Watercress is a plant best known as an ingredient in salads and sauces for its therapeutic effects, but its content in vitamins and minerals make it a great resource to help fight anemia.
One of the great fronts where the medicinal plants can offer us all their restorative strength is the contribution of vitamins and mineral salts. Within this field, a classic herbal plant and very present in traditional remedies is watercress, which stands out precisely for its high content in these essential nutrients.
Watercress is an aquatic plant of the cruciferous family, which has been harvested since ancient times in the rural world as another food resource. The leaves, with bitter taste, are incorporated into salads, sauces, stews or vegetable creams, to which they contribute their characteristic flavor, but due to its therapeutic effects, its function as a medicinal plant destined to treat situations of weakness, anemia and respiratory diseases.
How is watercress and where it is found
The watercress with the botanical name Nasturtium officinale R. Br (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek) is a perennial herb, between 10 and 60 cm high, with fleshy and hollow stems, generally prostrate, leaves divided into irregular segments, with the largest terminal and white flowers, grouped in dense inflorescences.
The fruits are capsules or ovoid siliques, which appear along the upper part of the stem as the plant fructifies. It is easily found in aquatic or semi-aquatic spaces, with clean or relatively clean waters such as channels, streams, fountains and ponds, from sea level to over 1,600 meters of altitude in the mountains. They can form small floating tapestries on the calm and fresh waters or accumulate on the banks when the current has more force, with the roots fixed at the bottom.
It is a European plant, frequent in Mediterranean and Western Europe, which has also been cultivated in orchards and nurseries. In South America several species are known that respond to the name of watercress, but that do not have much in common between them and that they have nothing to do with the European cress. This is present as an adventitious plant in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay. In some European countries, with a long tradition in their consumption, it is customary to artificial plant – small flooded plots – with clean water, and even potable, to favor their cultivation.
Active principles of watercress and properties
The watercress leaves are 94% water, and in the rest of their organic composition they contain so high and concentrated doses of nutrients, which make them a nutritious and medicinal treasure to keep in mind. They stand out above all for their high content of vitamins and minerals, whereas the presence of fats is very low, and there is no cholesterol.
The active principles that give it medicinal and curative importance are the following:
- Significant doses of some amino acids such as aspartic acid, alanine, phenylalanine, arginine, glutamic acid, glycine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine and tyrosine, among others.
- Vitamins A, C, B2 (riboflavin), B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and E.
- Mineral salts, especially potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, iodine and zinc.
- Glucosinolates such as gluconasturtoside and gluconasturin, among others.
- Bitter principles.
- Essential oil, as a derivative of the aforementioned gluconasturin.
- Flavonoids, carotenoids.
- Fatty acids, oleic, linoleic, palmitic, in very small proportions.
Benefits of watercress for health
Prevents the risk of cancer
Both watercress and other vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage are said to have properties that help prevent cancer. Research has been done about the utility of this vegetable to reduce breast cancer, cancer that affects many women.
Ideal for the development of children
While we know that apples and tomatoes are ideal for children’s nutrition, watercress is an important food to consider. It contains iron, zinc, calcium, manganese and also vitamins C, K, E, B1 and B6. Undoubtedly, an ideal food for your children to grow up healthy and strong.
Lower blood pressure and take care of your heart
It has been demonstrated that the consumption of watercress thanks to its high content of lutein and zeaxanthin helps patients with cardiovascular disease.
According to one study, higher blood levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with less arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, than those with lower levels of carotenoids.
In addition, participants with the highest levels of carotenoids in their blood were also less likely to succumb to heart attacks.
You also have to praise its high nitrate content. Most fruits and vegetables contain high levels of nitrates of natural origin in the diet. Nitrates are a salt of nitric acid and are an essential nutrient for plants to grow.
Dietary nitrates have been shown to have a varied range of benefits for vascular health including:
- The reduction of blood pressure.
- Suppresses platelet aggregation (blood clotting).
- Preserves diseases such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, sepsis, thrombosis among others.
- Improves exercise performance in healthy individuals and in patients with peripheral arterial disease.
Good for pregnancy
Watercress is good during pregnancy and due to its essential vitamins such as folic acid is very necessary before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy. It is easily accessible and much cheaper and healthier than supplements.
The watercress is a plant with multiple benefits, so when cooking do not hesitate to add it to your meals because it will be a great complement to your salads and will be a great complement to a healthy diet.
Helps keep skin healthy
Watercress contains beta-carotene, a substance that keeps your eyes and skin fresh and healthy. Forget about expensive beauty products; watercress is what you need for healthy, young skin.
How to add watercress to your diet
The most common use given to watercress is as part of the salad, but it can also be incorporated into pasta, stews and sauces like any other green product.
Watercress can be sautéed like hard vegetables such as kale and collard greens, or combined with other dishes such as meat and fish.
Another option for the lazy is to make a smoothie. Grab a handful of watercress and mix it with your favorite fruit. In this way, it will make your incorporation into your diet more bearable.
The watercress can be combined perfectly with the tortilla or anything that comes to mind, the important thing is not to forget about it in the shopping list!