Preventing DNA damage and boosting the body’s antioxidant defenses at the cellular level may help lessen aging and reduce the risk of some cancers. And now it appears you can get that protection just by eating watercress.

This member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables was recently evaluated at the University of Ulster. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , included 60 cancer-free adults, half of whom were smokers.

The researchers looked at the participants’ blood for levels of antioxidants and signs of DNA damage. They were then split into two groups.

For eight weeks, the first group ate three ounces of raw watercress each day in addition to their regular diet. The second group (the control group) ate no watercress. After the eight weeks, the participants provided blood samples and took a seven-week break. During that time, they ate what they wanted.

The groups were then switched. Those who previously ate watercress followed a normal diet; those in the original control group ate watercress.

After this second eight-week period, researchers took final blood samples and analyzed the data. They found that when each group ate watercress, they had higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of chemicals indicating DNA damage. What’s more, the pattern was particularly strong in smokers.

So enjoy the crunch of watercress in salads and sandwiches… and guard against DNA damage at the same time.

[Ed. Note: Kelley Herring is the founder and CEO of Healing Gourmet (, and is editor-in-chief of the Healing Gourmet book series. Learn more about how simple lifestyle choices can improve your health by reading ETR’s free natural health e-letter.]

Kelley Herring

Kelley Herring is the Founder & CEO of Healing Gourmet – a multimedia company that educates on how foods promote health and protect against disease. As a young adult, Kelley battled a debilitating health condition that went misdiagnosed by multiple doctors for more than a year. Finding no help from “modern medicine”, she turned to her own knowledge of biochemistry and her passion for health research. She soon learned that her symptoms were related to nutrition and within weeks, she charted a course back to health with nothing more than simple lifestyle changes and the power of the plate. The lessons she learned spawned the creation of Healing Gourmet. Kelley is a firm believer in vigorous exercise, moderate sun exposure and delicious, healthy, home-cooked meals. She is also the creator of Healing Gourmet’s Personalized Nutrition Software and Editor-in-Chief of the Healing Gourmet book series published by McGraw-Hill including Eat to Fight Cancer, Eat to Beat Diabetes, Eat to Lower Cholesterol and Eat to Boost Fertility.