Kale isn’t the only dark leafy green packed with nutrients. Arugula, also known as rocket salad or roquette, is a Mediterranean leafy vegetable with a peppery taste. The green is relatively easy to grow and harvest in home gardens in the U.S.
Like kale and broccoli, arugula is classified in a group of vegetables identified as cruciferous. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their extremely high vitamin and mineral content, especially:
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
- folic acid
It’s no wonder people are always telling kids to eat their broccoli. But arugula is no slouch, either. Read on to find out more about the many benefits of eating this peppery green.
The health benefits of arugula
Vitamin A is important for many processes in the body. It helps with your immune system, vision health and the function of major organs. Plant foods are rich in carotenoids that turn into a form of vitamin A in the body. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, act as powerful antioxidants that can help reduce cancer risk, cell damage and premature aging. Leafy greens, including arugula are some of the top food sources for vitamin A. In one cup of arugula there are 474 international units (IU) of the vitamin, which is about 10 percent of your daily need.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin for good human health. A powerful antioxidant, it helps your body recover from injury and maintain a healthy, functional immune system. The best way to get vitamin C is to take it in naturally through your diet. Arugula has 3 milligrams (mg) in just a one-cup serving, which equates to about five percent of your daily need.
Vitamin K is an essential vitamin for blood clotting and is found in many foods, but especially in dark leafy greens. Gut bacteria also plays a role in the available vitamin K in the body. One cup of arugula contains 21 mcg of vitamin K or four percent of most people’s daily need.
Our bodies need calcium in order to function. The mineral helps with muscle and nerve function and is used by the body to form strong bones and teeth. Women who’ve gone through menopause are at risk for bone loss that can cause osteoporosis. Taking in extra calcium helps prevent bone loss.
Dairy isn’t the only place you can get this essential mineral. There are 32 mg of calcium, or three percent of your daily need, in one cup of arugula.
Fiber provides a wide variety of health benefits, including reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. A high-fiber diet also helps you have normal, healthy bowl movements. Arugula, like many vegetables and leafy greens is a good source of dietary fiber.
Folate is a B vitamin that helps your body make new cells. It’s needed for good health by everyone, but is especially important for women who are planning to get pregnant or who are pregnant. Folate in its natural form is found in foods. The man-made version, called folic acid, is taken as a supplement. Arugula contains 19 mcg of folate per one-cup serving, or four percent of your daily need.
The vitamin plays a key role in a baby’s early spinal development. If a woman doesn’t take in enough folate or folic acid, the baby can be at risk for spina bifida, a potentially disabling condition that happens when the spinal cord doesn’t form properly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends women take 400 mcg of folic acid daily at least one month before getting pregnant and during pregnancy.
Cruciferous vegetables are known for their high phytonutrient count. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that help the plant protect itself from damage. They keep plants safe from insects and disease or shield them from harsh ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Arugula and other cruciferous vegetables contain the phytonutrient, glucosinolate. There are many different types of glucosinolates. Researchers believe glucosinolates may play a role in cancer prevention.
Arugula, other dark leafy greens, and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in the phytonutrient category called carotenoids. The brighter or deeper the color, the more carotenoids are usually present. Science reveals that carotenoids play a powerful role in cardiovascular health, chronic disease risk, cancer risk, premature aging and inflammation in the body.
Potassium is a mineral that helps the body maintain a healthy blood pressure and keeps kidneys functioning well. You might think about bananas when you hear potassium, but leafy greens are also one of the best natural sources for the mineral. One cup of arugula has 74 milligrams (mg) of potassium, or 2% of what you need in a day.
Arugula packs a lot of nutrients in without a lot of calories. There are just five calories in an entire cup of the greens. Adding arugula to your meals can help you get full without piling on extra calories. As long as you’re conservative with dressings and pair the green with other healthy main dishes and sides, it can be a helpful tool for keeping your weight in check.
How to eat arugula: Recipes
You can buy arugula at a grocery store or farmer’s market, or try growing your own in a container garden during the fall. The leaves prefer slightly cooler growing temperatures over the heat of summer.
Bored of plain salads? That’s one perk to arugula. There are lots of different ways to enjoy the green, from using it as a topping to part of the main course. You can pair it with fruit or use it in a more savory meat dish.
Here are some healthy ways to include arugula in your diet.
- Blend it with olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan to make arugula pesto. Get the recipe.
- Use it as a staple in this warm veggie salad with fresh herbs and fingerling potatoes. Get the recipe.
- Mix it with other Mediterranean favorites, like Kalamata olives, chick peas, and feta cheese in this Mediterranean quinoa salad. Get the recipe.
- Use the peppery leaves to complement the sweet taste of watermelon in this watermelon, feta and arugula salad. Get the recipe.
- Add extra pep to your pizza by finishing it off with an arugula topping. These charred tomato and garlic butter mini skillet pizzas go heavy on the arugula and light on the cheese. Get the recipe.
- Keep it simple with this classic Italian staple, arugula salad with olive oil, lemon, and parmesan. Toss arugula with lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of parmesan and enjoy. Get the recipe.