Summer is well and truly here and watercress has been growing abundantly in mineral-rich spring water in the UK for a few months now.
Watercress, a highly nutritious and British leafy green, is packed with more antioxidants than the rest of the Brassica family it belongs to (cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, spring greens etc) and current, exciting research is continuing to show its many health benefits.
But what are Antioxidants and why do we need them?
Just as chopped apples turn brown when exposed to oxygen in the air, we too are constantly exposed to ‘free radicals’ which cause damage to our cells, proteins and DNA, in a process known as ‘Oxidative Stress’. We use and recycle, key antioxidants like Vitamin C, E and A in the food we eat, to neutralise these free radicals and so reduce oxidative stress. (Interestingly, most animals make their own Vitamin C) When these internal defence mechanisms are overwhelmed, extra antioxidants from food such as watercress play a key role in our long-term health because oxidative stress can increase the risk of some cancers, heart disease and stroke, and quicken the ageing process. For the record, sources of free radicals can be excessive intake of sugars in high energy food, smoke inhalation and other air pollutants, alcohol, UV radiation from the sun and lack of sleep. They can even be exercise-induced. All in all, part of our every-day lives.
So why is watercress so beneficial?
Natural plant chemicals in watercress are activated upon chewing, or digestion by our gut bacteria, to the peppery-tasting antioxidant, Isothiocyanate. Current research is demonstrating this antioxidant to be particularly effective in protecting against cell DNA damage which can lead to some cancers such as Colon Cancer.1 Watercress is also an excellent source of the Vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene as well as Lutein, both of which have antioxidant properties. And it doesn’t stop there – it’s high fibre too, so great for digestive health and a good source of Vitamins E and C, and potassium for heart health.
The Watercress Company based in Dorchester and a member of Love British food, is an innovative British watercress producer with main farms in Dorset and Hampshire. To ensure year-round supply they also have farms in Spain and Florida. They supply small grocers through to national supermarkets and work extensively to promote the health benefits of their product, currently partnering with their local Dorset County Hospital to supply watercress smoothies! They also grow wasabi and baby leaf salad. You can read more about their aims and achievements here.
Seasonality is key to healthy eating – getting the best quality nutrients, at their most plentiful and cheapest. Watercress, in season now, can be enjoyed in the diet in so many ways – in smoothies mixed with garden peas and blueberries or a savoury version with cucumber, peas, garden mint and avocado, or try this delicious dip:
Watercress, garden mint and pea dip:
Blanch 1 cup of frozen or fresh peas for 4 minutes. Whizz with a handful of watercress, freshly picked garden mint, olive oil to desired consistency and S&P to taste. Delicious!
The Watercress Company like it with smoked mackerel and orange segments – a fabulously nutrient-rich salad having all the benefits of watercress and in addition, the mackerel gives Omega 3 unsaturated oil and the Vitamin C in the oranges ensure plenty iron absorption too. Equally tasty with trout and horseradish!
Make the most of this fabulous British green this summer!
What has been happening.... As we're all trying to reduce our food bills - consider some seasonal watercress! Our heritage humble leaf is packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals... At the Alresford Watercress Festival last Sunday I was delighted to...
Join me for our next Gut Health Course ... so that your health and nature can thrive together! Our new course wraps up 10 years of rapidly growing gut health research to help your health (and nature) thrive! If you’re coping with digestive, inflammatory or weight...
Tis the season to be busy in the kitchen! Looking after no. 1 as we head towards Christmas takes more than healthy food - this month I've been learning more about the power of our breathing to calm stress levels - please try the simple exercise below and feel the...
What's been happening? We were delighted to receive such a fabulous review for The Gut Project, our Gut Health course, from Katy Murray of The Buzz Hub Co, a fabulous directory of great local businesses in Herts, Beds and Bucks! Katy came along to the course and you...
Bread - What's in a healthy loaf? The wheat is ripe and ready to harvest! For thousands of years, 'Bread' meant 'life'. So why does this staple food cause digestive issues for so many? Much of our bread has lost its nutritional value with a focus on quantity rather...