by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable along with kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy. One cup chopped watercress contains 4 calories, 1 g protein, <1 g carbohydrate, and <1 g fat. Watercress is packed with vitamins K, C, and A, and contains a small amount of calcium and manganese [i].
Cruciferous vegetables, including watercress, contain compounds called glucosinolates. When glucosinolates break down, they result in a product called isothiocyanates. The specific glucosinolate that watercress is rich in is called gluconasturtiin, which breaks down to the isothiocyanate called phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC). It is this PEITC that may provide antioxidant activity within the body [ii]. Specifically, PEITC may offer a protective effect against prostate cancer [iii].
With 85 mcg of vitamin K in 1 cup, watercress provides 106% of the daily value of this vitamin. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting, calcium level regulation, and bone metabolism. In a 2017 meta-analysis on vitamin K intake and fracture risk, it was found that higher vitamin K intake may moderately decrease risk of fractures [iv].
Ways to Eat
Use watercress only for garnish no more! Enjoy this leafy green in a fresh salad with string beans and roasted pepitas, sautéed in pasta or as a side, or as a soup. You can also try watercress in smoothies with other greens, chia or flax seeds, and fruit, or atop pizza and in sandwiches. As always, keep an eye out for our Savor Cooks recipe of the month!
[i] Watercress, raw. Retrieved from https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2482/2.
[ii] Isothiocyanates. Retrieved from https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/isothiocyanates.
[iii] Wang LG & Chiao JW, 2010. Prostate cancer chemopreventive activity of phenethyl isothiocyanate through epigenetic regulation (review) . Int J Oncol, 37(3):533-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20664922.
[iv] Hao G, Zhang B, Gu M, Chen C, Zhang Q, Zhang G & Cao X, 2017. Vitamin K intake and the risk of fractures, a meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore), 96(17):e6725. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5413254/.