The Must-Eat Green Most Women Overlook

By Jenny Everett, SELF magazine

In the produce aisle, we often find ourselves in deer-in-headlights mode when we get to the greens -- there are just so many options. Lately, kale has been getting loads of attention for being a vitamin- and nutrient-packed superfood. But, aesthetically, we're drawn to watercress, with its pretty, petite leaves.

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Turns out, watercress gives kale a run for its money. In fact, while much more research is needed, a recent study found that watercress might reduce your risk of breast cancer, thanks to a compound that inhibits a protein related to tumor growth.

"In addition to the compound in this study, a cup of watercress contains plenty of vitamins A and C and boasts an entire day's worth of vitamin K, a nutrient that helps keep your bones strong and your heart healthy -- and just four calories," says Monica Reinagel, M.S., a nutritionist, chef and blogger for our new sister site, Nutrition Data.

"It's also a mild diuretic, which can help you shed excess fluid if you're bloated from too much salt or before your period," she added.
Here are 3 smart, easy ways to add watercress to your diet:

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1. Pair It With Chicken or Fish. Sulforaphane, an antioxidant in cruciferous veggies, is up to 13 times more effective at fighting cancer-causing free radicals when eaten with the mineral selenium, which is found in seafood, poultry and some vegetables.

2. Mix It Into Warm Pasta. Slightly wilted greens are easier for the body to digest, which allows you to soak up more nutritious goodness. We love this recipe for Linguine With Chile, Crab, and Watercress from Nigella Lawson's "Forever Summer" cookbook.

Related: 15 New Healthy Fall Recipes


3. Make It Part of an All-Round Heart-Healthy Meal. Preliminary research has linked watercress to cardiovascular health. While more animal and human studies are necessary, there's evidence that watercress can reduce triglycerides (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). To further boost the heart-pampering prowess, pair it with other items from SELF's hearty-healthy shopping list. And this shrimp, watermelon and watercress salad will blow your mind.

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Click here for a full nutritional analysis of watercress.

Inspire us! What's your favorite leafy green, and what's your favorite way to prepare it?

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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio