FOODS     TOOLS     ABOUT        

Cress Packs a Beta-Carotene Punch

Cress and Beta-Carotene

When you think of carotenoids in general and beta-carotene in particular, you probably think of carrots. But there are also a number of other foods that are supercharged with this vitamin A precursor. Garden cress, for example, is loaded with beta-carotene, and it is a great choice for locavores and other people who care about the carbon footprint of their diet since you can grow it right there in your own kitchen, even in winter!

So, how much carotenoids does garden cress contain?

According to the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 27) maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100-gram serving of garden cress (about 3.5 ounces) contains about 6917 International Units (IU) of vitamin A in the form of carotenoids, an amount that corresponds to almost 140% of the Daily Value for vitamin A. A significant share of that amount comes from beta-carotene.

But it's not only the amount of beta-carotene that matters – if your body cannot break down the carotenoids you get from your meals, they won't be of much use. In fact, scientists have shown that the bioavailability of carotenoids can be influenced by many factors (in case you are unfamiliar with the term, bioavailability simply refers to the degree and rate at which your body absorbs a specific substance, such as beta-carotene).

One great way to increase the bioavailability of carotenoids from garden cress is to eat your cress with some fat. This is because beta-carotene is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it is best absorbed when the meal also contains some dietary fat. But you don't need much fat to reap the benefits: according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2000, you only need about 3 to 5 grams of dietary fat per meal to help your body absorb the carotenoids. So, for example, if you making a cress salad, all you need to do is dress your salad with a drizzle of oil (a teaspoon of olive oil already provides 4.5 grams of fat). Or, if you are planning to stuff your sandwich with cress, make sure you also add a healthy source of fat.

Sponsored Links / Ads