Arugula is a peppery, distinctive-tasting green that originated in the Mediterranean region. It’s also known as rucola, salad rocket, and Italian cress. Arugula is a member of the Brassica, or Cruciferous, family. This classification includes mostly cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli.
Arugula’s popularity has as much to do with its health benefits as its taste. One study cites arugula as being particularly high in cancer-fighting agents.
This delicious green is a nutrient-dense food that is high in fiber and phytochemicals. Arugula is low in sugar, calories, carbohydrates, and fat. It’s high in several vital nutrients. These include:
- Calcium, which helps the blood to clot normally. It’s also necessary for bone health, tooth health, muscle function, and nerve function.
- Potassium, a mineral and an electrolyte that’s vital for heart and nerve function. It also helps the muscles contract normally. Potassium helps to reduce the negative effects of sodium, and it may be beneficial for people with high blood pressure for this reason.
- Folate, a B vitamin. It helps support the production of DNA and other genetic material. It’s particularly important for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Folate deficiency in pregnant women may lead to spina bifida, a neural tube defect.
- Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that helps support the immune system. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is important for tissue health and the absorption of iron from food.
- Vitamin K, which helps with blood coagulation. If you require a prescription blood thinner, such as warfarin (Coumadin), discuss your vitamin K intake with your doctor prior to changing your eating habits.
- Vitamin A, the umbrella term for a group of fat-soluble retinoids. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, which supports immune function, cell growth, night vision, and overall eye health. It also works to help maintain kidney, lung, and heart function.
Unlike many subtler-tasting salad greens, arugula’s highly distinctive and peppery crunch adds flair to salads and other cold dishes. Like parsley, it can be chewed to help combat sour breath.
Arugula can be used in addition to, or in lieu of, most types of lettuce and herbs. It also boasts a distinctive leaf shape. Arugula’s flowers, seeds, and leaves are all edible.
Arugula is delicious raw, and it can be used as a healthy add-on topping for pizza, nachos, sandwiches, and wraps.
It can be served as a side salad with nothing more than a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.
It also makes an excellent base for more substantial salad recipes. Try adding cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, and walnuts to arugula for a protein-packed, low-calorie meal.
Arugula’s leaf shape and taste also make it an interesting complement to citrus fruit and berry salads.
Arugula can be used as an alternative to basil to make hot or cold pesto. This recipe uses arugula, parmesan, and pine nuts with succulent results.
When arugula is cooked, it loses some of its peppery punch, becoming mellower in taste. This recipe adds arugula to squash and goat cheese pasta.