Watercress: The Veggie That Helps Prevent Damage Caused by Workouts

Plus: how to select, store, and cook the leafy vegetable.

By: Melissa Romero

Watercress may often be used as a garnish, but think twice before you toss it away.

Like most cruciferous vegetables, watercress is a nutritional powerhouse, says registered dietitian Sonja Goedkoop. Not only is the slightly bitter, peppery veggie extremely low in calories (one cup of raw watercress has just four calories), but it's packed with vitamins A, C, and K, thiamin, folate, and calcium.

Even more promising, watercress has been proven to prevent damage caused by high-intensity exercise if eaten two hours before. Goedkoop explains that the veggie is also high in plant phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which help the body prevent disease.

How to select: "For better taste and longer-lasting watercress, select bunches with crisp, green leaves that aren't wilted," says Goedkoop. You'll find them at the store sold in small bunches with small, leafy green parts attached to stems.

How to store: Remove any damaged or wilted leaves from the bunch, then store them in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator for three or so days. "It will last longer--up to five days--if kept with the stems submerged in a glass of fresh water," Goedkoop says.

How to prepare: Wash and rinse with cold water. Trim off the tough stems.

How to cook: Watercress is most commonly eaten raw, Goedkoop says, so use the leaves in a salad, as a topping on a sandwich, or as a garnish for meals. "It can also be cooked by sautéing it in a small amount of olive oil for about two minutes, just until the leaves begin to wilt."

Recipes to try:

Black Bean Soup With Avocado and Watercress

Beet and Tangerine Salad With Cranberry Dressing

Soba With Salmon and Watercress