After decades of being pushed to the side of the plate as nothing more than a decorative garnish, watercress is enjoying something of a renaissance as consumers discover it's "not just a bit on the side." So next time you're in the supermarket, stop by the produce aisle and pick up a bag of watercress from the chiller cabinet. How many more reasons do you need?
Watercress is the UK's most historic salad leaf and is grown in pure spring water drawn from deep under the chalk downs in Hampshire and Dorset. The lush green beds are situated at the head of rivers and streams, which are often teeming with wildlife
Bursting with more than 15 essentials vitamins and minerals, watercress has enjoyed super food status for centuries.
What makes watercress unique is its high levels of a compound called phenylethyl isothiocyanate, or PEITC.This gives the plant its unique peppery flavour and in scientific studies has been shown to increase the body's potential to resist certain carcinogenic (cancer causing) agents. Hoping to build on this evidence, The Watercress Alliance is funding a two-year research project by the University of Ulster to try to establish the effect of regularly eating watercress upon one's likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. A dietary trial involving 60 people, was conducted in 2004, and the results are now being analysed. An interim report is due out in Spring 2005 with publication of the full results in 2006.
Gram for gram, watercress contains as much vitamin C as oranges, more calcium than whole milk and more iron than spinach.
Watercress is packed with beta-carotene and Vitamin A equivalents, which are great for healthy skin and eyes. It provides iodine and most B vitamins, including folic acid which is important for a healthy pregnancy. Vitamin B and folic acid are also increasingly being linked to cardiovascular health as they impact upon homocysteine levels.
Watercress contains a variety of antioxidants which can help mop up potentially harmful free radicals.
Watercress has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times. The Greek general Xenophon ensured his soldiers ate it as a tonic and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is thought to have decided on the location of his first hospital because of its proximity to a stream so he could use only the freshest watercress to treat his patients.
Gram for gram, watercress is a better source of vitamins C, B1, B6, K and E, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc than apples, tomatoes and cooked broccoli.
Watercress is a favourite detox ingredient, its mustard oils boosting and regulating the activity of the liver's enzymes.
Watercress is low in calories and fat. A serving of 80g (or a cereal bowl full) has just 18 calories and makes up one of the five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, as recommended by health experts. Liz Hurley drinks up to six cups of watercress soup a day when she's on one of her famous diets.
Watercress contains lutein and zeaxanthin, types of carotenoids that act as antioxidants (meaning they can mop up potentially damaging free radicals) and have been linked to eye health. It also contains another powerful antioxidant quercetin, which is a type of flavonoid.
Become a great fan of watercress and try these developed three delicious family recipes. Download the recipes from www.watercress.co.uk There's also a stunning new range of watercress summer salads.
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