AHEAD of the annual Watercress Festival in Alresford later this month, new research has found that antioxidant-rich watercress, often labelled a super-food, can alleviate the natural stress put on our body by a workout.

According to a new study sponsored by Hampshire based Vitacress Salads from scientists at Edinburgh Napier University and a team lead by Dr Gareth Davison at the University of Ulster, eating watercress can prevent some of the damage caused by high intensity exercise and help maximise the benefits of a tough workout.

Study leader Dr Mark Fogarty said: “Although we are all aware of how good exercise can be for our bodies, pounding the treadmill, lifting weights, or doing high-levels of training can take its toll. The increased demand on the body for energy can create a build-up of free radicals which can damage our DNA.

“What we’ve found is that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit. It’s an interesting step forward in sports nutrition development and research.

“We put participants through short bursts of intense exercise and found that those who had not eaten watercress were found to have more DNA damage than those that did not. What was also fascinating is that the effect of eating watercress was not reliant on an accumulative build-up in our bodies. Those who ate the vegetable just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks.”

He added: “A bag of watercress a day may be influential in aiding the bodies healing process. However, sensible advice when exercising still stands and whether you are consuming watercress or not, you should always stay hydrated and listen to your body when it tells you enough is enough.”

British watercress farmers are celebrating the start of the British watercress season with National Watercress Week, which gets underway on Sunday, May 20, at the annual Watercress Festival held in Alresford, Hampshire. For more information on the festival, visit watercress.co.uk.