May 18, 2024

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Arugula: Benefits, Nutrition, and Risks

Arugula—Eruca sativa—is a green leafy vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae or mustard plant family. Also known as rocket, rocquette, or Italian cress, arugula is native to southern Europe, India, Iran, North Africa, and Pakistan.  

The culinary and medicinal uses of arugula trace back to ancient Roman and Egyptian times. Then, people used it as a natural aphrodisiac and to treat common ailments such as digestive disorders.

Today, people in many areas of the world commonly enjoy arugula as a salad green. Known for its peppery flavor, arugula also offers a number of health benefits. For instance, the green is a source of powerful antioxidants as well as essential nutrients. 

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Arugula is a nutritious green that’s high in several vitamins and minerals. It’s a potent source of protective plant compounds and eating it regularly could benefit health in several ways. 

Has Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Arugula is a source of many beneficial plant compounds that give the leafy green strong antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have been shown to protect against oxidative stress, a process that can lead to cell damage and disease.

Arugula is rich in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates (GLs). When arugula is chopped or chewed, it activates a mechanism that breaks down GLs into another compound called isothiocyanates (ITCs). ITCs have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Arugula is also high in flavanol antioxidants like quercetin, kaempferol, and isorhamnetin glycoside.

Consuming a diet high in GLs and flavonol-rich vegetables like arugula has been shown to offer protection against several health conditions, including certain cancers and heart disease.

May Lower the Risk of Several Chronic Diseases

Arugula belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family. Decades of scientific research findings show that people who follow diets high in cruciferous vegetables are less likely to develop chronic diseases like cancer.

One large study found that eating an additional serving per week of raw or cooked cruciferous vegetables like arugula was associated with a 7-15% lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Raw cruciferous vegetables seemed to offer the strongest protection.

In the same study, people who ate more than 1.5 servings of raw cruciferous vegetables per week had 40% lower odds of developing pancreatic cancer compared to people consuming less than 0.5 servings per week.

Diets high in cruciferous vegetables like arugula have also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other common health conditions.

May Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life

Following a nutrient-rich diet is one of the best ways to protect your health and increase your chances of living a long, disease-free life.

A review of studies found that every 100-gram serving of cruciferous vegetables per day was associated with a 10% decrease in the risk of death from all causes.

Other studies have shown that cruciferous vegetable-rich diets reduce the risk of death related to heart disease, cancer, and cerebrovascular disease, or diseases that affect blood flow to the brain.

Adding more arugula and other cruciferous vegetables into your diet can be an effective way to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of some of the most common causes of death. 

May Help Protect Against Cognitive Decline

Adding just one serving of green leafy vegetables like arugula to your daily diet could help lower your risk of cognitive decline. 

A study that included data on 960 older adults found the consumption of green leafy vegetables was associated with slower cognitive decline. The researchers found that among people who ate one to two servings of green leafy vegetables per day, the rate of cognitive decline was the equivalent of being 11 years younger compared to people who rarely or never ate green leafy vegetables.

Green leafy vegetables like arugula are rich in nutrients and plant compounds like folate, vitamin K, kaempferol, and nitrates, all of which help protect the health of the brain and may help slow age-related damage.

A two-cup serving of raw arugula, which equates to a one-cup serving of cooked arugula, contains:

  • Calories: 10
  • Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 1.46 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 0.64 grams
  • Vitamin A: 47.6 mcg RAE or 5% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 6mg or 7% of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 43.6mcg or 36% of the DV
  • Folate: 38.8mcg or 10% of the DV
  • Manganese: 0.128mg or 6% of the DV

Although arugula is low in calories, it’s high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s a good source of the nutrients vitamin K, folate, manganese, and vitamins A and C.

Vitamin K1 is involved in many important processes in the body, including blood clotting and maintaining bone health.

Folate is a B vitamin that’s necessary for the development of red blood cells, genetic material, and other critical processes related to healthy cell growth. Taking in optimal amounts of folate is especially important during pregnancy due to its role in fetal growth and development.

The mineral manganese is essential for immune and nervous system function, energy metabolism, and the maintenance of bone and connective tissue health.

Arugula also contains smaller amounts of vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which have powerful antioxidant properties.

There aren’t many risks or dangers associated with eating arugula. However, it is possible to be allergic to arugula. People with allergies to arugula should avoid eating the plant.

Additionally, people who are taking blood-thinning medications like Coumadin (Warfarin) should avoid eating large amounts of vitamin K-rich foods like arugula. Consuming too much or too little vitamin K can interfere with blood-thinning medications, so it’s important to keep your intake of vitamin K as consistent as possible on a daily basis if you take these drugs.  

Arugula is a popular salad green, but it can be used in so many ways in the kitchen. Try adding arugula to your diet using the following tips:

  • Make an arugula pesto by blending pine nuts, lemon juice, arugula, olive oil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor until smooth
  • Add fresh arugula to pasta and grain bowls
  • Top pizza and flat breads with fresh or cooked arugula
  • Add arugula to soups for an extra dose of nutrients
  • Make a simple salad using fresh arugula, lemon juice, shaved parmesan, and olive oil
  • Add arugula to egg dishes like omelets and frittatas
  • Use arugula in place of lettuce on sandwiches and wraps 

Arugula can be found in most grocery stores and should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent wilting. You can also freeze arugula for long-term keeping by dropping it into boiling water for two minutes and then immediately cooling it in ice water. After draining the arugula thoroughly, place it in freezer bags and remove excess air from the bags before storing them in your freezer. 

Arugula is a top choice amongst home gardeners because it’s easy to grow. It can be grown in raised beds, containers, and in-ground beds. Arugula prefers cooler temperatures, so it’s best grown in the spring and fall. 

Arugula is a nutritious green that’s linked to a number of health benefits. 

Adding more arugula to your diet can help provide your body with essential nutrients and protective plant compounds that protect against cellular damage. Diets rich in arugula may help lower the risk of several diseases and may help you live a longer and healthier life.

What’s more, arugula is a versatile and flavorful green that can be added to recipes like soups, pastas, and grain dishes for a pop of color and a dose of nutrients.