What Is Arugula?
Love it or hate it, arugula (Eruca sativa) is a leafy green veggie that can pack a hefty nutritional punch. A member of the cruciferous family, arugula claims cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale as cousins. That’s a pretty impressive family tree and should tell you something about arugula nutrition.
It’s entirely possible you can’t stand arugula. The taste could be far too bitter and might be inedible. This is the case for a number of people whose genetics simply prohibit them from enjoying arugula. There are a few other foods that fall into this category, including cilantro. On the other hand, there are folks out there who absolutely love it!
Arugula is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is native to the region. The Mediterranean diet is associated with heart health, lower diabetes and cancer risks, as well as healthy weight maintenance. Arugula’s benefits likely play a big role in the overall healthfulness of this style of eating.
Arugula Nutrition Facts
Let’s say a typical salad is about one-fifth cup of arugula leaves. As the base for a nutritious salmon, chicken, bean, or veggie salad, here’s what arugula will provide:
|Fiber||0.4 g (2% DV)|
|Omega-3 Fatty acids||47.6 mg|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||36.4 mg|
|Vitamin A||664 IU (13% DV)|
|Vitamin C||4.2 mg (7% DV)|
|Vitamin K||30.5 mcg (38% DV)|
|Folate||27.2 mcg (7% DV)|
|Manganese||0.1 mg (4% DV)|
|Calcium||44.8 mg (4% DV)|
|Potassium||103 mg (3% DV)|
|Magnesium||13.2 mg (3% DV)|
Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables are nutritional powerhouses that promote health in a number of ways. A diet high in plant-based foods promotes low-blood pressure, low blood sugar, and less systemic inflammation overall.
Arugula Health Benefits
Because it’s a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food, arugula benefits can be numerous. The rich blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have all been shown to contribute to positive health outcomes.
There is even some research linking specific benefits to cruciferous veggies like arugula, including a very high level of cancer-fighting compounds.
Some of the benefits you may experience from increased leafy green and cruciferous vegetables include:
1. Better Bone Health
Both calcium and vitamin K are associated with strong, dense bones. Getting an adequate intake of these nutrients is associated with a lower risk of bone fractures as well as osteoporosis.
2. Improved Vision
Vitamin A is powerful antioxidant that supports a number of functions including immune health, cell growth and overall eye health. Eating arugula may help to maintain or improve eyesight and potentially delay conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
3. Might Improve Glucose Metabolism
Leafy green vegetables feature an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid that is associated with lower glucose levels and improved insulin sensitivity in diabetics. Overall, a diet high in leafy greens tends promotes healthy blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity because they do not result in blood sugar or insulin spikes.
It should be noted that, although eating leafy greens is associated with low risk for diabetes and adopting a healthier diet with more leafy greens may help reverse diabetes, the benefits shown from alpha-lipoic acid were drawn when the antioxidant was administered intravenously.
4. Potential Anti-Cancer Effects
Research has suggested strong associations between cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk of some cancers. More recent studies have identified a particular compound in these vegetables, sulforaphane, as the reason for the effects.
Responsible for the bitter taste of arugula and other cruciferous vegetables, sulforaphane is now being closely studied for its ability to impede cancer growth. Lab studies have indicated it may prevent the spread of cancer in skin, prostate, pancreatic and esophageal tissue. More research is required.
How to Cook with Arugula
Arugula is pretty easy to use. In most cases, it’s eaten raw as the bed of a salad or added to sandwiches, wraps, and pizza for taste and texture. Its flavor adds a hint of bitterness in combination with a crispy texture. It can also be part of a mixed leafy-green salad.
As the base for a meal-sized salad, arugula it can be topped with a variety of other nutrient-dense foods. Good combinations include grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, feta cheese, strawberries, blueberries, cucumber, and more. Really, anything you find to complement the bitter taste of arugula will be fine.
When served as a side salad, it needs little more than a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper as a dressing.
It might be a little less common to see arugula cooked, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It can be cooked and added to pasta. In the cooking process, however, you might notice a slight difference in taste—the distinctive flavor you expect may lose some of its strength.
When purchasing arugula, look for a bright-green color with firm leaves. Dark-green spots or slimy patches will indicate it’s no good. Once you get it home, put it in the refrigerator to get maximum life. Unless you plan on eating a lot of it, don’t buy too much. Arugula usually can only hang around the fridge for two or three days.
1. Arugula and Cherry Tomato Pasta
Servings: 4 Time: 20 minutes
1 cup arugula leaves, chopped
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
Coarse sea salt to taste
3/4 pound rotini or fusilli
1/4 cup Gran Padano or Parmesan, freshly grated
- Add arugula, cherry tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and salt to a large bowl, and mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Salt the water and pour in the pasta. Cook to your preference (al-dente, etc.). Drain and toss with the arugula-tomato blend.
- Top the pasta with cheese and serve.
2. Arugula Salad with Apples and Pecans
Servings: 4 Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for salad:
3/4 cup arugula
2 small apples, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Ingredients for dressing:
3 tbsps olive oil
1 large lemon, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 pinch coarse sea salt
1 pinch black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spread pecans evenly on an uncovered baking sheet.
- Place pecans in the oven and bake for eight to 10 minutes. They should be fragrant and golden brown in color. Remove and let sit.
- Meanwhile, grab a large mixing bowl and add in the remaining salad ingredients.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing.
- Add pecans to salad and toss with dressing. Serve immediately.
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