By Dr. Allan Spreen on 10/12/2010
If you're a breast cancer survivor, make sure you eat watercress as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.
Leafy green superfood protects DNA
Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It's plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy.
In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I've even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he'd have easy access to fresh watercress.
A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body.Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study's lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But eating watercress seems to lower your overall risk.
And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...
Watercress "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system
The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress.
As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels.
To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels.
But there's a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!
Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress
For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours.
The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants' blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood.
And that's not all...
Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin' after the women ate watercress.
So, without a doubt, if you're a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that's their favorite type of green vegetable.
Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It's got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips. You can find tons of recipes on www.watercress.com.