Watercress, a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables, was recently evaluated at the University of Ulster for its ability to guard against DNA damage.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, evaluated 60 cancer-free adults, half of whom were smokers. The researchers looked at the participants blood for levels of antioxidants and signs of DNA damage. The participants were then split into two groups. For eight weeks, the first group ate 3 ounces of raw watercress each day in addition to their regular diet. Participants in the second group (control group) did not eat watercress.

After the eight weeks, the participants provided blood samples and took a seven-week beak from the study. During that time, they ate what they wanted.The groups then gave more blood samples and repeated the study, but switching their original diet assignments. Those who previously ate watercress were told to follow their normal diet; those in the control group were asked to eat watercress.

The final blood samples were taken after the eight weeks and the data was analyzed. The researchers found that the participants had higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of chemicals indicating DNA damage after their eight-week watercress grazing.

And what’s more, the pattern was particularly strong in smokers.

Preventing DNA damage and boosting the body’s antioxidant defenses may help to reduce the risk of some cancers. Add watercress to your salads and make the powerful cancer-fighting cruciferous family of vegetables a mainstay in your diet.