On top of its culinary uses, watercress is touted for its medicinal benefits, including its ability to fight exercise-induced oxidation.
Known for imparting a peppery flavour to salads, quiches, and soups, watercress adds bite to a variety of dishes, both cooked and raw.
Watercress, a semi-aquatic perennial, originated in Europe and Asia and is believed to be one of the oldest known leafy greens eaten by humans. Its botanical relatives include other members of the Brassicaceae family, such as broccoli, turnip, and cabbage, as well as mustard and radish.
In addition to its culinary uses, watercress has also been touted for its medicinal benefits. Most recently, watercress was shown to fight oxidative stress associated with intense physical activity. For eight weeks study participants supplemented with watercress while engaging in high intensity workouts. Following was an eight week control period during which participants took no watercress.
Findings indicated that the supplementation period resulted in less DNA damage. Further, data suggested that watercress consumption just two hours prior to exercise had the same benefits as eight weeks of continuous supplementation.
Additional health highlights of watercress include high concentrations of vitamins A, C, and especially K (more than 100 percent the daily recommended intake for just one cup!).
To incorporate watercress into your diet, try this tasty spring salad from Irene McGuiness’s “Spring Fling” article.
Zingy Radish and Cucumber Slaw with Watercress
2 cups (500 mL) fresh radishes, washed, scrubbed, and trimmed
1/2 English cucumber
2 Tbsp (30 mL) buttermilk or plain yogourt
2 Tbsp (30 mL) reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 green onion, minced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh parsley, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) fresh tarragon, minced
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh watercress leaves, washed, dried, and separated
Thinly shave radishes into rounds using a mandoline or vegetable slicer. Place in medium-sized bowl.
Thinly slice cucumber, stack slices, and cut into julienne strips. Add to radishes.
In another small bowl combine buttermilk or yogourt, mayonnaise, green onion, parsley, and tarragon. Gently stir together to blend. Add to radish mixture and gently fold together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place 1/2 cup (125 mL) scoop onto individual serving plates and garnish with a sprinkling of watercress leaves.
Each serving contains: 19 calories; 0 g protein; 0.8 g fat (0 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 1.6 g carbohydrates; 0 g fibre; 16 mg sodium