Five reasons to add healthy watercress to your salad

This spicy green has more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin C and calcium. Try our 100-mile watercress salad recipe.

Julie Daniluk

Hippocrates — who once said “let food be thy medicine” — was known to feed watercress to his patients. With more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, it is no surprise that the ancient Greeks ensured their soldiers enjoyed watercress before battle. If you compare watercress to other foods by weight, it contains more vitamin C than citrus, more iron than spinach, and more calcium than milk.

Five more reasons to eat watercress

1. Watercress is high in antioxidants: Daily environmental stressors wreak havoc on our cells by causing damage at the most fundamental levels. Watercress helps to prevent this kind of damage to the DNA through its antioxidant protection.

2. Watercress may help prevent cancer: Watercress contains a compound called phenethyl isothiocyanate, which studies have shown could be a powerful preventative agent against esophageal and lung cancers.

3. Watercress help prevents anemia: Not only is watercress high in iron, it also teams with vitamin C, which is necessary for the absorption of iron. Without adequate levels of vitamin C, it is possible to become anemic due to lack of iron absorption, even if you have sufficient iron intake.

4. Watercress supports healthy bones: Watercress contains vitamin K, which is a fundamental component to a healthy development of the bone matrix. Building healthy bones prevents the onset of osteoporosis later in life.

5. Watercress can help relieve sunburns: Watercress contains lutein, which has the ability to block the inflammation of the skin that happens after you experience a sunburn. It’s also a guard against the harmful effects the sun has on your skin cells.

100-mile watercress salad
Watercress sandwiches are synonymous with British high tea, so it was no surprise that miniature watercress and asparagus tarts made their way onto the royal wedding menu. It is wonderful that the newlyweds embraced Prince Charles’ passion for local and organic food, ensuring that all the food at the wedding reception was locally sourced.

I thought it would be fun to follow Kate and William’s lead and create a 100-mile salad with only the fresh greens I could find from the farmers market. I just love Vikki’s Veggies. She was so smart to cover the greens late in the season last year, and they are already back up and ready to pick in early May! Even the dressing is made from local farmers. The oil is available from Hempola if you live in Ontario or Manitoba Harvest if you live in the prairies. The apple cider vinegar is from Filsinger’s Organic Foods and the basil is from my window garden.

1 cup (250 mL) watercress, chopped
2 cup (500 mL) baby mixed greens, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) carrot, grated
1 cup (250 mL) baby English cucumber, sliced
2 tbsp (30 mL)  hemp oil
2 tbsp (30 mL)  apple cider vinegar
pinch grey sea salt or pink rock salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh basil, chopped

1. Wash the watercress, baby mixed greens, grated carrot and sliced cucumber, and layer ingredients into two bowls.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients — hemp oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and basil — together, and serve over salad.
Makes two servings

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon-to-be-published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.

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