What is watercress? It depends on who you ask.

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. Many health benefits are attributed to eating watercress , such as that it acts as a mild stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It may also have cancer-suppressing properties, and is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer.

Despite this blog’s name, you may be surprised to learn it isn’t about watercress, at least not exactly. I didn’t anticipate anyone would think it is nor did I plan to write about watercress other than to explain the name. (Which I will come back to later.)

But I’ve discovered that people find this blog by searching for watercress information (something else I didn’t anticipate) and ask questions about watercress. When I started researching watercress, I knew it is worth sharing about.

This post starts a series about watercress; I’ll post every few weeks so please follow and explore the HEART of watercress with me; and I’ll still write about other topics. Why not sign up now?

So, what is watercress?

First,botanists call it Nasturtium officinale, although also known by others-Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek, Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum, (L.) H. Karst., Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum L., Nasturtium officinale var. siifolium (Rchb.) W.D.J. Koch, .

Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species
. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.

To a horticulturist, watercress is

  • a flowering plant
  • an aquatic, water-loving plant
  • a green perennial plant
  • native to Eurasia and Asia
  • a plant introduced to North and South America, Australia,New Zealand, Europe, and South Africa
  • considered “noxious and invasive” through most of the United States

Nasturtium officinale range map. USDA PLANTS Database.

To the taxonomist, watercress is

KINGDOM Plant
SUBKINGDOMVascular plant
SUPERDIVISIONSeed plant
DIVISIONFlowering plant
CLASSDicotyledon
SUBCLASSDilleniindae
ORDERCapparales
FAMILYCruciferae-Mustard
GENUSNasturtium -yellowcress
SPECIESNasturtium officinale
WATERCRESS CLASSIFICATION

To a chemist, watercress

creates “the myrosinase-glucosinolate bomb.”

The pungent, spicy, and/or peppery taste of members of the Mustard family is due to a defense system known as the glucosinolate-myrosinase system.

When the plants’ tissue is damaged, two compounds within the plant tissues, glucosinolate and myrosinase, break down and produce several bioactive mustard oils . This arrangement is thought to be active against herbivores, fungi, viral and bacterial pathogens, nematodes, and even other plants.

Thus, the distinctive flavors of many members of the Mustard family are due to the types and amounts of hydrolyzed glucosinolate products released.

To a wildlife biologist, watercress

serves as a food source for ducks, muskrats, and deer who eat the leaves of watercress, and the plants serve as shelter for small aquatic life. Yellowed leaves of watercress are consumed by aquatic herbivores such as caddis flies, amphipods, and snails due to the low levels of glucosinolate and myrosinase in the leaf tissues.

Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum
Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols.
 Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 162. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society. Scanned by Omnitek Inc

To a microbiologist, watercress

collected from the wild should be washed carefully prior to eating to avoid accidental ingestion of microscopic parasites, such as the protozoan Giardia, that may be present in untreated water .

To a nutritionist, watercress

contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. Many health benefits are attributed to eating watercress , such as that it acts as a mild stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It may also have cancer-suppressing properties, and is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer.

 And to you , watercress is …..?

exploring the HEART of watercress

Thanks for joining me for this overview of the many facets of watercress. In future posts I will explore the nutritional and medicinal uses of watercress, including how to use it as a tasty and healthy food. In the meantime, use the references I’ve listed below to explore watercress until then.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Thanks for joining me, I’m glad you’re here.
Dr. Aletha Cress Oglesby

So, obviously this blog is named water-cress, because it’s part of my name. And because as I briefly mentioned above, watercress has health benefits-and so does this blog! So, it seems to fit. What do you think?

Learn more about watercress at these references.
Plant of the Week-Watercress
The watercress glucosinolate-myrosinase system: a feeding deterrent to caddisflies, snails and amphipods

I appreciate the use of photos and graphics available in the public domain from The Plants Database of the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA.

What is the USDA ?

According the the website, the United States Department of Agriculture focusses on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues.

An act of Congress established it in 1962 and President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law, calling it “The People’s Department”, because then half of all Americans lived on farms.

But through our work on food, agriculture, economic development, science, natural resource conservation and a host of issues, USDA still fulfills Lincoln’s vision – touching the lives of every American, every day.

USDA website

President Biden appointed Thomas J. Vilsack Secretary of Agriculture, a job he formerly held under President Obama. Prior to his service as Secretary , Mr. Vilsack served on the board fof Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.

Are advanced weight management options right for you

So who should consider advanced weight loss options? Anyone whose weight is excessive enough to be a health problem.

What should you do if you have tried everything to lose weight and still have excess pounds (or kilograms) that you need or want to lose?

Consult your physician

If you haven’t already, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can evaluate your weight in the context of your total health. Perhaps you have medical conditions or medications that promote weight gain or make weight loss more difficult. You may need to address those before any weight loss plan will be successful.

Beyond that, you and your doctor might then consider weight loss medications. In general, they can be helpful in the short run which may get you started with sustained weight loss, but in general none of them have proven as successful and doctors and patients would like. This post describes what’s available now.

Collage of Various Types and Colors of Medication

How to lose weight when nothing else has worked.

In helping people lose weight, there is a significant gap that needs to be closed. When diet/exercise fails, we need something less invasive  before resorting to surgery with its significant risks and complications. One option is prescription medication.

This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. If you deal with any of these issues , please discuss with your doctor before taking any action.

Options beyond lifestyle alone

someone standing on a scale
New weight loss options are good news.

So who should consider advanced weight loss options? Anyone whose weight is excessive enough to be a health problem. In general this is considered to be those with

  • a BMI, body mass index, of 40 or greater.
  • a BMI of 30- 35 and certain medical conditions especially type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea

Calculate your BMI here.

Benefits of weight loss

Although these can be true even for people with lower BMI , when those with BMI 30+ lose weight, they can experience

  • improved blood glucose control in diabetics
  • lower cholesterol
  • lower blood pressure
  • less sleep apnea
  • less urinary incontinence
  • less back and joint pain
  • lower risk of many types of cancer
  • less gastroesophageal reflux-heartburn

Weight-loss Devices

The FDA regulates four devices intended for weight loss in certain adult patients age 18 and older.

Gastric Band –

bands are placed around the top portion of the stomach leaving only a small portion available for food.

Lap-Band Adjustable Gastric Banding System

Electrical Stimulation Systems –

electrical stimulator is placed in the abdomen to block nerve activity between the brain and stomach.

The Maestro Rechargeable System is implanted under the skin; an intermittent pulse generator delivers an electrical signal to the vagus nerve in the abdomen. The vagus nerve controls stomach action; when slowed down, one feels full sooner and theoretically will eat less. However, the company has not marketed it since 2018.

Gastric Balloon Systems
(This section updated 12/06/2020 with data from JAMA, 12/01/2020)

These inflatable balloons are placed in the stomach to take up space and delay gastric emptying. Estimates place these at 2% of all bariatric procedures. These systems are FDA approved for those with a BMI of 30-40 who have not lost weight with diet and exercise and who participate in a multidisciplinary weight loss program.

The ReShape Integrated Dual Balloon System was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2015. Apollo Endosurgery purchased it in 2018 and replaced it with their existing product the Orbera Gastric Balloon, which is fluid-filled. Another system, Obalon,air-filled, is also approved.

The company claims patients with Orbera experience three times more weight loss than diet & exercise alone and are provided with the right tools and resources to successfully learn to keep it off.

The devices are placed into the stomach by going through the mouth and down through the esophagus with a tube called an endoscope. It takes about 30 minutes and requires mild sedation, not general anesthesia.

Once in the stomach the “balloons” are inflated; by taking up space in the stomach it can trigger a feeling of fullness.They are both temporary and must be removed within 6 months.

Mild to moderate adverse events are frequent; these can be nausea, vomiting, and pain.

In a Clinical Update, JAMA authors wrote that given the uncertainty of the long term safety, these devices should be used with caution, and not used when bariatric surgery is feasible.

Gastric Emptying Systems

a tube is inserted between the stomach and outside of abdomen to drain food after eating

This device is called AspireAssist. This is a tube inserted into the stomach, from which a portion of the stomach contents can be “aspirated” (sucked out) after eating. The company claims patients lost 3 times more weight than those who received only diet and exercise counseling. The most successful patients lost over 100 pounds in the first year.

People lose weight with these devices largely due to the intensive counseling and support they received along with use of the device.

I encourage you to follow the links to learn more about each device.

 

tape-403591_1280
Obesity is defined using BMI, body mass index, but waist circumference is also important and may be more accurate.

Bariatric surgery

Two procedures comprise the majority of operations done to help people lose significant amounts of weight.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

In this procedure, a surgeon trained in bariatric procedures removes a large portion of the stomach.

The new, smaller stomach is about the size of a banana. It limits the amount of food you can eat by making you feel full after eating small amounts of food.

Gastric bypass

There are 2 steps during gastric bypass surgery:

In the first step the surgeon uses staples to divide the stomach into a small upper section and a larger bottom section. The top section, about the size of a walnut (called the pouch)will receive the food one eats. It holds only about 1 ounce (oz) or 28 grams (g) of food, causing one to eat much less.

The second step is the bypass. The surgeon connects a small part of the small intestine (the jejunum) to a small hole in your pouch. The food will now travel from the pouch into this new opening and into the small intestine. As a result, the body will absorb fewer calories.

Thus weight loss occurs from eating less and absorbing less food.

A success story

After gaining weight with her pregnancies, one woman , J.T. ,successfully lost weight with gastric bypass surgery.

I gained over 100 lb after my pregnancies. When my family doctor diagnosed me as borderline diabetic with high cholesterol, I panicked. Discouraged after failing numerous diets, I felt hopeful when I read about gastric bypass.

Learn about the lifestyle changes she made at this article from American Family Physician journal

 

Review these other posts about weight management
Obesity and BMI defined
How we should view excess weight 
How effective are weight management programs? 
A success story; how a doctor helped her patient lose weight
When diet alone doesn’t work
and, one of my all time most read posts

How my friend lost weight and inspired others with her example

exploring the HEART of achieving a healthy weight

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Here are some affiliate links you may find helpful. Thanks for considering and using, which helps me fund this blog’s mission-to share the HEART of health.

Spring/Summer Banners