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WATERCRESS

Food fit for Gen Zs and Millennials!

Our Generation Zs and Millennials are to be respected for making choices in line with their values. When it comes to food the focus is on sustainable – healthy for people and planet. That’s all fabulous, but with my nutrition hat on, it’s really important to spread awareness that nutrient demands are high for this savvy group of consumers, whether Gen Zs and developing rapidly or Millennials – working hard, planning a family and possibly sports enthusiasts too. Enter Watercress! Just another trendy green or a truly fabulous source of ideal nutrients? Born after 1995? Check out the nutrients that your body needs and decide if watercress should be on your shopping list…
IRON demands are high but plant-based diets have low iron availability – it may be in the plant but it’s impossible to absorb, unless Vitamin C is also present to change the iron into the same form that’s so easy to absorb from red meat (known as haem iron). 80g of watercress contains more Vitamin C than an orange of the same weight! With 46% of Gen Z girls below the recommended daily intake of iron in the UK (1) this is a tick for Watercress. Low iron means we can’t convert the energy in our food; growth and development are energy-zapping processes. Furthermore, avoiding low iron stores during pregnancy is a must, being essential for brain development in unborn babies and into toddler years. (and taking iron supplements only adds to the nausea of pregnancy) Watercress is a rare green leaf in this respect – a veg with a source of available iron should be top of the shopping list!
VITAMIN A is also required to improve iron absorption – 100g of Watercress contains more than half our recommended daily intake. Even better – Vit A is required for a strong immune system too so more productive at work and school – win win!

VITAMIN K is a key nutrient in bone density and Watercress is a Vitamin K powerhouse! It’s not as easily absorbed from plants as it is from food of animal origin but 100g Watercress contains four times our recommended daily intake so it’s a pretty good source of another valuable vitamin.

CALCIUM is of course needed during growth to reach maximum bone density by age 18 – there’s no going back after this, yet nearly 25% of Gen Z girls have an intake below the lowest recommended daily amount. Beyond this age group, calcium is always required to maintain bone density and provide for that of a developing baby. Calcium is absorbed better from dairy than any other food source, but dairy may not be on the list of favourite food choices (I wish it was; it really should be). Enter Watercress! 100g gives a quarter of the recommended daily amount. (much more needed during pregnancy and breastfeeding)

GUT BACTERIA get their energy from fermenting FIBRE in the food we eat (as well as probiotics like Kefir and other fermented foods). With 300x our own genetic makeup, these microbes are to be nurtured – they’re essential in our long-term health, from developing our immune system to protection from bowel disease and lifting our mood. Watercress, along with other fruit and veg, is a great source of fibre to nurture our microbes but it also has one of the highest levels of ANTIOXIDANTS. Our gut bacteria have an important role activating these antioxidants before we can use them for essential daily detox to reduce DNA damage from the many toxins we’re constantly exposed to – either in the environment or those from metabolic processes within our body. No fads here. This is ground breaking research and will undoubtedly become the future of medicine…. Meanwhile those of us who keenly follow the research on our gut microbes want to shout about their importance from the roof tops and luckily Gen Zs and Millenials are following their gut instincts and listeningJ

FOLATE is in all fibre-rich foods like Watercress and is needed in far higher amounts before and during pregnancy to avoid neural tube birth defects (Spina Bifida).

SUSTAINABLE food choices are pivotal now – Food production accounts for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions; increasing plant-based foods in our diet is a good step towards a healthier planet (but I always stress beef and dairy can and should be sustainable options too – especially if pasture fed; they’re a valuable source of easily absorbable nutrients). The Watercress Company (TWC) protect biodiversity and ecosystems by carrying out an annual conservation value test on their water outflow, they are economically fair and affordable, and their production methods are safe and healthy while optimising natural resources. They also use biodegradable chilled packaging and when watercress is out of season in the UK over the winter, they transport it from their British farm in Florida using only spare space on Virgin Atlantic Flights!
SPORTS PERFORMANCE demands nourishing recovery drinks and in today’s climate of ‘keeping sport clean’, natural nutrients are surely the way ahead – Watercress, like beetroot, contains high levels of nitrates which have been shown to increase the efficiency of using oxygen during exercise (VO2 max). Its high Vitamin C and antioxidants are valuable in reducing oxidative stress which occurs during intense sport and can lead to DNA damage and prolonged return to training. Oxidative stress can also weaken the immune system, so a great source of Vitamin C is a valuable ingredient in any sports recovery drink. Watercress is also unique in its good protein levels, so another tick in sports recovery!

 

So, calling all Gen Zs and Millennials!

Smoothie it, soup it, salad it, drink it…however you choose to enjoy it, Watercress is a fabulous green and one worth celebrating!

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Dr Lucy Williamson Msc

I am a Registered Nutritionist working to inform and inspire better health for all. Previously a Vet and with a family of my own, I understand the need for practical, evidence-based Nutrition advice within busy lives. My focus is on achieving healthier, happier lives through sustainable, good food choices and giving clarity amid confusing ‘healthy eating’ messages. Sharing Nutrition knowledge is my passion and, I believe, beneficial to everyone!

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