Kale Gets Left on the Shelf
I don’t know what it is about kale but I just never buy it. I guess I am put off by the fact that you really have to cook it to enjoy it (with loads of butter). It also seems to go cold very quickly as it’s too flaky to retain it’s heat and so what you can end up left with is a bowlful of lukewarm, disappointing leaves.
It’s also been shown to contain significant amounts of cancer-fighting compounds, called glucosinolates, which are effective against preventing breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers.
Yet there is that underlying guilt that it’s a so-called superfood, it’s a dark green leafy veg, it’s relatively easy to make really, some people even eat it dehydrated without complaint, and it’s not even expensive. I should be eating more of it. Yes, I could eat it raw and I have but it’s not like cabbage where it’s established as being acceptable raw even in it’s own dish (coleslaw) … well not for me anyway. I find it chewy and a chore, to be honest. Even raw spring greens are more appealing because of their huge leaves that can be rolled up around a tasty filling to make a wrap or roughly folded and dipped into some delightful hummus as a new-school crudité. You can’t do that with kale though because it’s usually shredded and bitty.
So I tend to always throw a mixture of spinach, watercress, and rocket into my shopping trolley whenever possible because I love how versatile spinach is and I love the peppery taste of rocket and watercress. I find that if I buy them all in individual packets, at least one of them has gone bad before I’ve finished it, so the mixed bag suits me fine. In a perfect world where I was better at planning meals, I’d eat these leaves for every meal but if I had to choose one, it would be watercress. Why?
I find the taste of raw spinach a bit icky when eaten without much dressing on it – it can leave a bitter taste and sometimes rocket can be SO fiery to be almost aggressive. Watercress has a nice amount of heat, a balance of tender leaves and crunchy stalks, and adds volume with its texture. It’s very pretty with its tangle of leaves, and it’s very versatile – have it cold in a salad, have it raw under poached eggs, have it in a cold soup, or throw it into a sarnie. Cook it even, if you want to, although it’s much tastier raw and you won’t lose any of its goodness. I’ve seen watercress growing in a little stream in France and it just looked so cute and innocent. Kale on the other hand is so hardy you could almost use it to tow your car. Yes, I know looks aren’t everything…
But Is Watercress a Superfood?
In terms of nutrition, watercress is a strong match for kale with some studies claiming that it’s actually more nutrient-dense.1
For example, the Centre for Disease Control conducted a study to determine the how much potassium, fibre, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K were present in 41 different fruits and vegetables.2 Kale scored 49/100 but watercress scored over 100. This is not to say that kale didn’t do well – it came in the top ten. And although there are lots of other foods that are as much of a combined powerhouse of nutrients as kale, not even blueberries could beat watercress to first place.
It’s also been shown to contain significant amounts of cancer-fighting compounds, called glucosinolates, which are effective against preventing breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers.3 The high vitamin levels are beneficial all round but it’s abundant in vitamin K and A in particular, which are superb for eye health, bone, and skin health. You can tell it’s packed with antioxidants because of its rich green colour so it will protect against damage from free radicals, help to reduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular health – which will all help to balance out all the meat you’ll be slapping on the BBQ soon!
So, Who Is She and Where Do I Find Her?
Watercress is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family – cousin to familiar players such as broccoli, cabbage, and even kale – they’re a healthy bunch!
You can grow it yourself here in the UK quite easily or can pick it up in supermakets, markets, or smaller greengrocers where you may even find it still attached to its roots or kept fresh in some water.
Watercress is a very summery leaf, and is therefore a great alternative to kale in the warmer months. Give yourself a challenge to eat as much as you can before the cold weather returns, when kale can safely return to the spotlight for the winter and everyone will be happy. It’s a good idea to rotate your green leafy vegetables regularly anyway, so each can do six-monthly shifts in the top spot until a newcomer arrives.
Do you use watercress regularly? What’s your favourite recipe? Leave a comment below with your thoughts on these superfoods!
- McClees, H. (2014). Is Watercress the New Kale? In One Green Planet. Retrieved 3 May, 2016 from http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/is-watercress-the-new-kale/
- Di Noia, J. (2014). Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. In Preventing Chronic Disease 2014;11:130390. Retrieved 25 May, 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. In National Cancer Institute. Retrieved 25 May, 2016 from http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet