Delicate, pointy green leaves that add a pungent, earthy flavor and loads of visual appeal to any respectable salad – that’s arugula for you! Also known as salad rocket or Italian cress, arugula (Eruca sativa) is of Mediterranean origin and belongs to the Brassica family of microgreens that include cabbage, kale, broccoli, and radish. Here’s why adding arugula to your food is not just about the flavor but offers you loads of health benefits too!
Is Nutrient Dense
Every 100 grams of raw arugula leaves contain important macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fiber, and proteins; essential micronutrients such as vitamins A, C, K, B2, and folate; and minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and especially high amounts of potassium and calcium.1 And that’s just for starters. Among Brassica microgreens, arugula is thought to have the highest amount of vitamin C and beta carotenes. It also contains indoles, which are phytochemicals with powerful cancer-fighting abilities.2
Let’s take a look at the many benefits that this green leafy wonder brings to the table.
Wards Off Cancer
Arugula, like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, contains an arsenal of weapons against cancer:
- Indoles found in these microgreens help our bodies fight off various cancers.
- Antioxidants like ascorbic acid, flavonoids, and carotenoids eliminate cancer-causing free radicals.
- Glucosinolates, also a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, mixes with another enzyme when we chew arugula leaves and converts to isothiocyanates (ICTs). ICTs neutralize carcinogens in the body, cut their toxic effect, and stimulate the body’s production of other substances that attack carcinogens.
ICTs also prevent cell proliferation. Erucin, a type of ICT, has been found to inhibit proliferation of certain breast cancer cells. In fact, the effects of erucin have been found to be comparable to that of certain powerful anticancer drugs.3
Keeps Bones Healthy And Strong
Think strong bones and spinach is what comes to mind for its calcium, right? Well, arugula has about the same quantity of the mineral. Where it scores over spinach is in the lower quantity of oxalates, a compound that inhibits the body from absorbing calcium. So leaf for leaf, you get more calcium from arugula than spinach.
Arugula also packs in vitamin K, another requirement for good bone health. The USDA recommends including vitamin K from green, leafy vegetables in your diet to prevent osteoporosis as well as inflammatory diseases.7 Vitamin K could also protect against fractures.8
Reduces Acidity And Protects Against Ulcers
Arugula may help curb high levels of acidity and protect against ulcers. According to one animal study, this could be due to its protective antioxidants as well as its anti-secretory properties that inhibit the excessive production of stomach acids. On the other hand, arugula extracts were also found to possess cytoprotective properties – they fortify the gastric mucosa by enhancing prostaglandin activity. This in turn increases gastric mucus secretion and thus prevents ulcer formation.9
Keeps Your Eyes Healthy
Arugula contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, both essential for preventing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and other eye diseases. Studies reveal that lutein has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, lutein concentration in the eyes helps fend off harmful blue light emission from mobile, computer and TV screens, thereby protecting your eyes from damage. Scientists strongly recommend incorporating this “eye vitamin” in our daily diets to maintain its concentration in the human lens and retina.10
Research also confirms that consuming green, leafy foods rich in these nourishing compounds can keep eyes healthy from early childhood through old age.11 Reason enough to chomp down these eye-healthy greens!
Helps Manage Weight
Low calorie, low carb, and low glycemic – arugula, as one among the nutrient-dense, fiber-rich family of dark, green, leafy vegetables, ticks all the boxes when it comes to healthy weight management. Dietary fiber in this salad green – 1.6 g per 100 gm, about 6.4 percent of the recommended dietary intake – helps improve digestive health, regulate bowel movement, and keep your body weight in check.12 13
Offers Hope In Disease Management
Arugula can not only keep your body on track on a regular basis, it also shows potential as a remedy to fight certain illnesses. Here are some promising lines of research.
Type 2 diabetes: Arugula is being studied for its potential as an antidiabetic treatment. One study that tested the effect of arugula leaf extracts on insulin-responsive cells found that they have significant antidiabetic properties. The researchers concluded that they may have potential as a treatment option for type 2 diabetes.14
Atopic dermatitis: Treatment of atopic dermatitis, a dermatological problem linked to skin barrier dysfunction, with arugula extracts have shown promising results. As researchers pointed out, arugula was able to tone down the activity of inflammatory cytokines and improve skin barrier function.15
Heart problems: Arugula’s anti-inflammatory compounds protect against heart disease. Additionally, in animal studies, arugula has been shown to prevent the formation of blood clots.16
Here’s a quick round-up of other health benefits nutrients in arugula have to offer:
- Vitamin C, copper, and iron in arugula help prevent anemia.
- Phytochemicals in the microgreen help the liver produce glutathione, a cell detoxifying antioxidant.17
- Folate, a B vitamin in arugula, helps prevent heart disease, repairs cells, and reduces the risks of colon polyps. A high intake of folate is recommended to protect against cancers of the breast, lung, and cervix.18
- Mineral-rich arugula contains potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, and calcium that protect against metabolic disorders and organ damage, according to a 2016 study of microgreens.19
Ways To Get Arugula Into Your Diet
Besides salads, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile green in your daily diet. Add it to pasta like the Italians, toss with boiled potatoes, or sprinkle onto soups like the east Europeans. You can even power up your omelet with its pungent flavor!
There have been a few cases of allergic reactions after ingesting excessive quantities of arugula, showing up as breathing trouble, itching, and swelling in the mouth area.20 If you have any concerns, go easy on the arugula and get a medical opinion, to be sure.
|↑1||Arugula, raw. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)|
|↑2, ↑5||Mitrea, Lileana Stadler. Food Therapy. Natural Medicine Books, 2008.|
|↑3||Azarenko, Olga, Mary Ann Jordan, and Leslie Wilson. “Erucin, the major isothiocyanate in arugula (Eruca sativa), inhibits proliferation of MCF7 tumor cells by suppressing microtubule dynamics.” PloS one 9, no. 6 (2014): e100599.|
|↑4||Cavaiuolo, Marina, and Antonio Ferrante. “Nitrates and glucosinolates as strong determinants of the nutritional quality in rocket leafy salads.” Nutrients 6, no. 4 (2014): 1519-1538.|
|↑6||Health benefits of broccoli require the whole food, not supplements. Oregon State University.|
|↑7, ↑13, ↑18||Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. USDA.|
|↑8||Booth, Sarah L., Katherine L. Tucker, Honglei Chen, Marian T. Hannan, David R. Gagnon, L. Adrienne Cupples, Peter WF Wilson et al. “Dietary vitamin K intakes are associated with hip fracture but not with bone mineral density in elderly men and women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71, no. 5 (2000): 1201-1208.|
|↑9||Alqasoumi, Saleh, Mohammed Al-Sohaibani, Tawfeq Al-Howiriny, Mohammed Al-Yahya, and Syed Rafatullah. “Rocket “Eruca sativa”: A salad herb with potential gastric anti-ulcer activity.” World journal of gastroenterology: WJG 15, no. 16 (2009): 1958.|
|↑10||Koushan, Keyvan, Raluca Rusovici, Wenhua Li, Lee R. Ferguson, and Kakarla V. Chalam. “The role of lutein in eye-related disease.” Nutrients 5, no. 5 (2013): 1823-1839.|
|↑11||Bernstein, Paul S., Binxing Li, Preejith P. Vachali, Aruna Gorusupudi, Rajalekshmy Shyam, Bradley S. Henriksen, and John M. Nolan. “Lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin: the basic and clinical science underlying carotenoid-based nutritional interventions against ocular disease.” Progress in retinal and eye research 50 (2016): 34-66.|
|↑12||Arugula, raw. USDA.|
|↑14||Hetta, Mona H., Asmaa I. Owis, Pierre S. Haddad, and Hoda M. Eid. “The fatty acid-rich fraction of Eruca sativa (rocket salad) leaf extract exerts antidiabetic effects in cultured skeletal muscle, adipocytes and liver cells.” Pharmaceutical biology 55, no. 1 (2017): 810-818.|
|↑15||Kim, Bora, Yoon‐E. Choi, and Hyun‐Soo Kim. “Eruca sativa and its Flavonoid Components, Quercetin and Isorhamnetin, Improve Skin Barrier Function by Activation of Peroxisome Proliferator‐Activated Receptor (PPAR)‐α and Suppression of Inflammatory Cytokines.” Phytotherapy research 28, no. 9 (2014): 1359-1366.|
|↑16||Fuentes, Eduardo, Marcelo Alarcón, Manuel Fuentes, Gilda Carrasco, and Iván Palomo. “A Novel Role of Eruca sativa Mill.(rocket) extract: Antiplatelet (NF-κB Inhibition) and antithrombotic activities.” Nutrients 6, no. 12 (2014): 5839-5852.|
|↑17||Tadayyon, Dr. Bahram. The Miracle of Vegetables. Xlibris Corporation, 2013.|
|↑19||Which Minerals Are in Microgreens?. USDA.|
|↑20||Liccardi, Gennaro, Antonello Salzillo, Gianni Mistrello, Daniela Roncarolo, Maria D’Amato, and Gennaro D’Amato. “Intraoral and respiratory allergy to Eruca sativa (Cruciferae family) in a subject with sensitization to pollen allergens.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 101, no. 4 (1998): 559-560.|