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Know A Superfood: Why Watercress Is Such A Powerhouse Vegetable

Everyone knows it’s a good idea to incorporate more green, leafy vegetables into your diet, but we might be paying too much attention to the likes of kale and spinach at the expense of some lesser-known—but just as nutritious—plants. Case in point: watercress.

What Is Watercress?

Watercress is a great example of a superfood that’s a little under the radar. It makes sense: A small plant with delicate leaves, watercress looks so unassuming. But this cruciferous veggie is actually related to horseradish and mustard greens, and all it takes is a taste of raw watercress to discover its potent, peppery spiciness. And when you cook it, watercress releases a surprisingly strong flowery aroma.

When talking about these and other great assets that watercress brings to the (dinner) table, Plated Head Chef Elana Karp makes her appreciation clear: “Watercress is an awesome, wild green. We on the Culinary Team love it because it has a peppery flavor, similar to arugula, but with a different—yet beautiful—shape, and a crispier texture.”

What Are Its Nutritional Benefits?

Beyond the vegetable’s great taste lie a ton of nutritional benefits. Last year, the Center for Disease Control put out a study that determined “powerhouse” fruits and vegetables—the ones most strongly associated with reducing the risk of chronic disease. Each food was given a Nutrient Density Score, the highest being 100, with higher-ranking foods providing more nutrients per calorie. Only one food was assigned a perfect score: watercress.

Very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, watercress is a great source of

Fiber
Potassium
Protein
Calcium
Magnesium
Folate
Vitamin B6
Vitamin A
Vitamin C

It even compares favorably to other healthy veggies and fruits, containing more vitamin C than oranges, and four times more beta-carotene and vitamin A than apples, tomatoes, and broccoli. By integrating into your eating routine, you’re loading up on all of the above.

What’s The Best Way To Eat It?

You can enjoy watercress fresh and raw, when its most potent nutrients are in full effect. In this form, it has a bitter tang to it, making it a perfect addition to plain or neutral foods: Toss it into a salad of mild greens or use it as a replacement for lettuce in sandwiches.

You can also cook watercress, but be careful—you’ll want to simply wilt the delicate leaves without turning them to mush. If you’d like, follow the guidelines of recipes like our Balsamic Chicken with Bleu Cheese and Watercress Salad.

That dish, like our Asian Flatiron Steak with Watercress Salad, showcases the buttery softness and earthy flavors watercress can have when cooked.

Strong on nutrition and unexpectedly bold in flavor, watercress is the superfood that we all could probably use a bit more of in our lives. Consider buying a bag during your next trip to the grocery store and try your hand at one of the recipes above. Be sure to share your #platedpics on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and let us know how you liked it!

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