Peppery and tangy flavored cress is a storehouse of many natural phytonutrients like isothiocyanates that have health promotional and disease prevention properties.
Cress is one of the very low-calorie green leafy vegetables (only 11 calories per 100 g raw leaves) and contains negligible amounts of fats. Being an antioxidant rich, low-calorific and low-fat vegetable, it is often recommended in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
According to the study published in Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) journal, researchers at William Paterson University at New Jersey, watercress is labeled as the most nutrient dense food, and for the same reason, it tops the list of “powerhouse fruits and vegetables”.
Cress leaves and stem contains gluconasturtiin, a glucosinolate compound that gives the peppery flavor. Research studies suggest that the hydrolysis product of gluconasturtiin, 2-phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), is believed to be cancer preventing by inhibition of phase-I enzymes (mono-oxygenases and cytochrome P450s).
Fresh cress has higher concentration of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) than some of the fruits and vegetables. 100 g of leaves provide 47 mg or 72% of RDA of vitamin C. As an anti-oxidant, vitamin C helps trap free-oxygen radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) through its reduction potential properties. Lab studies suggest that regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C help maintain normal connective tissue, prevent iron deficiency, and also help the human body develop resistance against infectious agents by boosting immunity.
It is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides over 200% of daily recommended intake. Vitamin K has potential role in bone health through promoting osteotrophic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limit neuronal damage in the brain; and thus, it has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Cress is also an excellent source of vitamin-A, and flavonoids anti-oxidants like ß carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin.
It is also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
Further, it is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Calcium is required as bone/teeth mineral and in the regulation of heart and skeletal muscle activity.