Continuing with my ethos of eating food in its most natural state (Health tip No 7), the yummy vegetable watercress is coming into season.  In fact it’s National Watercress Week between the 19 May – 26 May 2013!

This week your health tip is  – EAT WATERCRESS. This under-rated but delicious peppery vegetable is is a member of the brassica family (that includes broccoli, cauliflower, rocket, radish and Brussel Sprouts) and an important source of Vitamin C, calcium, iron, folate, phytochemicals, antioxidants, betacarotene, lutein and quercetin.  Cultivated in Spring Water it is best eaten when fresh. Did you know that watercress offers  over 15 vital nutrients minerals – more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin E than broccoli and more calcium that whole milk?! Scientific studies have proven that watercress is an important player in the field of cancer prevention. It has been indicated that it provides enzymes which supports intestinal health,  liver detoxification, depression and mental health issues, hormonal  and fertility health.  Watercress can be eaten in many forms – from juicing (Health tip number 5) see https://www.facebook.com/CreationHealing for recipes, to sprouting its seeds (Health tip no 6) to including in a salad, to cooking. Here is a Watercress recipe from Create Health ebook (http://shop.creationfertility.com).  For a wealth of additional recipes and information I suggest you visit http://watercress.co.uk. Enjoy!

Watercress Soup (serves up to 4)

1 litre  vegetable stock, 1 large onion, finely chopped,  2 cloves clove garlic, crushed,  1 large potato, scrubbed and cubed, Large pinch of mixed dried herbs and pinch paprika, Black pepper to taste, 1 -2 bunches watercress, washed and chopped, Small carton of crème fraiche or yoghurt (optional) or 1 x poached egg (optional)

Heat half of the vegetable stock in large saucepan.  Add onion, garlic and potatoes.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, and then bring to the boil. Add black pepper, herbs and paprika and cook until potatoes are tender (approx 20 minutes).  Finally add the watercress and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Cool slightly then blend mixture in liquidizer until smooth.  Return to saucepan, reheat gently adding the pre-cooked poached egg  or the crème fraiche or  yoghurt. Add the remaining stock or water if too thick.

Here is some research and nutritional analysis: Research undertaken at the University of Ulster in 2007 demonstrated that eating watercress daily can significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells, which is considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.

The most recent research, published in 2010 by Southampton University, revealed that a plant compound in watercress – PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate) – may have the ability to suppress breast cancer cell development by ‘turning off’ a signal in the body and thereby starving the growing tumour of essential blood and oxygen.

An immune cell population essential for intestinal health could be controlled by brassicas (which includes watercress) in the diet, researchers at Australia’s Walter & Eliza Hall Institute have found that  immune cells, innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), which are found in the lining of the digestive system,  protect the body from so-called bad bacteria in the intestine, play an important role in controlling food allergies, inflammatory diseases and obesity, and may even prevent the development of bowel cancers are found in brassicas.  Dr Gabrielle Belz et al have discovered the gene T-bet is essential for producing a population of these critical immune cells and that the gene responds to signals in our food. The proteins in brassicas are known to interact with a cell surface receptor that switches on T-bet, and might play a role in producing these critical immune cells. Source: Fresh Info

Health Effects of Vegetables and Fruit – Johanna W Laupe – Am. J of Clinical Nutrition – 2012 96:1429-1436, The books: Hormones and Your Health – Winnifred  Cutler, Phd – 2009
Primal Health Book –  M Odent 2007
Nutrient Information Per Average Portion of Fruit or Vegetables (per 80g of edible produce)(Figures in brackets are the % of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for that nutrient – no figures, means there is no RDA for that nutrient)

Watercress
(raw)
Broccoli
(raw)
Broccoli
(boiled)
Tomato
(raw)
Apple
(raw)
Calories (kcal) 18 26 19 14 38
Protein (g) 2.4 3.5 2.5 0.6 0.3
Fat (g) 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.2 0.1
Fibre (g) 1.2 2.1 1.8 0.8 1.4
Beta-carotene (mcg) 2016 460 380 451 14
Vitamin A equivalent (mcg) 336 (42%) 77 (10%) 63 (8%) 75 (9%) 2 (0.3%)
Vitamin B1 (mg) 0.13 (9%) 0.08 (6%) 0.04 (3%) 0.07 (5%) 0.02 (2%)
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.18 (9%) 0.11 (6%) 0.09 (5%) 0.11 (6%) 0.05 (3%)
Vitamin C (mg) 50 (83%) 70 (117%) 35 (58%) 14 (23%) 5 (8%)
Vitamin E (mg) 1.17 (12%) 1.04 (10%) 0.88 (9%) 0.98 (10%) 0.47 (5%)
Folate (mcg) 36 (18%) 72 (36%) 51 (26%) 18 (9%) 1 (0.5%)
Vitamin K (mcg)* 200 81 113 6 2
Calcium (mg) 136 (17%) 45 (6%) 32 (4%) 6 (0.8%) 3 (0.4%)
Iodine (mcg) 12 (8%)** 1.6 (1%) 1.6 (1%) 1.6 (1%) Not known
Iron (mg) 1.8 (13%) 1.4 (10%) 0.8 (6%) 0.4 (3%) 0.1 (0.7%)
Magnesium (mg) 12 (4%) 18 (6%) 10 (3%) 6 (2%) 4 (1%)
Manganese (mg) 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1
Phosphorus (mg) 42 (5%) 70 (9%) 46 (6%) 19 (2%) 9 (1%)
Potassium (mg) 184 296 136 200 96
Zinc (mg) 0.6 (4%) 0.5 (3%) 0.3 (2%) 0.1 (0.7%) 0.1 (0.7%)
Lutein and Zeaxanthin (mcg)* 4614 1353 1214 98 23
Selenium (mcg) 1.6** Trace Trace Trace Trace
Quercetin (mcg)*** 6000 2000 168 472 3416

Data Sources: Food Standards Agency (2002) McCance & Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, 6th Summary Edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.

* U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 19, 2006.

** Direct Laboratories analysis of watercress, 2006.

*** USDA Database, Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods, Release 2, 2006.

SUMMARY – per average portion (80g edible weight). Compared to raw and boiled broccoli, raw tomato and a raw apple. Watercress is the better source of vitamins B1 and B6, vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin A equivalents, iron, calcium and zinc (very small differences for zinc). For vitamin C and magnesium, watercress is a better source than all of the others listed, except for raw broccoli (but this isn’t the way that it’s typically consumed in the UK). Ref: http://watercress.co.uk/healthy-stuff/nutritional-analysis/