Watercress: Health Benefits and Nutritional Facts

Watercress is an aquatic vegetable that’s known for its zippy flavor. It’s found in many water sources from Europe to Asia, and has made its way into many types of cuisine. Watercress is considered an invasive species in the U.S., which means that eating it is not only good for your health, it’s good for the environment.

It is a dark, leafy green that grows in natural spring water. Historically, people have used watercress as little more than a garnish. Now, however, it is seeing a resurgence in popularity as one of the latest superfoods.

Watercress is an ancient green that may have been a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers. It is also a member of the cruciferous family, alongside kale, broccoli, arugula, and Brussels sprouts.

Its newfound popularity is partly due now to a growing awareness of its dense nutritional content.

Watercress is an often overlooked leafy green that packs a powerful nutrient punch.

Its small, round leaves and edible stems have a peppery, slightly spicy flavor.

Watercress Nutrition Facts

The phytonutrients are where the health benefits of watercress are contained. According to the USDA, watercress contains vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. It is low in calories and so makes for a great addition to many weight-loss diets.

In fact, it’s ranked number one on the US Centers for Disease Control’s Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables list

One cup (34 grams) of watercress contains the following:

  • Calories: 4
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0.2 grams
  • Vitamin A: 22% of the
  • Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 106% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 4% of the RDI

Health Benefits

The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in watercress can provide important health benefits. For example, it is rich in vitamin A—also known as retinol—which is important for keeping your retinas healthy and your vision good. Getting enough vitamin A is also crucial to keeping your organs healthy because it’s critical for cell division.

Watercress is also rich in vitamin C, which supports your immune system, helps you heal from injuries, and supports healthy collagen production.

Lower Risk of Cancer

Watercress is full of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which are known for being potent antioxidants. Like most antioxidants, carotenoids have been linked to a reduction of free radicals in the body. This leads to less oxidative stress and a lower risk of cell damage, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, like arthritis.

May Improve Bone Health

Studies show that the including of calcium-rich food such as watercress works in reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium may help to repair and build the bones by increasing the production of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for this beneficial activity. [9]

Watercress may also be a good source of folate, which can play a direct role as an interactive nutrient in maintaining bone density. Post-menopausal women may also benefit from folate in their diet as a preventive against osteoporosis.

Beneficial for Heart Health in Many Impressive Ways

Eating watercress may be beneficial for heart health in several different ways.

Watercress Is a Cruciferous Vegetable

Watercress is part of the cruciferous family of vegetables. A diet high in cruciferous vegetables may benefit heart health.

A review of studies in over 500,000 individuals linked eating cruciferous vegetables to a 16% reduced risk of heart disease.

Antioxidants Improve Heart Health

Watercress contains the antioxidants beta carotene, zeaxanthin and lutein. Low levels of these carotenoids are associated with heart disease and high blood pressure.

Studies have shown that high levels of carotenoids not only protect against the development of heart disease but also lower your risk of heart attack and strokes.

Dietary Nitrates Boost Blood Vessel Health

Watercress also contains dietary nitrates, which boost blood vessel health by reducing inflammation and decreasing the stiffness and thickness of your blood vessels.

Dietary nitrates have also been shown to lower blood pressure by increasing nitric oxide in your blood.

Watercress May Lower Cholesterol

Furthermore, watercress may help lower cholesterol, which can improve heart health.

In a 10-day study in rats with high cholesterol, treatment with watercress extract lowered total cholesterol by 34% and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 53%.

Watercress has many potential benefits for heart health, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to a lower risk of heart disease.

Treating diabetes

Watercress contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid. This compound can:

  • lower glucose levels
  • increase insulin sensitivity
  • prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in people with diabetes

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown that it can decrease nerve damage in people with diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved supplementary alpha-lipoic acid to treat diabetic neuropathy. However, its effects in the diet are still unclear.

May Boost Immunity

Watercress contains a huge amount of vitamin C, which is beneficial in improving immunity. It helps to increase the number of white blood cells in the body so that you are able to fight infections.

Intake of vitamin C-rich food such as watercress is also beneficial in reducing the risk of blood cell damage and common colds.

May Reduce Oxidative Damage to Blood Cells

Research suggests that vitamin C along with vitamin E is effective in reducing oxidative damage to red blood cells. Though the study is based on supplements, it is also suggested that the consumption of foods such as watercress with these nutrients may be beneficial to health.

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May Prevent Common Cold

Vitamin C rich food is known to be an effective remedy for the common cold. A study on this immune protective ability of vitamin C shows that consuming food rich in vitamin C may reduce the risk of a cold by 66 %. Watercress is a good source of vitamin C.

May Relieve Pediatric Asthma

A study on children suffering from asthma showed results of significantly increased forced expiratory volume (FEV) with vitamin C of at least 0.2g daily. These results varied with each child’s history of mold and dampness exposure. Those having no exposure saw a 37% increase and those with exposure, saw a 21% increase of FEV per second. Intake of food such as watercress may provide relief from pediatric asthma.


People most consume watercress in salads. However, a person can also incorporate watercress into pasta dishes, casseroles, and sauces.

Watercress will sauté faster than tougher greens such as kale and collard greens because of its tenderness. It lends a mild, slightly peppery taste to any dish.

Choose watercress with deep green, crisp leaves, and no signs of wilting. People should store it in the refrigerator and use it within a few days of purchase.

Ways to include watercress in the diet include the following:

  • Throw a small handful into your favorite fruit juice or smoothie.
  • Add watercress to your next omelet or egg scramble.
  • Make a pesto using watercress.
  • Chop watercress and add it to pasta sauce.
  • Sauté watercress in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and season it with ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat it as a side dish or as a topping for a baked potato.
  • Add watercress to any wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
  • Mix watercress into soup near the end of cooking.


Watercress is a beneficial food that is a strong preventive medicine when eaten daily. Doing so affects many body systems, repairs cellular damage, and prevents cardiovascular disease and thyroid imbalance with the nutritional value it imparts. The nutrients in it are also beneficial to women in the post-menopausal years to improve cognition and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

It contains a plethora of antioxidants, which may lower your risk of heart disease and several types of cancer.

It’s also a good source of minerals that protect your bones.

Additionally, watercress makes a delicious addition to any meal and is a nice change from the usual lettuce or spinach.

Though watercress is hardly one of the most popular vegetables, its nutrition profile makes it a stellar addition to your diet.

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