The pursuit of healthy food and complete nutrition can sometimes feel like a daily struggle. Balancing caloric intake with protein needs and the proper proportions of vitamins and minerals can be overwhelming and daunting, even for the savviest health food connoisseur. Fortunately, there is a superfood that makes healthy eating easy and super effective. Welcome to the beautiful, healthful, delicious world of arugula!
Here are ten surprising health benefits of arugula, along with eight delicious recipes for incorporating more arugula into your diet.
1. Arugula balances overall nutrition
Arugula is replete with vitamins and minerals, despite being extremely low in calories. According to the USDA, a one-serving size of two cups of arugula contains a mere ten calories (1).
One serving of arugula also provides 1 gram of protein, 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 50% of the daily value of vitamin K, and 8 percent each of vitamins C, folate, and calcium. Because it provides so much bang for a low caloric value, arugula has been ranked in the top 20 foods on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. At number 8, arugula is a very desirable nutritional addition to a healthy diet (2).
Since the average American diet is largely made up of disease-causing food - or, at best, food with no nutritional value at all - adding a superfood like arugula can have untold benefits. It reduces the amount of processed foods taken in, and adds the benefit of an all-natural source of essential vitamins and minerals.
2. Arugula can reduce cancer risk
Arugula is considered a cruciferous vegetable, a class of vegetable that includes broccoli, kale, bok choy, and Brussel sprouts (3, 4). Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that have been linked to reduction in cancer risk. As a group, cruciferous veggies are high in vitamins A, C, K, folic acid, and fiber (5).
The vitamin K content of cruciferous vegetables in general, and arugula in particular, is of special significance. Vitamin K works in the body as an anti-inflammatory, and has been tentatively linked to reductions in incidences of cancer in many preliminary scientific studies (5). Furthermore, vitamin C and manganese, two notable nutrients in arugula, have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight cell damage, which in turn can also slow the growth or even prevent the occurrence of cancer (6).
3. Arugula improves bone and brain health
One of the other benefits of the high levels of vitamin K found in arugula is its osteotrophic properties (7). This means that vitamin K helps support bone density and strength, which directly fights against osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a debilitating and irreversible disease in which the body makes too little bone or begins to lose bone tissue (or both). Approximately 54 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis, and proper nutrition is the key to fighting this disease. Once osteoporosis sets in, patients are at increased risk for bone breakage (even during normal activities) and may experience loss of movement or rage of motion (8).
Increasing intake of foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K can reduce (or even elminate!) a person’s risk for osteoporosis. Arugula can be a key food in a diet rich in these essential nutrients.
Additionally, arugula boosts brain health and helps protect its consumers against diseases like Alzheimer’s (7). Alzheimer’s is one of many neurological illnesses resulting from a degradation in neural pathways. Vitamin K can slow - or even halt - such deterioration, easing neurological symptoms and enhancing patients’ quality of life and longevity.
4. Arugula eases symptoms of diabetes
Using all parts of the arugula plant - including its seeds - can help you get the most out of this amazing plant! Some research shows that the oil made from arugula seeds can help stabilize fluctuating blood sugar levels, which is of particular concern to people suffering from diabetes (9). Using the oil from arugula seeds, a person can effectively prevent and treat insulin response and reduce hyperglycemia.
But even if you are not interested in extracting the seed oil, just eating the leafy greens can also be a boon to your overall blood sugar levels. It is sugar-free and carb-free, yet full of fiber and low in calories, meaning it will fill you up without causing a resultant sugar crash as it is digested. Low carb and low sugar diets are key for diabetes patients, and arugula is a delicious way to follow this type of diet without sacrificing personal satisfaction.
5. Arugula fortifies the immune system
The plentiful and amazing nutrients in arugula can also boost your overall immune system, protecting you from common ailments such as the cold and flu. Vitamin C is one of the best defenses for helping your body ward off germs and pathogens, and arugula is replete with this amazing supernutrient! Vitamin C helps your body seek out and eliminate germs and free radicals before they can cause cell damage and illness (10). Furthermore, the copper found in arugula stimulates your body to produce more white blood cells. White blood cells are the army of the human immune system. They circulate through the body, targeting and destroying viruses and bacteria that threaten to afflict the human host (11). Eating arugula, therefore, promotes the production of white blood cells, which will prevent you from falling ill.
6. Arugula improves pre-natal health
One of the most important things a pregnant woman can take is folic acid (12). Folic acid is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as folate. Folic acid helps reduce the likelihood of fetal neural tube defects by up to 70%. Neural tube defects include malformations of the spinal cord and brain. Serious birth defects like anencephaly and spina bifida can be prevented through proper intake of folic acid.
Arugula, fortunately is a delicious and effective way to increase your vitamin B9 (folate) intake! While most pregnant women rely in some part on prenatal vitamins to provide folic acid, vitamins are always best absorbed by the body when they are from a whole food source. Arugula, therefore, is an effective, flexible, and tasty way to incorporate this essential nutritional element.
7. Arugula promotes metabolism
As we age, the state of our metabolism becomes of increasing concern. We eat the same things, but our bodies simply don’t process them the same way. This is not only important for weight loss (a metabolic function called catabolism - the breakdown of food into energy) but also so that our cells receive all the nutrients they need from our food (through a second metabolic process called anabolism) (13). That’s why B complex vitamins are so important (10)!
B complex vitamins are a group of 8 distinct B vitamins that work together to help the body in many essential functions, including energy production, fat synthesis, blood cell production, and overall metabolic functioning. Arugula, again, is chock-full of B vitamins - just one more benefit of this amazing superfood!
8. Arugula strengthens eyesight
One of the most precious assets of a healthy body is good eyesight. But eyesight is also a delicate gift - there is so much that can go wrong, from near- or far-sightedness, to cataracts and macular degeneration, or even blindness. Fortunately, a healthy diet can provide essential nutrients to combat eyesight loss and bolster the fragile, precious functioning of your eyes.
Arugula is a well-known source of a nutrient called carotenoids. Carotenoids can be converted by the body into A vitamins, which are essential for strong eye functioning (14). Eating carotenoid-containing vegetables like arugula is essential because animals - including humans - cannot produce carotenoids on their own, and rely on food sources to provide this essential nutrient. Arugula eaters may be able to slow down loss of eyesight with their increased consumption of carotenoids.
9. Arugula encourages weight loss
Because arugula fulfills so many nutritional needs in such a low-calorie package, it is an important element of a weight loss plan. Its fiber makes it filling, and its calorie count (approximately 5 calories per one cup of arugula) means you can eat large quantities of it to sate your hunger. The arugula helps keep your body balanced during weight loss.
10. Arugula is packed with antioxidants
Arugula is replete with many different types of antioxidants. As previously mentioned, antioxidants can prevent or delay cell damage or mutations. This means that antioxidants can protect consumers from a variety of illnesses and diseases. And while consuming antioxidants are so important, consuming high doses of antioxidant vitamins has actually been associated with many health risks (15).
Arugula contains the following antioxidants:
These nutrients protect your body from the free radicals in the air from pollution and other environmental factors. Arugula is part of a diet that can protect your body from a plethora of illness.
Arugula is a food replete in vitamins and minerals, bearer of so many benefits - both the ones we know and have discussed, and ones that are still being studied and examined. Its low caloric value and high density of nutrients make it a valuable addition to any healthy diet; it is a food that can truly improve your quality of life. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate arugula into your diet, here are 8 delicious recipes with arugula:
1. Arugula Pomegranate Salad
This delicious side salad is the perfect, refreshing complement to any meal!
10 oz washed arugula leaves
10 oz fresh washed baby spinach leaves or other mixed greens
half red onion, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate, peeled with seeds separated
1 (10 ounce) can drained mandarin oranges
Assorted fresh fruit to taste (strawberries or blueberries)
Walnuts to taste
Arrange the spinach/greens and arugula leaves in a bowl. Add the onion, mandarin oranges, and pomegranate seeds and mix gently by hand.
Garnish with the fresh fruit of your choice and the walnuts.
Add your favorite salad dressing (an onion vinaigrette pairs nicely with this salad).
2. Arugula Penne Alfredo
The cheese sauce in this favorite comfort food is made with goat cheese - an upscale twist on an old favorite!
8 oz pasta in your preferred shape (penne and rotini work nicely)
1 cup diced tomatoes
quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped arugula
5 half oz goat cheese
2 tsps minced garlic
half tsp ground black pepper
half tsp salt
¼ cup diced scallions
Sprinkle of parsley
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.
Sprinkle goat cheese in a large-sized bowl. Sprinkle in arugula, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix around with a large spatula.
Drain pasta, and toss with salad and cheese mixture while the pasta is still warm so that the cheese melts.
Let stand for 5 minutes so the flavors integrate; sprinkle with diced green onions and parsley. Serve warm.
3. Linguine with Asparagus, Bacon, and Arugula
This recipe is a must try - a tasty pasta dish with bacon!
half pound fresh asparagus (or peas, if you prefer), trimmed and cut into half inch pieces
5 oz of fresh arugula
third pound sliced bacon
third cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsps minced garlic
1 pound linguine, uncooked
quarter cup fresh lemon juice
Cook pasta according to directions on the box.
Cook the bacon in a skillet until browned and crisp. Remove from heat and set aside. Pour olive oil into skillet, and stir in garlic and asparagus or peas, depending on your preference. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute.
Add pasta to skillet. Turn flame off. Toss with arugula, lemon juice, and bacon.
4. Potato Arugula Salad
This alternative to traditional potato salad uses no mayo and includes plenty of antioxidants!
1 bunch arugula - rinsed, dried, and chopped
1 half pounds red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, cubed
3 tbsps white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
half tsp salt
quarter tsp black pepper
quarter cup olive oil
Green onions, diced, to taste
Boil a large pot of salted water. Add potatoes and cook until just tender, between 15 and 20 minutes. Drain, and cool.
As the potatoes are cooking, combine garlic, vinegar, pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour in olive oil a little at a time, stirring briskly until the mixture thickens into dressing.
Toss potatoes with dressing mixture and arugula. Garnish with diced green onions.
Let cool to serve at room temperature.
5. Grilled Stuffed Swordfish
The arugula stuffing in this fish dish makes it a refreshing summer meal!
4 cups chopped arugula
1 half pounds swordfish steaks
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
quarter cup dry white wine
quarter cup soy sauce
1 tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
1 tsp powdered ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsps olive oil
quarter cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsps olive oil
3 tbsps lemon juice
Rinse and gently dry swordfish. Place fish in a baking dish or pan. In a large bowl, briskly stir together liquid ingredients (soy sauce, white wine, garlic, mustard, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, olive oil and quarter cup lemon juice). Pour this sauce over the swordfish, cover and let soak for several hours or, ideally, overnight.
Remove swordfish from marinade; set marinade aside. Cut gaps into the sides of the swordfish steaks.
In a large bowl, toss together arugula, tomato, 3 tbsps of olive oil and 3 tbsps of lemon juice. Insert heaping spoonfuls of arugula mixture into the pockets in the swordfish. To make the steaks ideal for grilling, secure them with toothpicks or baking string.
Pour the leftover marinade in a saucepan and cook until thickened and partially reduced.
Heat a grill or, if cooking inside, broiler to high heat. Grill swordfish for 5 minutes on each side. Pour cooked marinade over the prepared fish and serve.
The swordfish pairs well with a tasty arugula salad or with fresh grilled vegetables of your preference.
6. Arugula Bruschetta
This is a great, crowd-pleasing appetizer that incorporates arugula.
1 bunch arugula - rinsed, dried and chopped
10 beefsteak tomatoes
quarter cup olive oil
half tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
20 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
Between 5 and 8 tbsps minced garlic, to your taste
Bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon for garnish
grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Boil four quarts of water. Boil the tomatoes for about one to two minutes. On the boiled tomatoes, the skin will be loose and easy to peel. Once you’ve peeled the tomatoes, dice them.
Use a large skillet to heat the olive oil. Cook and stir the tomatoes with salt and pepper for 15 minutes, or until heated completely.
Add in the garlic for 5-7 additional minutes of cook time. Then add the arugula into the mixture; remove from the stove once the mixture is fully heated and the arugula has begun to soften. Pour everything to a bowl.
Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese - do not stir too vigorously, though. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
Spoon onto fresh bread or crackers (or pita bread, for a softer base), sprinkle with more parmesan and crumbled bacon. Alternatively, a garnish of fresh nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds) add a tasty, crunchy garnish.
7. Roasted Portobello and Arugula Salad
This salad has protein and nutrients, but is vegetarian- and vegan-friendly!
3 cups arugula leaves
1 portobello mushroom, stem removed
½ onion (red or yellow, to taste), diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
half roasted red pepper, cut into strips
1 ounce grated parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tbsp preferred salad dressing
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray or spray the baking sheet with non-stick spray (like Pam).
Brush the portobello on both sides with olive oil and place underside up onto the baking sheet. Drizzle with any remaining olive oil as well as the red wine vinegar. Rub in the garlic and onion. Put a few strips of roasted red pepper on top of the mushroom and wrap foil tightly around the mushroom to hold everything together.
Bake until the mushroom is soft and tender, about 30 minutes.
Allow mushroom to cool down a bit; cut into long strips.
Mix the arugula, cheese, and your choice of salad dressing. Place onto a plate and top with the warm mushroom strips and pepper.
8. Roasted Sweet Potato Rocket Salad
The sweet and savory flavors of this meal salad make it a delectable recipe, sure to appease your taste buds!
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste
half pound arugula leaves
2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, halved and seeded
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 shake hot sauce
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
half cup extra virgin olive oil
half cup walnut oil
grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Combine 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper together in a bowl; roll the sweet potato wedges in this mixture to completely coat. Lay the bell pepper halves skin-side up on the center of a baking sheet; lay the sweet potato wedges around them.
Roast vegetables in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes. The potato should be crispy and the pepper should be slightly charred. Set the potato wedges aside to cool. Place the cooked peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; allow to sweat for up to 30 minutes. This will loosen the skin. Peel the pepper skins off.
Combine the garlic and shallot together; use a food processor on “pulse” mode until the garlic and shallot are fine and fully combined. Add the peppers, lemon juice, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to the food processor; set to “puree”. Slowly add half cup olive oil and the walnut oil into the processor as it purees. Transfer to a bowl and add the arugula leaves and toss to coat.
Divide the potato wedges between several salad plates; top the wedges with equal amounts of the arugula salad mixture. Add cheese over the salads to taste.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.