.

  • Better Workouts With Watercress

    Of course exercise is good for us, but did you know that really intense, strenuous workouts are likely to cause some free radical damage? Well, watercress is a vegetable that can help you to prevent this damage! Watch the video below for much more on this!

    5. Watercress And Breast Cancer

    Professor Graham Packham of the University of Southampton and a team of scientists did research related to watercress and breast cancer.

    The researchers found that watercress in particular have a compound that could play a significant role in limiting the development of breast cancer. Their study showed that the phenylethyl isothiocyanate found in watercress seems to be able to block a specific protein that would otherwise lead to tumor growth.

    6. Can Watercress Help With Weight Loss?

    Image Watercress juice helps with weight lossHow fat-burning vegetables like watercress help with weight loss
    - © Dessie / Dollar Photo Club

    Yes! It sure can!

    The best diet plans to lose weight, should be about healthy, wholesome eating and juicing...never about starving yourself. By including plenty of vegetables, you can keep hunger pangs at bay at a very low calorie cost.

    In addition, apart from the wealth of other health benefits, watercress and the cruciferous veggies are specifically geared to assist your body in metabolizing something called xenoestrogens.

    Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogens we are all exposed to in our environment. This is NOT good. It is something every single one of us needs to avoid as far as possible.

    Unfortunately this has become almost impossible, as these nasties are found in the air we breathe, in our places of work, in our foods, in cosmetics, in plastics and even in our water.

    Xenoestrogens play havoc with our hormones in general, promote fat storage (the one thing no one wants to be good at!) and weight gain, may cause fatigue, can lead to a worsening of PMS symptoms, and may increase our risk of cancer.

    So, if you can't avoid xenoestrogens, at least give your body a fighting chance by upping your intake of cruciferous veggies, including watercress! Watercress and other cruciferous veggies can help our bodies with detoxification and can enable our livers to metabolize xenoestrogens more effectively. A great way in which weight loss and health can go hand in hand.

    7. What Can I Use As A Watercress Substitute?

    If you don't have watercress available, you can try using any of these as substitutes. They will not give you the same powerful nutrition package, but they all come with their own unique goodness...

    • Arugula (rocket)
    • Radicchio
    • Baby spinach
    • Endive
    • Romaine lettuce
    • Bok choy
    • Flat-leaf parsley (mixed with one of the others above)

    8. How To Buy Watercress

    By selecting the freshest watercress, you will also be ensuring that you can store it for longer. Steer clear of any stems that are damaged or crushed. Avoid the bunch if the leaves seem at all wilted. Choose the deepest green leaves you can find.

    9. How To Store Watercress

    If the watercress is tied with a string or has a rubber band around it, remove this. Check the bunch and remove any damaged leaves or stems. Wrap one or two paper towels loosely around the watercress and slip it all into a perforated plastic bag. If you don't have a perforated bag, don't close the plastic bag tightly. The trick is to keep it as dry as possible.

    You should be able to store it for 2 to 4 days in this way, depending on how fresh it is.

    Watercress must be washed thoroughly before using it. Some folks prefer to leave it in a salt water bath for a few minutes. Wash only what you are going to use right away.

    10. Easy Citrus Watercress Salad Recipe

    Image of citrus watercress salad recipeEasy Citrus Watercress Salad Recipe With Nuts - © Martin Turzak / Dollar Photo Club

    2 Cups roughly chopped watercress
    1 Cup chopped arugula or other greens
    2 Large minneolas or oranges, peeled and segmented
    1/4 Cup pine nuts, toasted lightly
    1/4 Cup walnuts or pecan nuts, toasted lightly

    • 1 Pear, sliced
    • If you have left-over grilled chicken, you can slice it and add it, turning the salad into a filling meal. Chicken goes extremely well with watercress.
    • Any soft cheese can be crumbled into the salad
    As a dressing, you can use either...
    • Juice of 1 orange or lime, sweetened with 2 teaspoons runny honey, or to taste. Keep whisking, while slowly pouring in 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
    • Nutrition specialist Mike Geary's easy, healthy homemade salad dressing.
    Putting it all together...
    When you are just about ready to serve, combine all the main ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently, adding enough of the dressing to coat the salad mix lightly.

    Depending on what you add, this would be enough for 4 to 6 people.

    11. Powerful Watercress Juice Recipe

    Always combine watercress with a variety of other fruits and vegetables. Simply add a few stems with leaves when preparing juice combinations such as carrot, apple, celery and beetroot. Never drink this green juice neat. It simply is too potent and your taste buds will not be pleased with the bitter taste!

    Juicing tip for greens: Add some lemon or lime juice to improve the taste.

    Skin-Glow Juice Recipe

    3 to 4 Medium carrots
    2 Red tomatoes
    1 Cup berries of your choice
    1/2 Medium cucumber
    1 Cup chopped watercress
    1/2 Medium beet
    1 Pear
    1/2 Lemon or lime

    1. Discard carrot greens
    2. Wash produce carefully
    3. Trim carrot ends
    4. Halve or quarter the tomatoes
    5. Remove any stray stems or leaves from the berries
    6. Peel cucumber only if waxed
    7. Bunch up the watercress before juicing
    8. A young beet can be juiced skin and all. Cut it into chunks for easier juicing
    9. Quarter the pear. Don't peel, but discard seeds
    10. Peel lemon or lime, discarding skin. Retain as much white pith as you can
    11. Juice, adding the watercress with the harder items such as carrots
    12. Pour over crushed ice and enjoy!
    2 - 3 Medium


    While spinach and other leafy greens are important, watercress has been proven to be a powerhouse veggie with the most impressive profile when it comes to nutrient density. It is one of the best food sources for vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients. Surprisingly, it is also one of the best sources of calcium. Weight for weight it is better than milk in this regard!

    It can benefit almost every system in your body, but research has specifically highlighted its value in cancer prevention and also in improving the appearance of your skin.

    As you can use it in juices, sandwiches, salads, soups, stir-fry dishes or stews, you are bound to find one or two ways that will allow you to add more watercress to your family meals and snacks. Watercress is good for you! Use it as often as you can.

    From the juicing for health desk of Rika Susan

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