This Unassuming Vegetable Has Been Deemed The Healthiest Food On Earth

By Ellie Smith

9 months ago

Move over, kale

From quinoa to kefir, the past decade has spawned a flurry of health food trends. We’ve spiralised courgette to make fake pasta, we’ve gone wild for fermented foods and we’ve drowned our dishes in turmeric – but all this time the humble watercress has sat quietly in the wings, waiting to be discovered as the healthiest food in the world.

Watercress Ranked The World’s Healthiest Food

Researchers from William Paterson University in New Jersey looked into ‘powerhouse’ fruits and vegetables, ranking them based on their ‘nutrient density’. Contenders such as Chinese cabbage, chard and spinach scored highly – but the only food to secure a 100 percent score was watercress. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this means that ‘the food provides, on average, 100 percent DV of the qualifying nutrients per 100 calories.’ Granted, the study was from 2014, but it has resurfaced really following a campaign from B&W Quality Growers.

Watercress salad

So what’s so good about the leafy vegetable? As MyFitnessPal Registered Dietician Joanna Gregg explains: ‘With strong antioxidant properties, watercress’s health benefits range from decreasing oxidant stress to reducing tissue damage related to the development of some cancers. This aromatic vegetable can be added to any salad, sandwich or smoothie for a powerful health promoting punch.’ Watercress also has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and even supports eye health. It’s high in vitamins K (good for bone health) and A, plus vitamin C – just 100g of the vegetable would be enough to cover almost our entire daily vitamin C requirement. 

Keen to get some of that goodness into your body? Try this salad recipe from Bettina Campolucci Bordi.

Recipe: Spicy Watercress and Noodle Salad

Makes 4 – 6 servings


  • 135g rice noodles
  • 2 bunches watercress, washed and leaves roughly chopped, stems finely chopped
  • 1 thumb ginger, grated
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Pinch of chilli flakes
  • 40-60ml olive oil, or cooking oil

For the dressing:

  • 4 tbsp tamari, or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter

For the topping:

  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A handful of toasted cashews, roughly chopped


  1. Cook the rice noodles as per packet instructions, then run under cold water to cool. Drain well and add to a large salad platter with half of the watercress.
  2. Add the ginger, shallot, garlic and chilli flakes to a large heatproof bowl.  
  3. Then heat oil in a pan until very hot. Remove from heat and immediately pour the hot oil into the heatproof bowl to cover the ingredients, which will cook in the heat of the oil. Then add the dressing ingredients and mix well.
  4. Pour this mixture into the large bowl of rice noodles and watercress and mix everything until combined. Then add the rest of the watercress and give it a final mix.
  5. Top with lime juice and enjoy!