Watercress – the “weed” with tremendous healing power
Watercress, a semi-aquatic, fast growing vegetable, is the most ancient vegetable known to, and consumed by man. It is nature’s answer to our needs of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fibre, all in one. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, micronutrients and antioxidants. Watercress is said to be the most nutritious and medicinally powerful vegetable. Some others have described it as both a vegetable multivitamin and multi-mineral.
The botanical name is Nasturtium officinale and it belongs to the family, Brassicaceae. It has been consumed regularly in salads and other recipes in Europe and the Americas but knowledge of it in this part of the world is very scanty. Indeed it is considered to be a weed here and it is not uncommon to see watercress being cleared from where they have grown wildly. Unlike other parts of the world water cress is not cultivated on a commercial scale here and the little that is found in very few markets are wild ones that individuals have harvested and brought from around their homes.
Elsewhere it is commercially cultivated and consumed for its life-giving and healing properties. Watercress can also be bought from some big supermarkets in the cities.
Watercress is one vegetable that is known to be high in calories and this is derived from its content of carbohydrates, protein and fats. The following minerals are found in watercress: calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Others are manganese, iron, copper, phosphorus and selenium. Water cress is also a rich source of the following vitamins, Vitamins C, A, E (Alpha Tocopherol) and K. Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Panthotenic acid and choline are also richly found in this wonderful, super vegetable. Comparatively, watercress contains more calcium than milk, more vitamin C than orange and more absorbable iron than spinach. Also, there are more Vitamins C, K, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc in watercress than tomatoes, apple and broccoli.
Health benefits of watercress
Because of the abundance of vitamins and minerals in watercress, it functions generally to maintain the wellbeing of the body. Specifically, the Vitamin A content of watercress helps to improve normal vision and night vision. Together with the other vitamins in watercress Vitamin A enhances the immune system. Vitamin C is necessary for the normal structure and function of connective tissues anywhere in the body. It improves the elasticity of the skin and blood vessels and the strength of the gums. Watercress plays an important role in the body because of the Vitamin C content. Also as an antioxidant Vitamin C in this vegetable protects the body against free radical damage. Calcium is involved in the structure and function of bones, teeth, muscles and nerves. Consumption of watercress regularly will improve the function of these structures. Calcium, also involved in the release of insulin, will help to maintain a normal blood level of insulin and glucose by extension. Iron is needed for the production of the haem component of haemoglobin, which is the structure that carries and transports oxygen in the blood. This transport function is supported by the iron in watercress. Potassium helps to regulate the blood pressure and improves the function of nerves and muscles. Watercress as a vegetable is one of the highest sources of potassium, which do enhance these functions.
So far we have looked at the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibre etc in watercress. In next week Thursday’s edition of The Guardian Newspaper, we shall be looking at the role of watercress in disease healing in the body.
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