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Arugula Health Benefits, Plus 8 Mouthwatering Arugula Recipes

If you find leafy greens to be bland and boring, you’ve clearly never tried arugula. This peppery member of the cruciferous vegetable family has a truly distinctive and delightful flavor. Learn all about exciting arugula health benefits, as well as how to incorporate these gorgeous greens into salads, pastas, pizzas, and even cocktails!

What Is Arugula?

Arugula, also known as rucola, roquette, garden rocket, salad rocket, and Italian cress, originated in the Mediterranean region. It belongs to the Brassica family of vegetables along with cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale

You can find arugula for sale at farmers markets across the country, as well as at most grocery stores. Greens sold as baby arugula are, as the name indicates, picked early in the growth cycle and have a more mild flavor than mature arugula leaves do. It’s also quite easy to grow arugula in your home garden or in a window box.

It’s important to note that all arugula is not alike. The varieties sold in grocery stores are likely to have a less potent flavor. There’s also wild arugula (Diplotaxis muralis), which is a different species than cultivated arugula (Eruca sativa). Wild arugula has an even more peppery flavor and is not as likely to become bitter as it matures.

Learn About Arugula Health Benefits

The increased popularity of this aromatic in recent years definitely seems to have something to do with arugula’s health benefits. It's a superfood for bone health, eye health, heart health, and overall wellness, with a high concentration of nutrients such as vitamin C (15% of the daily value in 3 cups!). Arugula is so packed with nutrients, it's ranked in the top 20 of the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI score), which calculates mineral, vitamin, and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content.

Anti-Cancer Supergreen

Like all members of the Brassica family, arugula contains glucosinolates that can reduce your risk of developing several types of cancer. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the National Cancer Institute list arugula as an anti-cancer vegetable.

Arugula also provides a concentrated dose of another kind of phytonutrient known to fight cancer: isothiocyanates. The main isocyanate in arugula, erucin, has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells and also act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Bone Health Builder

Arugula has the dynamic bone-building duo: calcium and vitamin K. Three cups of arugula offers up 96 mg of calcium (12% of the recommended daily value) and 65.1 μg of vitamin K (nearly 60% of our daily needs). 

Our bodies cannot make calcium, but we need calcium to make bones, and vitamin K helps the bones and teeth absorb much-needed calcium and reduce the amount of calcium that leaves the body. Together they help strengthen bones and protect against bone fractures.

Heart Disease Helper

With blood pressure and cholesterol-stabilizing agents, the vitamin K and other nutrients in arugula also help protect against cardiovascular disease. When calcium isn't taken up by the bones and teeth it can form plaque on the linings of the arteries. This plaque can then develop into atherosclerosis, a major risk factor for heart disease. 

Vitamin K also helps the heart by playing a role in healthy blood coagulation. And, like other cruciferous veggies, the anti-inflammatory properties of arugula help improve blood vessel health and lower cholesterol and homocysteine levels. (Homocysteine is an amino acid, high levels of which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.) 

Vision Enhancer

The health benefits of arugula extend from our bones to our eyes, protecting our precious peepers against age-related eye disorders, including macular degeneration. The high concentration of carotenoids in arugula, including leutin, zeaxanthin, and vitamin A which converts to beta-carotene, exert this protective effect on the cornea, retina, and other sensitive parts of the eye.

Detox Aid

Chlorella isn't the only plant-based food source rich in chlorophyll. Arugula also has a sizable amount of chlorophyll, typically 4 to 15 milligrams per 1 cup.

Chlorophyll helps to protect you against liver and DNA damage caused by aflatoxins, and it's helped out by indole-3-carbinol and other valuable phytochemicals, antioxidants, and nutrients. And the fiber in arugula helps keep the colon free of debris and bowel movements regular. 

Brain Booster

Full of B vitamins, especially folate, this leafy vegetable can help bolster brain function as we age. Studies show that increasing folate consumption can help protect against cognitive decline. One more reason to eat those greens!

Weight-Loss Champion

Nutrient-dense, low-calorie arugula is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, sugar, and fat, making it the unsung hero of weight-loss diets. According to the USDA, 1 cup of arugula is only 5 calories. Just make sure you don't slather on too much dressing, which can steal away arugula's calorie-saving benefits. None of the recipes below should compromise your diet plan.

Essential nutrients found in arugula

Turn Up the Volume with These 8 Amazing Arugula Recipes

Whether you’ve never tried arugula before or you’re looking for new ways to experiment with this spicy and delicious salad green, you’re sure to find an arugula recipe or two on this list that pleases your palate.

8 Amazing Arugula Recipes

1. Grilled Broccoli and Arugula Salad

This arugula salad makes a perfectly unexpected side dish to serve at a dinner party. Grilled in heart-healthy olive oil, the vibrant mix of flavors will have party guests coming back for seconds. And, added bonus, you can prep it in advance!

Get the recipe here.

2. Not-So-Basic Avocado Toast with Arugula and Balsamic Syrup

This beautifully balanced avocado toast recipe comes from Annie Chesson of The Garlic Diaries. The combination of fresh, peppery arugula and Chesson’s incredibly simple and incredibly tasty balsamic syrup would be incredible on its own, but she ups the ante with creamy, garlicky avocado, juicy tomatoes, and crisp toast.

Get the recipe here.

3. Simple, 3-Step Arugula Pesto

If you haven’t tried arugula pesto, you’re seriously missing out. This recipe is insanely easy to make and tastes so good, you may find yourself eating it by the spoonful. Consider yourself warned.

Get the recipe here.

4. Linguini with Arugula, Garlic, and Parmesan

You can turn up the volume on the flavor of just about any pasta dish by adding arugula. For example: use it to kick a simple weeknight recipe, like this linguini, up a notch. This is a recipe you’ll find yourself coming back to time and again.

Get the recipe here.

5. Baked Frittata with Roasted Red Peppers and Baby Arugula

This frittata fits perfectly into the brunch Venn diagram of healthy, impressive-looking, and easy to make. Oh, and it is, of course, totally delicious!

Get the recipe here.

6. Sundried Tomato and Arugula Pizza

Arugula adds a welcome burst of pepper to this ultra-crispy pizza recipe. It pairs perfectly with rosé, in case you were looking for a reason to buy a bottle.

Get the recipe here.

7. Arugula and Zucchini Vichyssoise

This “whisper-light” vichyssoise recipe swaps the traditional potatoes for zucchini. Not only does that cut carbs and calories, but it also amplifies the color of this intensely green soup. It tastes amazing served hot or cold.

Get the recipe here.

8. The Green Vesper with Arugula Simple Syrup

We couldn’t resist sharing this surprising and oh-so-good cocktail recipe. It’s got an eye-catching color—hence the name—and gives an innovative twist to standbys like gin, vodka, and lemon juice.

Get the recipe here.

An A for Arugula

For the ancient Romans and Egyptians, arugula was best known as an aphrodisiac, able to enhance both libido and fertility in males. These days, dietitians are more likely to point out its nutritional value and benefits for the immune system and overall wellness. Whether you're eating arugula for its peppery taste or its life-giving nutritive properties, we totally support adding some fresh arugula to your leafy green vegetable rotation.

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