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Facts on the Health Benefits of Watercress

By Contributor

Substitute Watercress for Salad in Asian Meals

Watercress, native to Europe and central Asia, is used as salad greens by the Japanese and others throughout the continent. Grown in water, it is usually cultivated in chalk streams that have a somewhat constant temperature and flow. There is often more demand than supply at local markets, since watercress is considered highly nutritious and a staple green.

Consider Watercress a

Cultivated almost exclusively in spring-fed streams, watercress is considered a superfood by may nutritionists because of its high levels of antioxidants in each serving. A salad bowl of watercress (about 80 grams) contains 42 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 50 mg of vitamin C. Watercress also contains beta-carotene, B vitamins, vitamin E, folate and calcium. Dieters will be pleased that watercress is low in calories, containing a mere 18 per serving, which is less than broccoli.

Understand the Anti-Cancer Potential

In addition to vitamins A and C and beta-carotene, watercress also contains micronutrients that work in tandem with the antioxidants to combat cancer-friendly free radicals in the body. Several scientific studies have linked watercress intake to lowered rates of cancer risk in smokers and non-smokers alike. In one experiment, test cases who ate watercress daily experienced a significant reduction in DNA damage to white blood cells.

Learn the History of Watercress

Historically, watercress was revered for its nutrition and healing properties. Tradition holds that the father of medicine, Hippocrates, had his hospital built near flowing water so that he would be able to have plenty of fresh watercress to use in treatment of the sick. According to herbalist Culpepper of the 16th century, watercress was effective in cleansing the blood. During the 1800's, watercress was an essential part of the working class diet and was even eaten in lieu of bread by the poor. Now, watercress is experiencing an incredible resurgence in popularity as people form nutritionists to health-conscious families enjoy is nutritional benefits once again.

Choose Raw Organic Watercress

For optimal health benefits, eat watercress raw and as fresh as possible. In a salad, toss with olive oil and vinegar to improve digestion and proper assimilation of nutrients. If you live near a clean stream, you can even grow your own watercress by planting the seeds indoors and transplanting the seedlings into the shallowest part of a gently flowing creek. Harvest leaves when young and tender for the best taste.

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