It's Healing Power
Reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Prevent heart disease Decrease the risk of cataracts.
A Bouquet Of Protection
This delicate green, with dime-size leaves and a pungent, peppery flavor, is more than just a celebration salad.
This particular plant is believed to be native to the Mediterranean region, in particular Turkey and eastern Greece.
In ancient times, it was especially revered for its purported ability to improve growth in children.
Greek and Persian generals were also known to feed this to their armies for its dense nutrient content.
It's also a cruciferous vegetable (meaning that its flowers have four petals, resembling a cross).
The crucifers, including broccoli and cauliflower, are well-known for their cancer-fighting potential.
It's also a dark green, leafy vegetable, meaning that it's packed with betacarotene.
A nutrient that helps ward off heart disease and diseases associated with aging, such as cataracts.
Snuffing Out Cancer
Population studies show that people who eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables, like watercress, have lower rates of cancer.
Researchers will tell you that this crucifer is particularly potent against lung cancer caused by smoking or breathing second-hand smoke.
Scientists have found that when they included phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), a natural compound found in watercress.
In the daily diets of laboratory animals and exposed them to cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
The animals were 50 percent less likely to develop lung cancer tumors than animals given their regular diet, sans PEITC.
Encouraged by the results, the scientists recruited 11 smokers to see if watercress would have similar effects in people as it did in the lab.
"We got results with humans that were consistent with what we saw in laboratory animals," says Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., professor of cancer prevention at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center in Minneapolis.
The catch, of course, is that you have to eat a lot for it to be effective.
And it won't necessarily protect you from other cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke.
The volunteers in the study ate 2 ounces at each meal, three meals a day.
That's a pretty hefty sandwich or a large salad, more than you would normally eat at one sitting.
And you would have to do it several times a day.
Of course, no one is telling you that eating anything is going to totally wash away smoke's toxic effects.
No food on the planet can.
But adding watercress to your daily diet may be a step in the right direction while you work on clearing the smoke from your life.
Watercress "Shuts Down" Breast Cancer Delivery System
The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress.
As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels.
And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels.
To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF.
This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor.
As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels.
But there's a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth.
Ad that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!
Breast Cancer Survivors Load up on Watercress
For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors.
The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours.
The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants' blood samples.
First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group?
Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood.
And that's not all...
Remember that harmful protein, called HIF, that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors?
Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate this super green.
This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin' after the women ate watercress.
So, without a doubt, if you're a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen.
Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce.
It's got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower.
In The Kitchen
With its tiny, delicate leaves and thick stems, it looks quite a bit different from other salad greens.
But with a little care, you can use this lively member of the mustard family the same way you would any leafy green.
To keep these delicate greens fresh, refrigerate it in a plastic bag.
Or you can refrigerate it stems-down in a glass of water and cover it with a plastic bag.
It'll keep for up to five days.
When using watercress, unless you're adding it to soup stock, use only the leaves and the thinner stems.
Otherwise, the pungent, peppery flavor could be overpowering.
Incidentally, this is one green you don't want to skimp on.
As it'll shrink substantially during cooking and what may look like a big pile on the counter may almost disappear on the plate.
Plan on cooking one bunch per person.
Put it on sandwiches.
Use it in salads.
Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips.
Along with keeping cancer cells at bay, it also helps fight another major public health enemy...heart disease.
Like other dark green, leafy vegetables, it's packed with betacarotene, an antioxidant nutrient that has been linked to lower rates of heart disease.
As a bonus, a 1-cup serving also provides 24 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin-C, another valuable disease-fighting antioxidant vitamin.
The antioxidants, which include beta-carotene and vitamins-C and E, help sweep up cell-damaging oxygen molecules from your body.
Keeping lots of beta-carotene in your bloodstream seems to be the ticket to lowering your risk of heart attack, certain cancers, and lots of ailments associated with aging, such as cataracts and wrinkles.
Getting the Most
Eat it raw.
It's best eaten in its natural state, fresh and crisp.
When cooked (like most vegetables), it loses its ability to release PEITC.
Fortunately, most people don't cook it.
Your dose of that active ingredient is less in a cooked vegetable than a raw one.
Use it Often
Chances are that you'll never eat the 6 ounces a day that you need to extract the maximum healing benefit.
But you can put a hefty amount in your diet simply by using it more often.
For example, it makes a tasty replacement for lettuce in sandwiches, wraps, soups, stews and
And, if you're wondering what to have for dinner tonight, might we suggest;
Watercress, Persimmon & Onion Salad
A delicious "heart healthy" recipe and ready in about 15 minutes.
This is a balanced cold weather salad that features sweet persimmons, earthy radishes and red onions, along with our super food of discussion and a lemony vinaigrette.
For best results, we like to use ripe, but still firm Fuyu persimmons.
And, because you've read how this super vegetable can help ward off second hand smoke effects.
This is an excellent recipe and it just might get you craving it more often!
I know it did for us!
For the lemony vinaigrette:
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 pinch sea salt
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
1/2 medium red onion
5 to 6 radishes
1 small head butter lettuce, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed
2 ripe persimmons, sliced into half moons
sea salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the lemon zest, juice, and sea salt in a small bowl.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil until mixture is emulsified.
Trim and peel the red onion and trim ends of radishes.
Using the thinnest setting on your mandoline slicer, carefully slice the onion (first cut it in half, then slice one half at a time) and the radishes.
Toss with a pinch or two of sea salt, and 2 tablespoons of the prepared vinaigrette.
Toss greens in a large bowl with a pinch of sea salt and another tablespoon of vinaigrette.
Tuck persimmon slices and the prepared radish and red onion slices throughout.
Adjust sea salt levels.
Finish with a drizzle of vinaigrette and several twists black pepper.
An excellent dish and good for you as well!
Time to dig in.Tweet
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