Wonderfood Watercress fights breast cancer

After the findings at the University of Southampton that watercress is useful in the suppression of cancer, Sainsbury’s have teamed up with Vitacress, the watercress supplier and The Haven, a breast cancer charity. This is a special promotion to tie in with Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ in October. Whenever shoppers buy a bag of watercress at Sainsbury’s they will be benefitting both the charity and themselves.

The Haven is the 4th largest national charity dedicated to breast cancer, but is the only one offering therapies and nutritional advice, as well as having a nationwide network of support centres for those affected by the cancer. Sainsbury’s will be promoting special packs of Vitacress Salad’s watercress, and 5p of every pack sold will go to The Haven. They ran this promotion in 2010 and raised £20,160 by selling over 403,000 packs.

The research at the University of Southampton revealed that a plant compound which is found is watercress can suppress the development of the breast cancer cells. As cancerous tumours grow, they send signals to the surrounding tissues to grow more blood vessels to feed the tumour. Watercress has been found to block this signal, and thus starves the tumour of the oxygen and blood that it needs to flourish.

People are changing their diets in response. Since the Southampton research sales of watercress have gone up 10%. The rise has been sustained, meaning watercress now significantly outperforms the other bagged salads Vitacress produce.

“We were delighted with the response to our watercress promotion to raise money for such a good cause last year so were keen to get involved with Breast Cancer Awareness Month again this year. We chose to support The Haven because they take a holistic approach to breast cancer care, helping people improve their diet and so boost their natural defences to fight this disease,” said Huw Griffiths, Marketing Director of Vitacress Salads.

The Haven provides, completely free of charge, a wide range of therapies which help people to deal with the physical and emotional side effects of breast cancer. Specialist nurses and experts in nutrition, exercise and emotional support provide tailor-made programmes for each person that comes through its doors.

The charity has helped over 6,000 people cope with the devastating side-effects of breast cancer and its treatment and provided nearly 100,000 appointments over 11 years. The Haven works alongside the NHS, to ensure an integrated approach to breast cancer care.  Half of visitors are referred by their GP or breast cancer nurse though no referral is necessary.

Toral Shah visited The Haven after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She said: “I didn’t expect to be diagnosed with cancer at such a young age. The Haven made a huge difference as the Younger Women’s support group meant that I made friends with girls going through the same thing. The wide range of treatments helped me to relax and heal faster so I could resume normal life as soon as possible.

“As a nutritionist and cook I have always believed exercise and nutrition are the key to a healthy body and recovery and think that this research demonstrates this. Watercress is so versatile and underused. I hope this research will boost consumption.”

Watercress is grown all year round but September is the height of the season. The best locations are where there is an abundance of spring water such as on the Hampshire Downs, Wiltshire or Dorset.