Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Watercress is a great example of a superfood that's often overlooked, It’s actually ranked as one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables.
Botanically this fast-growing, leafy vegetable belongs to the Brassicaceae family, and closely related to mustard greens, garden cress, cabbage, rocket.
Watercress earned its reputation as a healing food quite early. Around 400 BC, Hippocrates located the first hospital on the island of Kos close to a stream to ensure that fresh watercress would be available for treating patients.
Science has now identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one food – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, important for strengthening of bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in supporting Alzheimer's disease.
Peppery watercress is a powerhouse of many natural phytonutrients like isothiocyanates which promote health and & prevent disease.
A study from the University of Ulster shows that daily watercress ingestion for a period of 8 weeks (1 ½ cups per day) had an antioxidant effects against exercise-induced DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.
Research from the University of Southampton revealed that a plant compound in watercress may have the ability to suppress breast cancer cell development by 'turning off' a signal in the body and thereby starving the growing tumour of essential blood and oxygen.
Alongside all this exciting science, watercress has for centuries been used for it’s Gut & Liver loving properties...
Prebiotic - Watercress contains extremely high levels of flavonoids and fibre and can be considered a fantastic prebiotic, essentially an energy source for our friendly gut bacteria. Flavonoids are also known to inhibit pathogenic bacteria, the potential in watercress as an excellent food to optimise our microbiome is evident.
Digestive enzymes - Watercress leaves contain digestive enzymes which can aid smoother digestion. The chlorophyll that gives the leaves its vivid green colour is particularly rich in these digestive enzymes that help the body fully utilise the nutrients in any meal.
Stimulates flow of bile - chewing watercress, the bitter compounds can stimulate bile flow from the liver. Bile helps to break down and digest fats and helps us digest and absorb vital fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Good bile flow is also necessary for efficient detoxification, as it’s the liver’s way of getting rid of fat-soluble wastes and toxins.
Promotes healthy bowel regularity - bitters foods which have a sharp, pungent taste or smell, like the peppery flavour of watercress, and are high in fibre, naturally promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
High levels of Magnesium - Eating leafy greens like watercress is a great way to optimise magnesium levels in your diet. Magnesium supports bowel health but as it's a water-soluble mineral and gets depleted easily by STRESS, it needs to be supplied in the diet every day.
Promotes removal of toxins - Watercress is packed with B vitamins and other antioxidants; it's also a natural diuretic, making it easier for your body to flush out all of those harmful toxins.
It’s very easy to get watercress into your diet, include it in salads, soups, stir-fry, sandwiches or side dish. I often encourage my clients to chew on some bitters leaves like watercress or rocket before eating their main meal of the day, in an effort to stimulate the digestive juices and bile and support digestive function.
My favourite way of getting my daily dose of watercress is with this delicious Hemsley and Hemsley soup which also includes.....
- Celeriac a dietary fibre hero, which is also needed for proper digestion and metabolism.
- Brazil nuts, which are full to the brim with selenium, essential for optimal thyroid function and detoxification.
- Bone Broth known for its high levels of glutamine and collagen which support the integrity of the gut lining.
- Lemon with its antiviral, antioxidant and immune boosting properties.
- Nutmeg known for its compounds that are antifungal, antidepressant and support optimal digestion.
So all in all this soup is truly a good example of using your food as preventative medicine.......enjoy enjoy!
Watercress soup with brazil nut cream (Hemsley and Hemsley)
400g watercress, stalks and leaves (give it a good wash)
150g celeriac, peeled of all the knobbly bits and any green parts and roughly diced
2 teaspoons of ghee or butter
1 large onion or 1 large leek, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced, or one small handful of wild garlic if you can get it (our favourite)
1 litre of hot homemade chicken/beef/vegetable stock or hot water
1 large pinch of sea salt (to taste)
1 pinch of black pepper (to taste, watercress is already peppery)
Brazil Nut Cream
8 raw brazil nuts (or a handful of raw, soaked cashew nuts)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1-1.5 tablespoons of warm water
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
Alternatively, drizzle each soup with a little cold pressed flax oil or extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a grind of pepper.
In a large saucepan gently fry the onion and garlic in ghee/butter on a low heat for about 5 minutes, until softened but not brown.
Turn up the heat to medium and add the celeriac cubes, stirring to coat.
Add the hot stock, salt and pepper.
Put a lid on and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the celeriac is tender, before turning off the heat.
Meanwhile blend the brazil nut cream ingredients, season to taste and transfer to a small jug to serve.
Without washing the blender, pour in the celeriac soup base and add the watercress. If the blender is small then blend in batches. Alternatively, carefully blend the soup together in the saucepan using a hand blender.
Add a little more stock or water if you want to adjust the consistency, blend for longer if you’d like a really smooth soup.
Season to taste, pour into warmed bowls and drizzle with the brazil nut cream.