Watercress Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Watercress, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a leafy green vegetable that is part of the Brassicaceae family. This semi-aquatic plant is often used in salads and sandwiches and is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables to be consumed by humans.

Watercress is native to Europe and Asia but is now grown all over the world. As its name implies, it is mostly water (about 95%). Nonetheless, there are a host of health benefits to be gained from this refreshing green.

Watercress Nutrition Facts

One cup of raw, chopped watercress (34g) provides 3.7 calories, 0.8g of protein, 0.4g of carbohydrates, and 0g of fat. Watercress is a good source of vitamins C, K, and A. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 3.7
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 13.9mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0.4g
  • Fiber: 0.2g
  • Sugars: 0.1g
  • Protein: 0.8g
  • Vitamin C: 14.6mg
  • Vitamin K: 85mcg
  • Vitamin A: 54.4mcg

Carbs

Per serving, watercress provides less than one-half of a gram of carbohydrates. Roughly 50% of these carbs are fiber and 25% are naturally occurring sugars.

Watercress is a low-glycemic, non-starchy vegetable. This means that it won't elevate your blood glucose levels dramatically when consumed on its own.

Fats

Since it only contains only 0.034 grams of fat per one-cup serving, watercress is considered a fat-free food.

Protein

The most plentiful macronutrient in watercress is protein. But one cup of raw watercress still only contains 0.8 grams, making it a low-protein food.

Vitamins and Minerals

Watercress is a good source of vitamin C. One cup provides between 15% and 16% of the recommended intake of this micronutrient for adult men and about 23% of the recommended intake for adult women (90 mg and 75 mg, respectively).

Watercress also supplies a healthy dose of vitamin K and vitamin A. Minerals in this vegetable include potassium, calcium, magnesium, and folate, along with trace amounts of several other micronutrients.

Calories

Consume an entire cup of raw, chopped watercress and you will only take in 3.7 calories. This is less than half the calories in a cup of iceberg lettuce and about one-fifth of the calories in a cup of a spring mix blend.

Summary

Watercress is a very low-calorie food, with half of its carbs being in the form of fiber. Add watercress to your diet and you can increase your intake of vitamins C, K, and A, along with numerous other micronutrients.

Health Benefits

The high water and nutrient content of watercress offers a variety of health benefits.

Supports Eye Health

Watercress is a good source of vitamin A, at 54.4 micrograms of retinol equivalents per cup. The daily requirement is 700 to 900 micrograms for most adults, so one serving of watercress provides about 6% to 7% of your daily needs.

Of particular note is the high level of two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known to accumulate in the retina. These antioxidants help protect against age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss that is expected to increase almost 150% by 2040.

Promotes Hydration

It's not only the beverages you drink that keep your body hydrated. Several fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water, effectively helping to prevent dehydration. In 34 grams of watercress, there are 32.3 grams of water, meaning watercress is 95% water.

Maintaining adequate hydration helps boost energy levels, prevent headaches, and promote digestion. All of our bodily systems depend on water to function properly. So eating water-rich foods and drinking enough water are both important daily habits.

Aids in Healthy Weight Management

Watercress has a very low energy density. That means you can eat a large volume of watercress and other leafy greens without the risk of exceeding your daily calorie requirement.

In a 2011 study, researchers found that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption by just one serving per day led to a 4-pound weight loss over six months. Vegetable intake has also been associated with lower rates of weight gain with age.

Lowers Cancer Risk

Green leafy vegetables, like watercress, are a top food choice for protecting against cancer. Consuming two or three servings of leafy greens per week is associated with a lower risk of breast, skin, and stomach cancer.

Watercress can also help you get enough folate, which is essential for the proper replication and repair of DNA. The American Cancer Society recommends filling your plate with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to help prevent this disease.

Strengthens Bones

A cup of watercress has almost a full day's value of vitamin K. Higher intakes of vitamin K have been linked to better bone density and a lower risk of hip fractures.

Vitamin K assists with the carboxylation of osteocalcin, one of the main proteins in bone. Although this does not prove vitamin K's impact on osteoporosis risk, it seems that watercress could be beneficial—especially since it also provides some calcium.

Allergies

The vast majority of food allergies are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy—not vegetables. But although watercress is not considered a common allergen, allergies are possible to any type of food.

If you suspect an allergy to watercress, talk to your doctor or an allergist to review your concerns. Tests can determine whether you have an allergy.

Adverse Effects

Vitamin K has the potential to interfere with blood-thinning medications, like Coumadin (warfarin). It is generally recommended to maintain a consistent intake of foods high in vitamin K, like watercress, when taking blood thinners so your doctor can determine an effective dosage based on your typical dietary habits.

Varieties

Watercress is related to two similar vegetables: garden cress (also called curly cress or pepper cress) and upland cress (also known as winter cress, broadleaf cress, or creasy greens). Garden cress has curly leaves and a similar peppery taste as watercress. Upland cress has small, square-ish leaves.

When It's Best

Watercress can be purchased at the supermarket or farmer's markets. Look for fresh, bright leaves that are free of damage. Avoid signs of yellowing or wilting.

If picking your own, watch out for a similar-looking plant called "fool's watercress." This plant is still edible, though it tastes different than true watercress. One way to tell the difference is that fool's watercress smells (and tastes) like carrots.

Storage and Food Safety

The same food safety rules apply to watercress as other leafy greens. Store unwashed watercress in the refrigerator until ready to use. Because it's delicate, don't put it in the crisper. Instead, place a bunch in a cup of water with the stems down (like a bouquet of flowers).

Before handling watercress, wash your hands well with soap and water, then remove any damaged or rotten areas. Watercress that's labeled "pre-washed" or "ready to eat" does not need to be washed again before consuming it.

If this label is not present, rinse watercress leaves under running water just before eating. You can also immerse the watercress in a clean bowl filled with cold water to clear off dirt and bacteria. Pat or spin dry and enjoy.

How to Prepare

Watercress has a mild, peppery taste. Popular watercress salads include ingredients such as apple, avocado, and other fresh greens like arugula, spinach, or mache.

You can also enjoy watercress in soups or potato dishes. Other options are to place it on top of deviled eggs, add it into your spring rolls and wraps, or put it in your favorite stir-fry recipe.

16 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.