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Watercress: A Lung Cancer Prevention Vegetable Every Smoker Should Eat

Bedside Manners / anti-cancer  / Watercress: A Lung Cancer Prevention Vegetable Every Smoker Should Eat

Watercress: A Lung Cancer Prevention Vegetable Every Smoker Should Eat

We’ve all probably smoked a cigarette, or been exposed to cigarette smoke, during our lives, therefore, lung cancer prevention is important. And if the following stats don’t scare you into putting down the cigarettes I don’t know what will:

  • 80% of lung cancer in men is due to cigarette smoking
  • 50% of lung cancer in women is due to smoking

Watercress is a potent cancer-fighting vegetable in the cruciferous family.  In a previous post we discussed why cancer patients, cancer survivors, and those that want to prevent cancer should be eating cruciferous vegetables every day. Well for those tobacco smokers here is a compelling reason to eat watercress every day for lung cancer prevention:

Watercress contains PEITC (phenethyl isothiocyonate) and PEITC protects the lungs from the harmful effects of environmental smoke

Does Watercress Inhibit Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Cigarette Smokers?

Recent studies suggest that yes, it is possible.  Here are the facts:

  • In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blinded study, PEITC from watercress significantly inhibited the activation of NNK in 86 current cigarette smokers
    • PEITC from watercress is fat soluble. The cigarette smokers were asked to eat watercress along with olive oil so that it was better absorbed by the body (something to consider when you’re eating watercress in your salads)
    • PEITC does not last long in the body, therefore eating it multiple times a day may have more benefits

How Does Watercress Help in Lung Cancer Prevention?

  • Another recent study (1) asked 11 cigarette smokers to eat 6 ounces (168 grams) of watercress every day for 3 days.
  • The researchers then measured the amount of NNK in their urine
  • The more NNK in the urine, the better. That meant that this cancer cancer-causing chemical was eliminated by the body (which is a good thing).
  • Here are some more interesting facts:
    • When watercress was eaten, there was an increased amount of NNK in the urine
    • After the smokers stopped eating the watercress, NNK was no longer detected in the urnine

What Should Current and Former Cigarette Smokers Do?

For those wishing to prevent lung cancer here are two immediate things you can do:

  1. Start a smoking cessation program IMMEDIATELY. The studies mentioned above only looked at one cancer-causing chemical from tobacco, NNK. It’s not known if watercress, or other cruciferous vegetables, inactivate ALL carcinogens found in tobacco. Therefore, stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your health
  2. Eat 6 ounces or more of watercress every day


  1. Yuan J, et al. Clinical trial of 2-phenethyl isothiocyanate as an inhibitor of metabolic activation of tobacco-specific lung carcinogen in cigarette smokers. Cancer Prev Res. 2019;9:396-405.

To Your Best Health!

Dr. Dee Grace, PhD                                                                                                                                                                    

Scientist Cancer Patient Advocate



FB and IG: @DrDeeGrace / @DrBedsideManners

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