What Watercress Can Do For Osteoporosis And Your Health (Plus An Easy Recipe)

Cruciferous vegetables are well known for their numerous health benefits and high vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant density. Broccoli, kale, and cabbage are often mentioned for their nutrient content, but watercress is most often ignored.

Today we’ll look at this nutrient-dense leafy green and explain why it’s an important (and delicious!) food to include in your grocery list. Plus, you’ll get a recipe that’s sure to make you want to try watercress and make it a part of your osteoporosis diet.

What Is Watercress?

Before the 19th century, watercress was considered a weed. But in the early 1800s, the British started cultivating it. It’s recognizable by its small round leaves and crunchy edible stems. Don’t be fooled by its humble size- watercress is full of bold flavor, with a peppery zing similar to arugula.

Watercress is closely related to Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and kale- but is lighter and easier to prepare than many of its cruciferous cousins. It’s not any less powerful though! Let’s have a look at what this little leaf provides.

Synopsis

Watercress is a cruciferous leafy vegetable with a peppery flavor.

The Nutritional Profile Of Watercress

Watercress holds the distinction of being number one on the US Center for Disease Control’s list of Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables.1 This list compares how many and what amount of critical nutrients each plant contains in a 100 calorie serving.

If you’re going to eat a 100 calorie serving of any plant food, watercress is the most nutritionally dense choice, with a nutrient density score of 100 out of 100.

Here’s the nutritional breakdown of a single cup of chopped watercress2:

  • Calories: 3.7 – <1% DV
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0.4g <1% DV
  • Vitamin A: 1085 IU – 22% DV
  • Vitamin C: 14.6 mg – 24% DV
  • Vitamin E: (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.3 mg – 2% DV
  • Vitamin K: 85.0 mcg – 106% DV
  • Calcium: 40.8 mg – 4% DV
  • Magnesium: 7.1 mg – 2% DV
  • Phosphorus: 20.4 mg – 2% DV
  • Potassium: 112 mg – 3% DV
  • Total Omega-3 fatty acids: 7.8 mg
  • Total Omega-6 fatty acids: 4.1 mg

Of the 34 grams of watercress in a single cup, a remarkable 32.3 grams is water. That makes watercress an extremely hydrating food.

Some of those amounts might seem small, but consider that watercress delivers them alongside less than four calories per cup. A quarter of your daily vitamin C, a fifth of your Vitamin A and more than 100% of your Vitamin K packed into a single ingredient is a huge step toward reaching your daily nutritional goals.

Synopsis

The CDC ranks watercress number one on its list of powerhouse fruits and vegetables for its high nutrient density.

What The Nutrients In Watercress Can Do For You

Antioxidant Content

Watercress is a rich source of antioxidants, which protect your cells from the damaging oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Reducing oxidative stress helps to prevent diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, plus it protects your bones.3

Vitamin K

Watercress is a rich source of Vitamin K1, also called phylloquinone, which is involved in blood clotting and liver health. Not to be confused with Vitamin K2 (menaquinone), which activates the calcium-binding protein osteocalcin to form calcium bonds. Vitamin K2 also works in synergy with Vitamin D to regulate osteoclasts, the cells that remove old bone to make way for newer stronger bone cells.4

Vitamin C

Many people only think of Vitamin C as necessary for the immune system, but it is also vital for the production of collagen, which composes the majority of your bone’s living tissue.5 Collagen supports tensile strength in healthy bones, which helps prevent fracture. Also, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that prevents free radical damage that can harm your bones.

Vitamin A And Carotenoids

Watercress contains zeaxanthin and lutein, carotenoid antioxidants that are part of the Vitamin A family. They’ve been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.6 Research has confirmed that reduced vision increases the risk of falls and subsequent fractures.7

Water

Proper hydration is essential for your bones. Water is one of the three most significant components of bone, and it impacts strength, density, and the remodeling process.8 Drinking water is essential, but it’s easy to forget that we can also choose hydrating foods- some of which announce their contents right in their name, like watermelon and watercress.

Synopsis

Watercress is a rich source of antioxidants, Vitamins K, C, and A, carotenoids, and water. All of these nutrients help to improve your health and protect your bones.

Try Watercress

You can use watercress in many dishes as a replacement for lettuce and other greens. Try mixing it into your salads, adding it to soups and eggs, blending it into pesto or adding a little watercress as a green garnish to an entree.

Here’s an alkalizing recipe to kick off your new love affair with watercress.

Crunchy Watercress Salad

pH-Balanced
2 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (around 8-10 ounces) wild-caught salmon fillet, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups watercress
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and serve with your favorite salad dressing.

Enjoy the zesty flavor of watercress knowing that you’re providing your bones with nutrients it needs. With few calories, watercress is the perfect green for anyone hoping to slim down but still eat well. Its nutrient content alone is reason enough to work it into your meals on a regular basis, and that’s easy to do given its versatility.

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References

1 Di Noia J. “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.” Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130390. Web. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm

2 United States Department of Agriculture. Basic Report: 11591, Watercress, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. April 2018. Web. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/11591?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=watercress&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=

3 Pisoschi AM, Pop A. “The role of antioxidants in the chemistry of oxidative stress: A review.” Eur J Med Chem. 2015 Jun 5;97:55-74. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25942353

4 Fusaro M, Mereu MC, Aghi A, Iervasi G, Gallieni M. “Vitamin K and bone.” Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2017 May-Aug;14(2):200-206. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29263734

5 Viguet-Carrin, s., Garnero, P., and Delmas, P.D. “The Role of Collagen in Bone Strength.” Osteoporosis International. 2006. 17: 319-336. DOI 10.1007/s00198-005-2035-9. PDF. http://www.cof.org.cn/pdf/2006/5/The%20role%20of%20collagen%20in%20bone%20strength.pdf

6 Abdel-Aal el-SM, Akhtar H, Zaheer K, Ali R. “Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health.” Nutrients. 2013 Apr 9;5(4):1169-85. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23571649

7 Thomas Hong; Paul Mitchell; George Burlutsky; Chameen Samarawickrama; Jie Jin Wang. “Visual Impairment and the Incidence of Falls and Fractures Among Older People: Longitudinal Findings From the Blue Mountains Eye Study.” Clinical and Epidemiologic Research. November 2014. Web: http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2266011

8 Raghaven, Mekhala. “Investigation of Mineral and Collagen Organization in Bone Using Raman Spectroscopy.” University of Michigan. 2011. PDF. Web: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/84443/mekhala_1.pdf

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12 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Christina October 4, 2018, 8:25 pm

    LOVE watercress! Used to eat it frequently until I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 20 yrs ago (taking Armour). Most alternative nutritional professionals advocate eating cruciferous vegetables cooked ONLY to neutralize the goitrogens, which is what I’ve been doing. Of course, I don’t want to cook watercress; that would ruin it for me. What are your thoughts on this subject, Vivian? I sure miss watercress and also including other raw cruciferous veggies in juicing/smoothies. Thank you for all the great information you’re sharing with us!

    • Dolly October 8, 2018, 9:43 am

      Avoiding goitrogens is only important for indivdiuals that have non-autoimmune hypothyroidism. The majority of individuals with a diagnosis of hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s, which is an auto-immune disease. Many doctors who specialize in thyroid have changed their stance on cruciferous vegetables for people with Hashimoto’s. Dr. Datis Kharrazian has stated that doctors providing patients with lists of foods they should not eat is outdated.

      A good article can be found here:
      https://experiencelife.com/article/goitrogens-thyroid-busters-or-thyroid-boosters/

      I have non-autoimmune hypothyroid and my husband has Hashimoto’s, so he can freely consume cruciferous vegetables. I still eat them myself, but most of the time I cook them. Watercress does not contain a lot of goitrogenic compounds so eating it occassionally should not be a problem. 🙂

      • Christina October 12, 2018, 12:38 am

        Hi Dolly,

        Thank you for your reply! I do have non-autoimmune hypothyroidism so the information I had has not changed for me (according to the article you provided). I really appreciate your including that link. It had a lot of great information linking to other very useful info.

        I’m thinking about getting Dr Kharrazian’s “The Thyroid Book”. Did you read it? If so,
        do you think it addresses regular hypothyroidism sufficiently or is it mainly about Hashimoto’s?
        I did read a few books in the early days of my thyroid journey plus continuing online articles and blogs, so I’m not without a good base knowledge; but things change, new research surfaces… hopefully.
        It was very kind of you taking the time to respond to me! Best to you and your husband🌞

  2. shulamit sendowski October 4, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Like the idea of eating watercress for our bones.

  3. Jenny October 4, 2018, 9:36 am

    Glad that you reminded me of this healthy food. Years ago the British often served watercress finger sandwiches at afternoon teas. The watercress was copiously added to egg salad, tuna salad etc.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 4, 2018, 9:54 am

      Hi Jenny,

      Watercress gets overlooked sometimes, but you’re right; it’s been used extensively in various times and places over the centuries. It’s worth remembering!

  4. Sherri Miller October 4, 2018, 8:48 am

    Enjoyed your article about watercress. My husband and I visited Montreal Canada a few years ago but I still remember the delicious watercress soup that was served at more than one restaurant in downtown Montreal. It was soooo delicious and I never heard of using watercress in a soup. I tried to find a recipe, but I never did.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 4, 2018, 9:01 am

      Hi Sherri,

      That sounds really delicious. I hope you are able to find a comparable recipe that is just as tasty as the soups you had in Canada!

  5. Helen Guthrie October 4, 2018, 8:27 am

    I enjoy your articles every week. I would like you to comment on the Toronto Star article on Sept 3rd. “Bone drug lowers the risk of fracture by the associate press _ Marilynn Marchione. I was told by Dr. A. Khan, Bone specialist that I should take the IV, since my right hip has bone loss. I am very active in yoga,pilates, Total body toning & also hiking & fast walking. Also try to have a balance diet of fruit/vegetables & less red meat. I do not take any osteoporosis drugs & will soon be 73 years old.

    • Save Institute Customer Support October 4, 2018, 8:58 am

      We’re glad you enjoy our articles, Helen. 🙂 Please check your inbox for a message from Customer Support.

  6. June Poole October 4, 2018, 7:50 am

    I like the article and have known for some time that watercress is good. My problem is that it is very hard to find commercially here in Nova Scotia. I have been able to purchase some at our farm market this summer and have made good use of it. I really like your articles and find them extremely helpful in keeping my bones healthy. At age 83 I am not taking any prescriptions for osteoporosis, much to my physicians disgust, am walking 45 min. per day,,,,,,,, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. I watch for all your helpful articles. Thanks for all the assistance.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA October 4, 2018, 8:57 am

      You deserve to be commended for taking charge of your own health, June! And you’ve clearly been successful. I am sorry you can’t find watercress commercially…it is possible to grow watercress yourself in containers, though. It’s worth a try!

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