Arugula might be considered an exotic green in some areas of the world, but it’s surprisingly common here in the U.S., and you’ve probably had it without even knowing! No matter what you call it, arugula is an incredibly healthy vegetable that you should consider adding to your diet more often. This article takes you through arugula benefits to help encourage you to give this peppery green a try.
What is Arugula
Arugula, also known as garden rocket, rucola, arugula, or Italian cress, is a lesser-known green cruciferous vegetable with a distinctive tart, spicy, and peppery flavor that gets more bitter with time.
The peppery little leaves are chock full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals similar to cruciferous vegetables, including kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. It can help improve your body in many ways, including how you manage stress, boost your immune system and fight off disease and sickness. Arugula boasts vitamins A and C, as well as folate, calcium, and iron—just to name a few!
Arugula is often eaten raw as a salad green, especially in spring salad mixes but can also be enjoyed cooked in different recipes. Arugula seeds, seed oil, and flowers are also edible.
This vegetable is low in calories and contains essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a great addition to your diet.
Incredible Arugula Benefits
1. It may protect your heart
Cruciferous vegetables are generally known to offer heart-protective benefits, and arugula is no different.
It’s high in heart-healthy nutrients, including folate, vitamin C, and K. These improve heart health and prevent cardiovascular conditions.
In one meta-analysis, vitamin C supplementation of 500 mg for at least four weeks in patients with high cholesterol showed a reduction in triglyceride and LDL cholesterol. However, there was no significant increase in HDL cholesterol. Low LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are greatly associated with a lowered risk of heart disease.
Folate helps maintain homocysteine levels, which when high can increase the risk for heart disease.
2. Promotes eye health
Arugula is rich in protective carotenoid antioxidants, including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. This helps protect against macular degeneration, a common cause of blindness in old age.
Studies have also shown that lutein and zeaxanthin may protect your eyes against blue light damage.
3. Improves digestion
Like other leafy greens, arugula is high in fiber which helps prevent constipation, clean out the colon, improve bowel movements, and promote the absorption of nutrients.
It’s also an alkaline food that can help restore your body’s optimal function and improve the immune system.
4. Controls blood pressure
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Only 1 in every 4 of these individuals have their blood pressure under control.
Including leafy greens in your diet, such as arugula, can increase your potassium intake. This eases tension in your blood vessels, causing blood pressure to drop. Also, the more potassium you consume in food, then the more sodium you lose. This further aids in the reduction of high blood pressure.
In addition, arugula is high in nitrates—chemicals that help relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. If you have hypertension, regular intake of arugula can help keep your numbers within a healthy range. Other foods with a similar effect include spinach, celery, beets, and strawberries.
5. Prevent diabetes and its complications
According to the National Diabetic Statistics Report, over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, while 1 in every 3 has pre-diabetes.
With type 2 diabetes being a lifestyle disease, what you eat plays an important role in managing it.
According to research to determine the anti-diabetic activity of arugula, they found that consuming arugula leaf extract improved insulin response and lower hyperglycemia which is key in the treatment and management of diabetes.
Arugula may also play an important role in preventing diabetes complications. The leaves contain glucosinolate compounds, which prevent the chemical reaction leading to AGE formation.
AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) are harmful compounds that form due to high blood glucose levels experienced in diabetes.
These compounds have been linked to kidney disease, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, and nerve disorders.
6. It may promote healthy bones
According to a study published in Nutrition Research, adding more leafy greens like arugula to your diet may help protect you from age-related bone loss. Arugula is rich in vitamin K, which is essential for bone health.
Arugula is a great source of vitamin K, with a cup providing up to 21.8 micrograms. Vitamin K is essential for the activation of proteins essential for mineralization and bone formation. This helps increase bone density and lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Arugula is also high in nitrates—and researchers say that people who eat high levels of nitrates reduce their risk of developing age-related bone loss.
In addition, arugula is rich in potassium which may neutralize the acid in your body that can leach calcium out of the bones, predisposing you to brittle bones and osteoporosis.
7. Arugula is good for your skin
Arugula is high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals that may cause cell damage. This cell damage can lead to premature signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines.
Vitamin C also promotes collagen production, improves skin elasticity and stretchiness, reduces wrinkles, and increases blood flow to the skin.
It’s also rich in folate, which may give you a natural glow, reduce acne, and stimulate the formation of new skin cells and tissue growth.
8. Arugula may enhance athletic performance
Arugula, along with other leafy greens, contains very high levels of nitrates, which have improved athletic performance.
Dietary nitrate lowers oxygen requirements and improves oxygen delivery and utilization during exercise. This may increase endurance and improve performance.
9. Arugula may reduce inflammation
Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases. Arugula contains indole-3-Carbinol and isothiocyanates, which help fight inflammation by suppressing the production of inflammatory markers, boosting cell function, and preventing disease formation.
Arugula also contains a compound called glucosinolate that’s thought to fight inflammation. Eat arugula to get your dose of glucosinolate. The recommended daily serving size for glucosinolate is 100 grams or about 2 cups of arugula.
10. Arugula may improve cognitive function
High nitrate levels in arugula increase blood flow to the brain by relaxing and dilating the vessels. The more blood supply to the brain, the more oxygen is delivered, and the lower the risk of brain cell death, which is greatly associated with cognitive decline.
In one study, consuming at least one cup of raw or cooked leafy greens was associated with a reduced decline in cognitive function.
This leafy green veggie is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and C. These nutrients may help protect your brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Arugula is also high in antioxidants, which protect from free radical damage. Free radicals are highly reactive atoms that can cause significant damage to healthy cells throughout the body, including those in the brain, so getting antioxidants from foods is an important step toward overall health.
11. Arugula is cancer-fighting
Arugula and other cruciferous vegetables are high in glucosinolates, which has been shown to lower the risk of breast, colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.
This vegetable is also high in chlorophyll, which may help prevent liver and DNA damage from different carcinogenic substances in the environment.
12. Stabilizes mood swings
The nutrients in arugula, including folate, have been shown to help stabilize mood swings and irritability in pregnant women and their newborns. If you’re not pregnant but want to avoid mood swings, try including arugula in your diet.
Additionally, vitamin B6 found in arugula can prevent excess homocysteine from building up in your blood; high levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk for depression. Eating more leafy greens like arugula can lower your risk for both conditions.
How to use Arugula
Sprinkle on top of pasta
Throw some arugula on top of your pasta dishes for a leafy layer of freshness. The slightly peppery taste works especially well with cream sauces, tomato-based dishes, and creamy kinds of pasta like macaroni or fettuccine.
If you’re looking for an extra hit of flavor, sauté it in olive oil before adding it to your dish.
For example, toss it into a skillet along with garlic and red pepper flakes—the combination is sure to wake up even your most basic spaghetti dinner. Try sprinkling it over roasted vegetables, too; its subtle flavor complements many veggies
Add to a green smoothie
This leafy green is rich in vitamin C, so it’s great for boosting your immune system and fighting free radicals. Combine arugula with one cup of spinach, one peeled frozen banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, and one tablespoon of hemp seeds. Blend until smooth. You can also add protein powder or flaxseed oil for an added boost.
Toss in with raw veggies
Even if you’re not a fan of arugula on its own, the super-strong flavor of arugula goes wonderfully well with raw veggies and makes for some excellent crunch in salads. Best of all, it doesn’t wilt like other lettuce leaves might when paired with creamy dressings—making it perfect for an easy summer meal.
Try adding arugula to your next salad for extra flavor or simply serving it alongside your favorite veggies. For example, try tossing sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers with a simple vinaigrette dressing, and top off your salad with plenty of fresh baby arugula leaves.
Use it as a pizza topping
One of my favorite healthy pizza toppings is arugula. This vegetable has a sweet and peppery flavor that adds a kick of tangy freshness. Top your pizza with arugula along with some other healthful ingredients like tomato sauce, mushrooms, and red onions for a satisfying meal.
Turn into pesto
If you love arugula but can’t seem to convince your family and friends that they should, too, turn them into pesto! Pesto is delicious in any form, but one of our favorites is a creamy blended version with fresh basil and arugula. Incorporate it into pasta or spread it on pizza, burritos, or sandwiches. You can also mix it with your salad dressing for an extra kick.
Add some salt, then use as a side dish
Arugula is delicious on its own, but why not add some salt for a side dish that can be served with roasted potatoes or any other root vegetable. You can also try adding some lemon juice and olive oil as dressing. Whether served warm or cold, a bed of arugula makes a beautiful and delicious addition to any meal.
Stir-fry with tofu
Whether you’re a vegan or just looking for a way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, tofu is a delicious and versatile addition. Top it with some arugula before tossing it in olive oil, ginger, and soy sauce for a flavor-packed stir-fry that’s healthy and bursting with antioxidants. You can include asparagus and bell peppers if you have them on hand.
If you don’t like tofu, try tempeh instead—it has similar nutritional benefits. If neither of these foods appeals to you, don’t worry: You can still enjoy arugula in other ways (think sandwiches and salads). Just be sure to eat it raw or lightly steamed—cooking may destroy some of its nutrients.
Arugula is a leafy green vegetable from the cruciferous family. Other vegetables in this class include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.
It has a peppery and spicy flavor and may often be eaten cooked or as a salad. It’s rich in nutrients, including potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and antioxidants.
Arugula health benefits include improved heart health, proper digestion, improved eye health, controlled blood pressure, heart health, better digestion, strong bones, better skin, reduced inflammation, reduced cognitive function, enhanced athletic performance, and reduced risk for certain cancers.
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