Watercress anyone? The common watercress, whose technical name is "nasturtium officinalis, is something of a superfood among leafy vegetables. A single cup, 34 grams, provides about 24% of the Vitamin C and 21% of the Vitamin A you need daily. Ounce for ounce, watercress has more iron than spinach.
Although statistics are hard to come by, the United Kingdom is believed to consume more watercress than any other nation, about 100 tons of watercress per week. Watercress is also eaten as a regular part of the Chinese diet and in parts of the US such as Puerto Rico.
Watercress Reduces DNA Damage
A 2007 study from the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health examined how watercress affects DNA damage. At the cellular level, cancer is indicated by significant levels of defective or damaged DNA, so any chemical or food which reduces DNA damage will lower your risk for all forms of cancer.
In the study, 60 men and women were divided into two groups. The first groups included 30 smokers and 30 non-smokers.
Everyday for 8 weeks, the participants were fed 85 grams of raw watercress as a part of their normal diets.
The scientists were keen to measure the actual DNA damage in white blood cells known as Lymphocytes, the levels of detoxifying enzymes which of course would tend to lower cancer risk and the total levels of anti-oxidants (also cancer scavengers) such as beta-carotene, alpa-tocopherol, retinol, Vitamin C and lutein.
At the end of 8 weeks, the results were startling. Those who ate watercress saw a 17% reduction in DNA damage.
Watercress Boosts Beta-Carotene Levels in Your Blood
The results on levels of anti-oxidants circulating in the blood of participants was equally impressive. The blood levels of beta-carotene increased significantly in all participants.
But the effects were more pronounced among smokers than non-smokers. Measuring the blood levels of beta-carotene, the researchers discovered that smokers saw their levels of beta-carotene increase by 100%. This compared to an increase of 33% among non-smokers.