Is Watercress Safe for Pregnancy? Soup, Leaves, Salad, and More

Whether tossed into a salad, added atop a burger, or featured in a soup, there are tons of ways to benefit from the nutrients in watercress. However, is this leafy plant safe for pregnant women?

Overall, watercress is safe in food amounts for pregnancy as long as it is thoroughly washed. Therefore, it is important to wash your watercress, even if it is pre-bagged and says it is ready to eat or pre-washed. 

In this article, we will cover more information about the safety of watercress, its potential benefits for pregnant women, and the safety considerations of many dishes that commonly involve watercress. 

Is Watercress Safe to Eat When Pregnant? 

Watercress is safe to eat while you are pregnant as long as it is thoroughly washed. Whether included in a salad or eaten as raw leaves, make sure you wash the watercress well under clean running water (source: United States Food & Drug Administration [FDA]). 

Many wonder if salads containing watercress that are pre-bagged and pre-washed are safe without washing, but these need to be washed again just to be safe. In other words, wash all salads before consuming them, even if it is labeled “Ready to Eat.”

For this reason, it is best to stick with eating salads at home that you can wash rather than when dining out. 

For more information about eating salads while you are pregnant, check out this article here

watercress salad with pineapple and ham on a plate

Another common concern many people have when eating watercress is liver flukes. Liver flukes are parasites that can be found in contaminated raw watercress (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).

However, the risk of this contamination is very low in the United States. Therefore, liver flukes are of minimal concern – the same goes for Europe, too. If you’re in a less developed country (for example, on vacation), it may be wise to check the origin of the watercress carefully, especially in relation to where it’s grown. If there’s any chance that the watercress could be contaminated, then it’s best to skip it abroad.

In terms of growing or picking your own watercress, out of the abundance of caution while pregnant, it is best to stick with watercress that you can buy at the grocery store. 

The Benefits of Watercress for Pregnancy 

Watercress is rich in many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins K, A, and C (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). 

Vitamin K is an essential vitamin that functions in blood clotting (source: National Institutes of Health [NIH]).

Many research studies have focused on vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy and the health of newborn babies. While beginning results are favorable, more research needs to be conducted in this area (source: Scientific Reports). 

Additionally, vitamin A is important because it helps to support the development of bones and teeth in the developing baby (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the cells in the body from damage, supports iron absorption, and keeps the immune system strong (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Cream soup with watercress in a bowl

Watercress Dishes and Pregnancy Safety

Watercress can safely be incorporated into many different dishes while you are pregnant. A popular entree is watercress soup, which features the peppery leafy green along with some garlic, onion, potato, and more. Whether served hot or chilled, this soup is safe for pregnancy but make sure not to add too much sodium.

If you use watercress leaves to garnish or top an entree, make sure that you do not cross-contaminate between raw or uncooked meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or seafood. In addition, use different cooking utensils, cutting boards, and more to ensure there is no transfer of bacteria that can contribute to a foodborne illness. 

You can also add watercress to a sauce, dip, or salsa. Just make sure it is thoroughly washed, and enjoy! 

I hope this article helped discuss the safety and health benefits of eating watercress while you are pregnant – overall, it’s a safe and nutritious option.

This article has been reviewed and approved for publication in line with our editorial policy.

Amy Kaczor, MS, RD

Amy Kaczor is a Registered Dietitian and full-time freelance writer based out of Chicago, Illinois. She is passionate about nutrition, health, and wellness, plus writing and sharing evidence-based information.

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