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Did you know that watercress may have been a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers? And for centuries, it was used as a breath freshener, palate cleanser, and for medicinal purposes?
If you ask the average person on the street, they likely wouldn’t be able to tell you for sure what a watercress is. Ask them how it might influence men’s health and forget it! They likely would have no idea about the relationship between watercress and men’s mental and physical health.
Though watercress sounds like a type of nut, similar to a water chestnut, it is actually a dark, leafy green in the cabbage family and can be a great salad base. As Medical News Today puts it: “Historically, people have used watercress as little more than a garnish. Now, however, it is seeing a resurgence in popularity as one of the latest superfoods.”
During men’s health month, learn about the effect watercress can have on diseases like cancer, sexual impotence, blood clotting and other cardiovascular diseases, and even mental health. It is linked to better eye health, healthy weight management, and more; it can aid in hydration and even contribute to better bone density. It’s best when fresh and crunchy.
Whether you add it to a sandwich, use it as a salad base, or steam it as a side dish, watercress is a tasty way to live long and prosper. Read on to learn more.
How watercress might be able to protect against cancer
You probably already know that leafy greens are very good for you. Obviously, a balanced diet rich in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables will lower inflammation and thus decrease your risk of chronic diseases associated with high inflammation levels.
Because watercress is a member of the cruciferous family, it shares some of the same healthful properties as kale, broccoli, arugula, and Brussels sprouts. But it’s growing in popularity because people are realizing how it is powerfully dense with nutrients.
But did you realize that new research is showing that cruciferous vegetables like watercress might have protective benefits against cancer? Cancer medications may still be necessary, but you can support your healing with healthy dietary choices as well.
Medical News Today reports: “Recent research in test tubes and animals has concluded that eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables has an association with a lower risk of triple-negative breast cancer and bladder cancer. Studies have suggested that a compound called sulforaphane is also what gives these vegetables their beneficial effects against cancer. This is a compound that contains sulfur and gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter taste.”
Healthline shares similar findings: “Watercress is packed with plant compounds called antioxidants that protect against cell damage caused by free radicals, which are harmful molecules that lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been associated with several chronic illnesses including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, diets high in antioxidant-rich foods like watercress can help protect against oxidative stress, which may lower your risk of these diseases.”
As you can see, a vegetable-rich diet is a healthy choice, but watercress is a nutritional superpower.
One study on the antioxidant compounds in 12 different cruciferous vegetables is of particular interest. Healthline reports, “Watercress outperformed all other vegetables in this study in terms of total amount of phenols and the ability to neutralize free radicals. What’s more, studies have linked the antioxidants in watercress to a lower risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.”
How watercress can lower blood pressure
Many men deal with high blood pressure and are on blood pressure medications. However, watercress can help with high blood pressure, too. Medical News Today reports that watercress can help lower blood pressure.
“People who do not consume enough calcium, magnesium, and potassium in their diets are more likely to have high blood pressure,” the article states. “These minerals are thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium from the body and helping arteries dilate. …Watercress contains all three of these healthy minerals and can help improve intake.”
The article further states that according to a 2013 study, “foods containing dietary nitrates such as watercress have multiple benefits for the blood vessels. These benefits include reducing blood pressure, inhibiting the buildup of platelets, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.”
To maintain a healthy blood pressure, it’s a good idea to add watercress into the mix. Note that taking minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium in supplement form won’t provide the same benefits as consuming them from dietary sources.
Why you should eat watercress before a workout
It seems the power of watercress isn’t just limited to keeping physical health in tip-top shape. It might even be able to boost athletic performance.
That’s because vegetables in the Brassicaceae family contain high levels of dietary nitrates, which are compounds found naturally in foods like beets, radishes, and leafy green vegetables such as watercress.
Healthline reports that these dietary nitrates “relax your blood vessels and increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood, which may improve exercise performance. What’s more, dietary nitrate lowers resting blood pressure and reduces the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, which may increase exercise tolerance.”
The article also states that many studies on dietary nitrates (from beets and other vegetables) link them to improved exercise performance in athletes. But watercress in particular is a powerful addition to your diet because of its myriad health benefits.
Is watercress a good source of Omega-3s?
Most of us are familiar with omega-3 foods like fatty fish and heart-healthy oils. Amy Myers MD reports that omega-3s are especially beneficial for men: “The omega-3 benefits for men include supporting sexual health, heart health, and cognitive function. Omega-3s also support everything from luxurious hair, to a healthy mood, and joint health.”
If you don’t have enough salmon, tuna, and mackerel, there’s still good news: watercress is also a great source of these heart-healthy fats.
Dr. Axe states, “While watercress contains a variety of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals, it also contains a relatively high proportion of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), mainly in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A study was conducted by the Department of Food Science at RMIT University to help determine the fatty acid content of 11 green vegetables. Interestingly enough, the total fatty acid concentrations of the vegetables in the study ranged from 44 milligrams per 100 grams wet weight in Chinese cabbage to 372 milligrams per 100 grams in watercress.”
As you can see, adding watercress to your diet (especially if you don’t regularly consume fish) can be a great way to up your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to protect against heart disease and provide many other benefits to your brain, heart, and sexual function.”
Of course, heart medications may still be a necessary prescription for you, so make sure to talk to your doctor about what drugs and treatment routes are right for you, in addition to a healthy diet.
How watercress can improve your mental health
Last but certainly not least, watercress has not only benefits to your physical health but is linked to better mental health, too. You might be wondering how a simply leafy green could make you feel happier, but you may be surprised by how closely diet and mood are sometimes linked.
As the Oklahoma City Sentinel puts it, “Mental health and nutrition are reciprocal. What people eat affects their mental health, and mental health influences how they think, feel, and act. The latest American Medical Association poll shows that 66% of American adults understand the connection, and 81% are inclined to improve their diet to improve mental health.”
As you can see, what you eat affects how you feel… in more ways than one.
So, what’s one quick way you can improve your diet (and your mood along with it)? Add in one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: watercress. According to the Oklahoma City Sentinel, “Watercress is packed with 28 essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds and is the only food to obtain a perfect score on both the ANDI and CDC indexes.”
What do these mean and why does it matter? The article continues, “Watercress has more folate than a banana and more Vitamin C than an orange. Watercress is also an excellent source of highly soluble iron, zinc, magnesium, and Vitamin B. All these nutrients are related to preventing and treating depressive disorders.”
Yes, you read that right. There are certain foods linked to improved depression outcomes, and watercress is one of them. Even the World Journal of Psychiatry published a study that places watercress, with all of its dense nutrients, quite high on the Antidepressant Food Scale, which is a ranking of nutrients that are linked to providing antidepressant properties.
As the World Journal of Psychiatry explains it, “The AFS is based on a nutrient profiling system devised to identify foods with the highest nutrient density of nutrients with clinical evidence to support their role in depressive disorders. This list of foods and food categories with the highest density of the 12 Antidepressant Nutrients, the Antidepressant Foods, should be considered by researchers in the design of future intervention studies and clinicians as dietary options to support prevention and recovery from depression disorders.”
Watercress was the highest scoring plant-based food, beating out other nutritional powerhouses like spinach, fresh herbs, peppers, and pumpkins. Of course, adding watercress to your diet may not be sufficient to combat clinical depression. Always consult with a medical professional who can work with you to determine whether prescription antidepressant medications are right for you.
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