A: Asking a nutrition expert "what’s the healthiest vegetable?" is kind of like asking a parent "who’s your favorite child?" They’re all great, and they each have unique characteristics that make them so. But if the life of our firstborn depended on it — not that he’s our favorite! — we’d dub watercress the healthiest veggie on the planet.
In fact, a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control that ranked 47 “powerhouse fruits and vegetables” based on the density of 17 nutrients per calorie put watercress in seat numero uno.
Gram for gram, the flowery cruciferous vegetable contains more than four times as much beta carotene as an apple — a compound that research shows rivals self-tanner in its ability to improve skin’s complexion. And 100 grams (or about 3 cups chopped) the leafy green more than 75 percent of your recommended intake of vitamin C, a nutrient that’s shown to speed-up fat-burning.
The veggie may also be the best workout supplement on the planet; just four handfuls packs more muscle-building protein than you’ll find in an egg white, plus 30 mg of quercetin — an antioxidant shown to improve exercise endurance. Moreover, eating a bowl pre-workout may promote faster recovery by reducing DNA damage after intense exercise, according a recent study.
Watercress has serious disease-fighting chops, too. Supplementing with 80 grams of the greens was enough to effectively “switch off” genes that feed breast cancer tumors, effectively halting their growth, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Researchers attribute most of the veggie’s impressive health benefits to PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate) — of which watercress is the best dietary source. Because heat may inactivate PEITC, it’s best to enjoy watercress raw in salads, juices and weight loss smoothies, sandwiches — and as a beautiful garnish on, well, everything.
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