Kitchen Essentials – Watercress
Watercress is part of the mustard family. It’s characterized by its pungent flavour. Used sparingly, it adds depth to mayonnaise, sandwiches, salads or any dish to which you might want to add a certain mysterious flavour. Long thought of as a super food alongside blueberries, açai berries, cinnamon and so many others, watercress is now also believed to prevent breast cancer.
A study in The British Journal of Nutrition conducted by the Cancer Research Centre at the School of Medicine, Southampton General Hospital in the United Kingdom found that when healthy participants who had previously been treated for breast cancer consumed a 3 ounce portion of watercress reduced the presence of tumour growth six and eight hours after eating. The study demonstrates that watercress is as therapeutic as traditional drug treatments with tamoxifen and herceptin, and through regular consumption may actually protect against cancer in general.
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, in his newest book, Forever Young, suggests that “Watercress has the ability to turn off HIF1, a signal sent out by cells calling for blood supply. When HIF1 becomes incorrectly regulated, otherwise harmless precancerous clusters of cells have the opportunity to grow to form invasive tumours.” Another study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February of 2007 showed that, in addition to reducing DNA damage, a daily dose of watercress increased the ability of cells to further resist DNA damage that may be caused by free radicals. In the study, 60 men and women, half of whom were smokers, consumed their usual diet plus 85 grams of raw watercress daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were analyzed for plasma antioxidant status and DNA damage in lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. Watercress consumption significantly reduced lymphocyte DNA damage.
The Southampton and AJCN studies confirm what the Romans, Greeks and Persians knew for centuries — watercress is a powerful natural medicine and nutritionally dense. It has been prescribed for migraines, anemia, eczema, kidney and liver disorders and tuberculosis.
Watercress is a versatile leaf, delicious in drinks, salads, soups, sautés, spreads, sandwiches, stews and stir-frys.