Watercress may not seem the most exciting food, yet the reality is it's a nutritional powerhouse which should be playing a bigger part in our diets
It has numerous health benefits yet it's also something that many of us don't eat enough of.
Now, Registered Nutritionist and former vet, Dr Lucy Williamson, has partnered with watercress.co.uk, to talk us through the benefits of including more watercress in our diets...
A plant-based diet will typically be low in iron - it can be in the plant but unless Vitamin C is present to change it into the form that makes it easy to absorb (like it is in red meat), it's impossible to utilise.
However, 80g of watercress contains more Vitamin C than an orange of the same weight, making it the perfect solution. Low iron levels means we’re unable to use the energy from our food, with our growth and development becoming an energy draining processes.
It's particularly important to ensure we avoid low iron stores during pregnancy. It plays a key part in the brain development of unborn babies and continues into toddler years.
2. Vitamin A
Vitamin A also plays a part in improving iron absorption. 100g of Watercress contains over half of our recommended daily intake, helping to maintain a strong immune system.
Calcium is required as we grow up, as it's necessary to reach maximum bone density by the time we're 18. However, that doesn't mean we stop needing it as we get older - it's required to ensure we maintain this level. Calcium is best absorbed from dairy, but it's not everyone's favourite food choice. That's where watercress comes in, as 100g contain a quarter of the recommended daily amount.
4. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is a key nutrient in bone density, and, again, watercress is something of a powerhouse in this field. The Vitamin is absorbed easily from food of animal origins but 100g of watercress contains four times our recommended daily intake – pretty good.
5. Gut Bacteria
Gut Bacteria are energised thanks to fermenting fibre that comes from the food we eat. The microbes require nurturing, as they're crucial for long-term health, be it developing our immune system or protecting us from bowel disease and boosting our moods.
Including fruit and veg in your diet plays a crucial role here - and, you guessed it, watercress will again be a smart choice. Not only is it a great source of fibre, but it also has one of the highest levels of antioxidants too. We rely on our gut bacteria to activate antioxidants before using them, as they provide a daily detox which cuts the risk of DNA damage from the many toxins we are exposed to, be it from the environment or the metabolic process.
6. Sports performance
If you're a keen exerciser, natural nutrients are a great way to get ahead. Watercress contains high levels of nitrates which have been found to increase the efficiency of using oxygen during exercise (VO2 max).
High in Vitamin C and antioxidants, they're valuable in reducing oxidative stress, which occurs during intense sport, and leads to DNA damage and prolonged breaks from training. Oxidative stress also weakens the immune system, so including a great source of Vitamin C in your diet becomes crucial.