There’s an often ignored green vegetable that you might want to consider adding to your daily salad — watercress. A recent study has shown that eating it regularly could help prevent the type of DNA damage that leads to cancer.
You don’t hear about this salad green often, but it’s actually one of the most ancient leafy vegetables out there. Watercress, also known as “Nasturtium nasturtium- aquaticum,” “Nasturtium officinale,” or “Nasturtium microphyllum,” is a perennial plant that grows either in the water or partially in the water. It’s actually a member of the cabbage family and does not really have anything in common with the flowering plant that goes by the name “nasturtium.”
As a food source, watercress is said to contain iron, calcium, folic acid, lutein, and vitamins B and C. Most often used in salads and soups, and as a garnish, this cruciferous green has a peppery taste.
Okay, so it sounds like a healthy and tangy addition to the same old salad you usually prepare, but can it really help prevent cancer? Let’s take a look at the recent news.
The study, done by the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Centre for Molecular Biosciences, University of Ulster, and the Institute of Food Research, looked at whether eating raw watercress every day could be helpful in the fight against cancer, as other cruciferous vegetables have proven useful in this way.
It’s important to note that The Watercress Alliance funded this research — and that this organization obviously has something to gain from any positive evidence on watercress — however, the fact that the study was reviewed by outside scientists and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives it some weight.
The study looked at 60 people — divided equally among the sexes — of whom 30 were smokers and 30 were nonsmokers. The average age was 33. For a period of eight weeks, the study participants ate 85 grams of fresh watercress every day, on top of their usual diet.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the people eating watercress had a 17% decrease in DNA damage to their cells and a 23.9% drop in DNA damage to white blood cells. When the researchers exposed cells from the participants to hydrogen peroxide (which generates a lot of free radicals, known cancer-causing agents), the cell damage in the watercress consumers was 9.4% lower.
Moreover, the people who munched regularly on the cruciferous veggie during the trial had higher levels of the cancer-fighting antioxidants lutein (100%) and beta- carotene (33%). It’s important to note that smokers saw greater benefits when eating watercress regularly than non- smokers did.
These findings mean that adding watercress to your diet could help you boost the ability of your cells to reduce and resist DNA damage and to fight off free radicals. . . meaning that it could help give your body greater power against cancer. Especially if you’re a smoker! So, add it to your daily regime of healthy eating. Watercress salad, anyone?