Watercress stew is one of the most famous dishes in Canarian cuisine. It is true that everyone has their own special recipe, although the main ingredients, watercress, potatoes, pineapple, beans and a piece of ribs, are never missing.
The main ingredient, watercress, is a vegetable that grows wild, although it can also be cultivated. Its large amount of vitamins and minerals, as well as other nutritional and medicinal properties, make its consumption especially recommended during pregnancy or in cases of anaemia.
Among the other ingredients of watercress stew, and depending on the recipe of each household, other vegetables also stand out. The most common vegetables added to watercress are bubango, onion, carrot and pumpkin. Many also add gofio, one of the most typical ingredients in Canarian cuisine, both to give it body and for its characteristic flavour and important nutritional value.
In general, eating vegetables on a daily basis increases life expectancy and helps to prevent diseases, infections and nutritional deficiencies.
Thus, the World Health Organisation recommends at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day, if possible of different colours, raw and cooked. A large study published in the scientific journal The Lancet stresses the importance of reducing meat consumption and increasing consumption of pulses, whole grains or nuts, and also recommends eating around 300 grams of vegetables per day.
To maximise the benefits of vegetable consumption, it is advisable to alternate between eating vegetables both in cooked dishes such as watercress stew and raw, for example in salads.
1. BENEFITS OF EATING WATERCRESS SOUP ON A DAILY BASIS
Specifically, these are the main health benefits of eating watercress soup every day, or if you alternate it with other dishes or preparations that include vegetables.
Helps you maintain your ideal weight
Watercress soup is a great ally if you are following a diet to control your weight, as the vegetables are low in calories, rich in fibre and high in water. As they are rich in fibre, they satiate you sooner, making it easier for you to control hunger between meals.
Your intestines will thank you
Watercress and other vegetables as well as potatoes, gofio and millet used in traditional watercress stew recipes provide a good dose of fibre and are cholesterol and fat free.
About 30 grams of fibre a day will help you to have a better digestion, to eliminate toxins from your body more easily and to avoid gastrointestinal problems.
A healthier heart
Eating watercress soup every day can help reduce the risk of heart problems and prevent disease and infection, extending your life expectancy.
Green leafy vegetables, such as watercress, are key to heart health as they contain folic acid, zinc, iron, calcium, antioxidants and vitamin K.
Also key to cardiovascular health is the consumption of orange-coloured vegetables such as carrots, which are included in watercress stew. They are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C which reduce cardiovascular risk and cholesterol.
Watercress is a light vegetable with a high percentage of water, rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Its vitamin C content helps to improve the quality of hair, nails, gums, bones and skin, and its water content helps to keep your skin hydrated.
The antioxidants and phytonutrients it contains prevent cell damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress, helping to stop the signs of premature ageing.
A healthier pregnancy
Vegetables, particularly leafy greens such as watercress, as well as beans added to watercress stew, are rich in folic acid. Folic acid is a nutrient that should be present in the diet during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It helps to prevent problems in the foetus such as spina bifida.
In addition to folic acid, the vitamin C in the vegetables in watercress soup will help prevent problems during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure and maternal anaemia.
Prevent cancer risk
A diet rich in fibre and vegetables will help prevent a high percentage of cancer cases.
Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in green leafy vegetables and orange vegetables, both of which are found in watercress stew, depending on the recipe chosen.
A diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of cancer, especially lung, colon and stomach cancer. In pre-menopausal women, a Harvard School of Public Health study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that a diet high in vegetables containing beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin C and fibre can cut the risk of breast cancer by half.
Fewer colds and infections
Vegetables are a good multivitamin and their medicinal properties have traditionally been considered important.
Their consumption strengthens the immune system and helps to improve defences against possible infections and colds.
Watercress stew, apart from being rich in vitamin C, is also rich in vitamin A, which is provided by carrots and pumpkin. Vitamin A is essential for wound healing and eye health.
Source of protein for healthy muscles
In addition to vegetables, potatoes, pineapple and gofio, watercress stew uses beans, which are a legume, and a piece of pork rib.
The legume is a source of quality vegetable protein, which will help to reduce meat consumption without giving up a good protein intake. Although pork may have a bad reputation in the diet, it is the over-consumption of pork that could lead to problems. But as with everything in nutrition, and to paraphrase Paracelsus, “the dose makes the poison”. And in the watercress stew, a piece of pork rib is used, a reduced portion so that its dose of protein combined with the vegetable protein of the bean, is adequate while reducing the saturated fat intake at the same time.
2. MORE ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS OF WATERCRESS STEW
We have already said almost everything about the benefits of eating watercress soup every day, but these are the virtues of each of its most common ingredients:
Virtues of watercress
Watercress is a plant with multiple uses, from its fresh leaves in salads to making the popular watercress soup. In addition to its culinary value, watercress has a long history of use in traditional medicine thanks to its healing properties. Since ancient times, it has been used in purifying cures together with other plants such as fumitory, chicory and lettuce. It is also valued for its high vitamin C content, which makes it an effective remedy against scurvy, a disease that affected many people in medieval Europe.
Thus to this day, although watercress is still best known for its use in cooking, its ‘medicinal properties’ are equally remarkable.
That same vitamin C is a nutrient the body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in the bones, as well as to heal wounds and for good wound healing.
It is a great restorative and an ally against anaemia thanks to its high content of mineral salts such as iron, sodium, iodine, phosphorus and manganese, and to the fact that its vitamin C facilitates the assimilation of iron from the diet. It also contains glycosides such as gluconasturtoside, enzymes and bitter principles that give it a wide range of health benefits.
However, watercress soup should be avoided by people with gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcer and hypothyroidism. And depending on which other vegetables you add, you should consult your doctor if you are taking coagulants due to the high vitamin K content of many vegetables.
Corn on the cob
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, corn does not only provide the calories necessary for a healthy, daily metabolism, but is also a rich source of vitamins A, B, E and many minerals.
It is precisely because of its high dietary fibre content that it plays an important role in the prevention of digestive diseases such as constipation. In addition, the antioxidants present also act as anti-carcinogenic agents and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
A key ingredient in Canarian cuisine and watercress stew. Although the potato is not the ideal food in nutritional terms, as it practically only provides carbohydrates and energy, it does contain significant amounts of vitamins and micronutrients.
Potatoes are rich in potassium. Potatoes also contain vitamin B6 and choline. If cooked and cooled before being eaten in the kitchen or at the table, the potato’s starch, i.e. its carbohydrate, is transformed into resistant starch, which is beneficial for the microbiota, commonly known as intestinal flora.
A boiled potato, as in watercress stew, has only 130 calories.
Of all plant foods, pulses have the highest protein content. Pulses have been shown to have a significant amount of nutrients, as suggested by a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2022.
Frequent consumption of pulses has also been shown to improve cardiovascular parameters, especially lowering total cholesterol and LDL or “bad cholesterol”. The high amount of fibre, together with the vegetable proteins in pulses, which promotes satiety and helps to keep the risk of obesity at bay.
Frequent consumption of pulses has also been shown to improve cardiovascular parameters, especially lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol”. The high amount of fibre together with the vegetable protein in pulses, which enhances satiety and helps to keep the risk of obesity at bay.
A piece of pork rib is a must in a good watercress stew. In small amounts, it provides healthy fats that benefit heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Pork ribs provide minerals such as iron and zinc that play a vital role in the immune system.
On the other hand, pork ribs are rich in saturated fats, which can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. They may also contain high amounts of sodium and additives, such as preservatives and flavourings, which can be harmful to health if consumed in large quantities.
To make your watercress stew even healthier, I recommend using desalted or fresh unsalted ribs.
Our Canarian gofio is a good source of complex carbohydrates, which provide the body with sustained energy and help control blood sugar levels. It also contains fibre, which is important for the functioning of the digestive system and helps prevent diseases such as constipation and colon cancer.
Another benefit of Canary Island gofio is its high vitamin and mineral content, such as iron, which is essential for the production of red blood cells and the prevention of anaemia. It is also rich in calcium, which is important for bone health, and in B vitamins, which are essential for the nervous system and energy production.
In addition, canary gofio is low in saturated fats and contains no cholesterol, making it a good choice for people looking to reduce their intake of animal fats and improve their cardiovascular health.
Other vegetables: carrot, bubango (zucchini), onion and pumpkin
Vegetables are a rich source of nutrients, fibre, antioxidants and water, making them essential for maintaining a healthy diet and preventing chronic diseases.
Here are some of their benefits:
Nutrients: Vegetables are a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals for the human body, such as vitamin A, C, K and folic acid, as well as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc, among others. These nutrients are essential for the proper functioning of the body, from the immune system to the nervous system.
Fibre: Vegetables are rich in fibre, both soluble and insoluble, which helps maintain good digestive health and prevent diseases such as constipation and colon cancer.
Low in calories: Most vegetables are low in calories and have a high water content, making them ideal for people looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet.
Antioxidants: The vegetables in a watercress stew contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, which help protect the body from free radical damage and prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Hydration: Vegetables, such as watercress, have a high water content and are an excellent choice for keeping the body hydrated and healthy.
As you can see, watercress stew is a healthy and hearty dish, with a high intake of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein, which helps to improve general health, care for the heart and prevent numerous diseases.