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Health Benefits and Anticancer Benefits of Watercress
by Stacy Popke / October 5, 2008

Watercress is a willowy, leafy green that is part of the mustard family. It is known for its zesty, peppery taste and is available in most supermarkets year-round. Watercress is unique in that it doesnít need soil to grow. It flourishes just fine in running water. Youíll find watercress usually sold in small bunches at your local grocery store or farmerís market.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study on February 15, 2007 from the University of Ulster that credits watercress with thwarting DNA cell damage in humans. The studyís participants, 60 ordinary men and women, added 85 grams of watercress a day for eight weeks to their usual diet. Blood tests conducted prior to and after the eight week study showed significant decreases in the DNA damage to white blood cells for the participants.

This study, and others that have produced similar results, is good news for cancer patients and those at risk of developing cancer. It is highly suspected that DNA damage is a top cause of cancer growth. If watercress can fight off damage to DNA, then cancers (particularly lung cancer) can be avoided.

What is it about watercress that makes it such an amazing cancer fighting food? Scientists believe it has to do with the antioxidants found in this leafy green. The lutein and beta-carotene in watercress produce antioxidants that strengthen the DNA cells against injury. And stronger DNA in a person means the less likelihood of becoming stricken with cancer.

Smokers, in particular, have shown significant health benefits from adding watercress to their diets. Researchers of the University of Ulster study reported that test participants who were smokers had the lowest antioxidants levels of all the participants prior to the study. So, even if you cannot manage to quit smoking, you can still increase your overall health and reduce your risk of getting lung cancer by eating watercress on a regular basis.

Watercress (along with other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower) should be a staple in your diet if you want to reduce your risk of cancer. Watercress not only has plenty of lutein and beta-carotene, it also has significant amounts of folate, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. In particular, getting an adequate amount of folate intake is especially important for women of child-bearing age who may be or become pregnant.

The key to picking nutrient-filled, mouth-watering watercress is to look for leaves that are crisp and have a deep green color. Watercress bunches that are yellowish in color or have droopy leaves are to be avoided. Once you bring home your prized watercress, you can store these leafy greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to several days.

When it comes time to use the watercress in your recipe, make sure to rinse the leaves with water (and a vegetable wash, if you desire). Do not keep the watercress under water for very long or else you will run the risk of creating wilted leaves. Either give the leaves a good shake or gently pat them with a clean rag to rinse off the excess water.

If you are interested in taking advantage of the many amazing health benefits of watercress, there are several tantalizing recipe options for consuming this leafy green. Fresh watercress leaves can be used for salads and garnishes. Cooked watercress can be used in Chinese stir fry dishes and soups. Try a new recipe for watercress today and eat your way to better health!

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