Wednesday, June 25, 2014



Why I Love Watercress

“We now know what is true:  a whole foods, plant-based diet can prevent and treat heart disease, saving hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.”  
--from The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Campbell II

Several months ago, the organizer of the Fellsmere Farmers Market and Mercado heard what Growing Healthy Kids is doing to create solutions to diabetes and obesity.  She wanted someone to do cooking demonstrations for local residents.  Because our health literacy programs teach people how to eat good food that is tasty and affordable, I was very interested to see if we could be of service to local residents in Fellsmere, located in the northwest corner of Indian River County, Florida.  It is home to a large population of migrant and “settled out” farm workers in the citrus industry.  Many residents are overweight and have diabetes. 

Talking with residents at the Fellsmere Farmers Market and Mercado 


Cooking demo using watercress and kohlrabi (in the lower left corner)

So with the invitation to participate at the Saturday market, I looked at vegetables being grown in Fellsmere to create a program using our “local, fresh, and healthy” formula.  It turns out a national company has a farm in Fellsmere and grows arugula and watercress which it ships all over the United States.    I drove up to their farm on a Friday after work and picked up several boxes of freshly harvested greens.  I stayed up late playing in the Growing Healthy Kids Test Kitchen, experimenting with different tasty combinations of greens, grains, and flavors.

The next day I drove north to Fellsmere with my car filled with tables, tents, cooking supplies and, of course, watercress!  The day was great and glorious.  Vendors were selling local honey, fresh eggs, oranges and, of course, our famous Indian River grapefruit.  Lots of people stopped by sample the watercress dishes.  Everyone wanted the recipes!  We served over 150 plates of samples and talked with several hundred more people about simple ways to eat your way to a healthier weight and reverse diabetes. 

Watercress is a “nutrient dense” food.  In fact, it may be the most nutrient dense food known.  Turns out there is something call the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman based on the equation H=N/C (the health value of a food equal to the nutrients it delivers per calorie).  Watercress has a perfect 1,000 rating.  It has 10 calories in a 2 cup serving.  It is loaded with Vitamin C (and vitamins A and K). It contains calcium and beta-carotene.  Add watercress to your sautéed veggies, a breakfast smoothie or pile it onto your favorite sandwich.  Watercress tastes good and is good for you. 

Our relationship with food should be built on a foundation of knowledge and honesty.  Kids need foods that deliver real results, not foods filled with added sugar, salt, and fats.  Next time you go food shopping, please pass by the PopTarts in the middle of the store and head to the vegetable section.  Take home a bag of watercress today!   In next week's Wellness Wednesdays column look for one of our newly created tasty and delicious watercress recipes.

Thank you,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.