Watercress is a salad leaf that has been revered as a superfood down the centuries. It has small, round leaves and edible stems that have a peppery, slightly spicy flavor. This crop, which is part of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables, which also includes kale, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, is brimming with more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals. Gram for gram, it contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, and more iron than spinach.
It’s Role In Cancer Prevention
Watercress is a new green that was found to have cancer-fighting effects. This green peppery has been shown to possess great potential for cancer prevention and management when consumed daily.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition and Biochemical Pharmacology, results revealed that consumption of watercress can interfere with the function of a protein which plays a critical role in cancer development, increases the blood’s antioxidant levels, lower one’s risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer, and counteract the process in which cancer grows and spreads.
It was found to contain glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that produce isothiocyanates which are responsible for its health-promoting effects, including its ability to fight cancer. Experts believed that these compounds can help protect against prostate, breast, lung, colorectal, head and neck cancer.
As tumours develop they rapidly outgrow their existing blood or food supply so they send out signals which make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumour which feed them oxygen and nutrients. By chewing watercress, beneficial compounds (called phenylethyl isothiocyanate) are released and these have been found to possess the ability to shut off this signal, thus starving the growing tumour of essential blood and oxygen as well as killing stem cells within 24 hours.
The research, led by Professor Graham Packham, a molecular oncologist at the University of Southampton says:
“The research takes an important step towards understanding the potential health benefits of this crop since it shows that eating watercress may interfere with a pathway that has already been tightly linked to cancer development.
Moreover, in a separate study, researchers believed that once we consume watercress together with broccoli, the compounds and enzymes found in them (once combined) produces phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which has potent cancer-preventing effects.
For the study, the research team treated cervical cancer stem cells with PEITC. Cancer stem cells make up less than 5 percent of a tumor but are powerful as they can regenerate the original tumor and spread cancer to secondary locations.
Based on the results, they have found that 75% of these stem cells died within 24 hours. Furthermore, results showed that even low concentrations of PEITC are effective and produce similar results.