Saturday 3 June 2017

Why is watercress so incredible?

Fast facts on watercress
Here are some key points about watercress. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Watercress was fed to the Roman army
  • One cup of watercress contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K
  • A chemical in watercress may help protect against the negative effects of cancer treatment
  • The calcium, magnesium, and potassium in watercress may help bring down blood pressure

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, two cups of fresh watercress (about 68 grams) contains only 7 calories.
  • Two cups of watercress also provide:
    • 1.6 grams of protein
    • 0.1 grams of fat
    • 0.9 grams of carbohydrate (including 0.3 grams of fiber and 0.1 grams of sugar)
    Consuming 2 cups of watercress will meet the following level of daily requirements:
    • 212 percent of vitamin K
    • 48 percent of vitamin C
    • 44 percent of vitamin A
    • 8 percent of calcium 
    • 8 percent of manganese
    • 6 percent of potassium
    Plus, 4 percent of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Possible health benefits of consuming watercress
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk of a number of adverse health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods, like watercress, decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Cancer prevention and treatment
Studies have consistently shown that a compound in cruciferous vegetables known as 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) has protective effects against cancer, but a recent study shows there is also hope for using it as a shield to protect healthy tissues during cancer treatment.

In a study conducted at Georgetown University, rats were given a lethal dose of radiation. Some were left untreated, and others were treated with a daily injection of DIM for 2 weeks. All the untreated rats died, but over 50 percent of those receiving the DIM remained alive at the 30-day mark.

The same researchers did the experiment on mice and found similar results. They were able to determine that the DIM-treated mice had higher counts or red and white blood cells and blood platelets, which radiation therapy often diminishes.

Eating high amounts of cruciferous vegetables has also been associated with a lower risk of lung and colon cancer. Studies have suggested that the sulfur-containing compounds (namely sulforaphane) that give cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite are also what give them their cancer-fighting power.

Sulforaphane is now being studied for its ability to delay or impede cancer with early promising results associated with melanoma, esophageal, prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancers. Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment in the future.

Watercress also contains high amounts of chlorophyll, which may be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.

Lowering blood pressure
People who consume diets that are low in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium are more likely to have high blood pressure. These minerals are thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.

It is important to note that taking these minerals in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as when they are consumed in food. Watercress contains all three of these healthy minerals and can help improve intake.

According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates like watercress have been shown to have multiple vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.

In general, a diet rich in all fruits and vegetables has been shown to help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Maintaining healthy bones
Low intakes of vitamin K are associated with a higher risk for bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health by acting as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improving calcium absorption, and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.

Eating just one cup of watercress would meet your daily need for vitamin K.

Treating diabetes
Watercress contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral and autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.

Of note, most studies have used intravenous alpha-lipoic acid, there is uncertainty whether oral supplementation would elicit the same benefits.

How to incorporate more watercress into your dietwatercress soup
Try making watercress soup or mix watercress into soup near the end of cooking.
Watercress is most commonly consumed fresh in salads but can also be incorporated into pastas, casseroles, and sauces just like any other green.

Watercress will sauté faster than tougher greens like kale and collard greens because of its tenderness and lends a mild, slightly peppery taste to any dish.

Choose watercress with deep green crisp leaves and no signs of wilting. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few days of purchase.

Throw a small handful of watercress and blend into your favorite fruit juice or smoothie.
Add watercress to your next omelet or egg scramble.
Make a pesto using watercress.
Chop watercress and add it to pasta sauce.
Sauté watercress in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil and season with ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat as a side dish or top your baked potato.
Add watercress to your wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
Mix watercress into soup near the end of cooking.

Health Benefits of Watercress
Watercress earned its reputation as a healing herb quite early. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates located the first hospital on the island of Kos close to a stream to ensure that fresh watercress would be available for treating patients. In the 1700s, Nicholas Culpeper (author of Culpeper's Herbal) believed watercress could cleanse the blood. Modern science has identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one herb – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.

Watercress is very low in calories, but contains phytonutrients like isothiocyanates and antioxidants with a plethora of disease-preventive properties. Gluconasturtiin, a glucosinolate compound providing the peppery flavor, is one of them, contained in the leaves and stems and providing phenethyl isothiocyanates, shown to inhibit carcinogens.

Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, with 312% of the daily recommended value. It forms and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer's disease. There's also vitamin C, with 72% of the daily value, closely followed by vitamin A with 64%. Vitamin C provides top-notch infection-fighting power to stave off colds and flu, help maintain healthy connective tissue, and prevent iron deficiency. Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is essential for a properly functioning immune system and produces pigments in the retina of the eye, an absence of which can cause night blindness.

Manganese is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase, and calcium for strong bones and teeth come in high doses when you eat watercress. Antioxidant flavonoids like ß carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein protect from lung and mouth cancers. B-complex vitamins include riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid, all important for keeping your cellular metabolic functions at peak performance.

Studies Done on Watercress
Eating watercress daily has the ability to significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells and further to resist DNA damage caused by free radicals, according to a two-year research project at the University of Ulster.

Scientists examined a watercress-derived compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) and found significant anticancer properties. Single blind, randomized, crossover trials involved 60 healthy men and women eating about 1½ cups of fresh watercress daily for eight weeks. Positive results included a reduction in blood triglyceride levels by an average of 10%, and a significant (33% to 100%) increase in lutein and betacarotene content, associated, with higher intake levels, in a lowered incidence of eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration1.

Scientific research found that the PEITC in watercress may suppress breast cancer cell development. Studies at the University of Southampton study found PEITC may starve tumor growth of blood and oxygen by "turning off" a signal in the body. Researchers explained that "as tumors develop, they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply so they send out signals that make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumor, which feed them oxygen and nutrients2."

Watercress Fun Facts
You could call watercress the first fast food. It was a free and therefore important source of sustenance throughout Europe and the US in the 19th century. Given the nickname "poor man's bread," bunches were often rolled into a cone and eaten as an on-the-go breakfast sandwich – much less expensive than the real thing.

The ANDI score - Aggregate Nutrient Density Index
Scores 0 - 1000
Swiss Chard
Collard Greens
All score 1000 points
 see or print off the PDF here

ANDI Score warning
What Is the ANDI Score For Food Nutrients?

This CDC report calculated its list of top superfoods based on ANDI Scores, or “aggregate nutrient density index” scores intended to find the foods with the highest nutrient-per-calorie density. Unfortunately, ANDI Scores are hopelessly broken because the denominator is the energy density of food: i.e., how many calories are in 100 grams of the food.

That means that if you take watercress – 100 grams of watercress is probably 95 grams of water and has exactly FOUR calories (yes, 4 calories)… you can ignore the water in the equation.

So if it has enough vitamins to equal 400 (quite a lot of vitamins), you divide by the number of calories and you get a nice score of 100. Sounds great, right?

Except you’ll starve to death on a watercress diet because there’s no energy in it.

You’ll also experience food cravings if you eat tons of it.

Following just ANDI Scores is a roadmap to starving.

The ANDI/nutrient density approach discounts some of the most important factors to look at when you eat. ANDI scores make people try to avoid calories when it’s calories from the right foods that make your brain and body work.

A lot of the foods the CDC lists are indeed very good for you due to high vitamin content – lots of greens and cruciferous veggies of course – but you can’t subsist on them alone.

Truly high nutrient foods, like liver or butter or egg yolks, are penalized because they’re high calorie.

Guess what has the highest ANDI score? A multivitamin. Sure, I take supplements.

But I also eat real food too.

Southampton UniversityWatercress may “Turn Off” Breast Cancer Signal PDF
AJCN Nutrition  Benefits of Watercress Supplementation in Diet
. In terms of the active chemical species, CVs are rich sources of glucosinolates, a class of sulfur- and nitrogen-containing glycosides that are hydrolyzed (by plant myrosinase or intestinal microflora) to form isothiocyanates. These isothiocyanates have been shown, in several in vitro and in vivo studies, to display anticarcinogenic properties as reviewed previously (9, 17). Watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) in particular contains one of the highest concentrations of glucosinolates per gram weight of any vegetable (18, 19) as well as containing high concentrations of carotenoids such as lutein and -carotene (20). These phytochemicals have also been associated with various anticarcinogenic properties, including antioxidant activities. Members of theCruciferae family have also been shown to contain high amounts of phenolic compounds
British Journal of Nutrition  In vivo modulation of 4E binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) phosphorylationby watercress: a pilot study

US Library Of Medicine  
Inhibition of hypoxia inducible factor by phenethyl isothiocyanate

The WaterCress Company Alresford

The principles of growing watercress have essentially changed little over the years. Much of the work is still done by hand, but some modernisation has taken place.

Until the mid 50s watercress was predominantly a winter crop and to support this there were up to 10 times the area of production as the crop grows slow during this period compared to the faster summer period. This winter production suited the farms as they often dried up in the summer or over time became unsuitable for production or even sold for development.

This left a reduced area and with the issues created from reproducing crops, the industry moved to a more reliable and successful system of propagation from seeds.

TWC produces all its own seeds and this is a very important part of the turnaround from the production crash in the 50s.

Harvesting has become mechanised which is a far cry from the back breaking hand harvested which was a really tough job. The cleaning out is now done with a tractor and we have also recently mechanised fertiliser applications to increase efficiency and reduce inputs.

Please follow the pictorial process online to learn more about how we grow watercress.

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