What is arugula
Arugula is known under many other names, such as salad or garden rocket, requete or colewort. Despite being mistaken for a type of lettuce, it comes from the Brassicaceae family, making it a cousin of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Originally from the Mediterranean, nowadays it is easily accessible in most areas of the world. It is typically planted during winter in quite dry areas of southern Europe, North Africa, India, Pakistan and Iran.
Those dark leaves are widely known for their very distinct, peppery taste and can be used in a variety of ways, including salads, and toppings on hot dishes such as soups or pizzas. You can enjoy not only the leafy part of this cruciferous vegetable but also its roots, flowers and seeds.
Historically, it has been used by ancient Romans as an aphrodisiac. Unfortunately, modern science does not support this idea, however, it provides studies showing a wealth of other, even more important health benefits. Arugula, due to its wealth of vitamins, promotes bone and eye health, helps with digestion and weight loss, and reduces the risks of cancer and diabetes.1 Let’s dive into the world of arugula.1
Health benefits of arugula
Promotes bone health
Arugula has a high calcium content, which greatly improves your bone and tooth health. Calcium is the most commonly occurring mineral in our bodies, so we must provide an appropriate supplementation of it in our daily diet to keep our bones, teeth and muscles strong.2
Arugula, as a dark leafy green vegetable, is rich in vitamin K, which is present during bone formation. It improves bone density and helps during healing processes when a bone is broken. Improved intake of this vitamin reduces the risk of any fractures.3
Vitamin K supplementation is essential for people suffering from osteoporosis.4
May help prevent cancer
It has been suggested by scientists that compounds present in arugula can be used in cancer prevention.
As a cruciferous vegetable, arugula has an abundance of phytochemicals that help in reducing inflammation, promoting healthy cell growth and repair, and slowing down cancer development.
Phytochemicals present in arugula are isothiocyanates, phenolic compounds and carotenoids.
It has been supported by science that phytochemicals can help you with several types of cancer, including lung, ovarian, colorectal and pancreatic cancer.
There is growing evidence that erucin, a substance you can find in arugula, can kill breast cancer cells and helps get rid of damaged cells in the body. It has been also suggested that the more erucin-rich food you consume, the greater the influence it has over fighting cancer cells.5
Aids in digestion
Arugula, as part of the Brassicaceae family, is rich in dietary fibre, especially insoluble fibre. From the two types of fibre, insoluble fibre passes through your gut without being properly absorbed by the body. As arugula is usually enjoyed raw as a part of salads or toppings, it helps your bowel movement and keeps your digestive system healthy.6
Additionally, arugula, as a fibre-rich food with high water content can significantly lower the risk of suffering from constipation.6
Rocket is not a calorie-dense food, so it can be eaten in large amounts without the worry of eating over your recommended daily calorie intake.2
It has been suggested that people suffering from Crohn’s disease can benefit from a fibre-rich diet. It was observed that patients with Crohn’s disease on a fibre-rich diet spent almost 5 times less time in a hospital over a span of 4 years. 6
People suffering from digestive problems, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, will benefit from incorporating more arugula in their diet, as is rich in folate, which helps in the formation of digestive acids.7
May reduce risk of heart disease
Arugula has numerous benefits for your cardiovascular health.
It has been shown that it reduces the risk of creating unwanted blood clots thanks to the presence of flavanols that decrease the activation and production of platelets.8
Platelets are cells in our blood that react to blood vessel injury by creating clots. Too many of them can cause jams in our veins and lead to damage, such as cardiovascular disease or stroke.9
Flavonols in arugula, especially kaempferol and quercetin, keep your cardiovascular system healthy by reducing inflammation.10
Additionally, eating foods rich in quercetin, such as rocket, can reduce blood pressure, which can be especially helpful for patients with hypertension.10
Arugula is a rich source of vitamin A, especially beta-carotene, which can positively affect your heart health, as it reduces inflammation, increases levels of good cholesterol and is a strong antioxidant.11
May aid in weight loss
Arugula can be your best ally when it comes to weight loss. This cruciferous vegetable has a very low-calorie count, averaging 25 kcals per 100 grams of fresh produce. What is more, it is almost 92% pure water, making it extremely diet-friendly, keeping you hydrated and satiated at the same time.2
Arugula is rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that is famous for acting directly on your fat tissue, helping you shed unwanted fat from your body. Studies have shown that carotenoid-abundant diet aids in treating obesity by regulating your insulin and lipids levels.11
Arugula has a high dietary fibre content, especially insoluble fibre that cannot be digested by the human body. It, therefore, makes you feel full for longer, decreasing cravings and keeping your diet in check.6
Other health benefits:
- Makes you live longer: Arugula is high in fibre. One study shows that people who consume large amounts of foods rich in fibre had a 22% decreased risk of dying during a 9-year-long experiment6
- Helps with Type 2 Diabetes: As it helps in insulin and fat management, beta-carotene in arugula is one of the main supporters of treating Type 2 Diabetes. Additionally, as eating arugula reduces inflammation and increases the levels of antioxidants in your body, it reduces the damage diabetes causes to your body11
- Helps with pregnancy: Arugula is a folate-rich food. Folate a vitamin from the B group, aids in DNA production, as well as helps in the development of other genetic material. Folate helps people during pregnancy to avoid womb and fetus defects12
Arugula is low in calories (25 kcal per 100 grams of fresh produce) and high in water (91.7g per 100g), which makes them very diet-friendly. They are a rich source of folate, fibre, calcium and vitamin K and A.
Per 100 grams of raw, uncooked, unsalted courgette you get on average:2
- Energy 105 kJ (25 kcal)
- Carbs - 3.7g, including sugars - 2g and fibre - 1.6g
- Fat - less than 1g
- Protein - 2.6g
- Vitamins (with Daily Reference Intake in % for healthy adults)
- Vitamin A - 15%
- beta-Carotene - 13%
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1) - 4%
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - 7%
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) - 2%
- Vitamin B6 - 6%
- Folate (Vitamin B9) - 24%
- Vitamin C - 18%
- Vitamin E - 3%
- Vitamin K - 103%
- Minerals (with Daily Reference Intake in % for healthy adults)
- Calcium - 16%
- Copper - 4%
- Iron - 11%
- Magnesium - 13%
- Manganese - 15%
- Phosphorus - 7%
- Potassium - 8%
- Sodium - 2%
- Zinc - 5%
Culinary uses of arugula
Arugula, as a leafy green vegetable with a distinct peppery flavour, can be used in a variety of dishes:
- Salads: you can use rocket either as a base or as an ingredient mixed with other greens, tomatoes, cheese, nuts, and fruits
- Pesto: serving as a substitute or addition to traditional basil in pasta dishes, sandwiches, or as a condiment
- Sandwiches and wraps: Arugula's flavour makes it a popular choice for sandwiches and wraps, providing a fresh and tangy element alongside roasted vegetables, grilled chicken, or cured meats
- Pizza topping: Arugula adds a vibrant and peppery note to the overall taste, and pairs well with prosciutto, goat cheese, or shaved Parmesan
- Pasta dishes: Arugula can also be incorporated into pasta dishes, either wilted or added fresh, and complements creamy sauces, garlic, and lemon-based flavours
- Sauteed or wilted: You can process arugula to create a versatile side dish or bed for other cooked ingredients like grilled meats or seafood
- Garnish: Arugula can be used as a garnish to enhance the visual appeal and taste of various dishes, including grilled meats, roasted vegetables, or soups
Side effects and other concerns
Arugula is a relatively safe vegetable to eat for most people. However, people with a specific allergy to this leafy green should avoid eating it.13
Typical food allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy sensation in the mouth, throat or ears
- A raised itchy red rash, also called hives
- Swelling of the face
Arugula, also known as a salad or garden rocket, roquette or colewort, is a leafy green vegetable with a peppery taste.
In terms of health benefits, arugula is rich in vitamins and minerals that promote bone and eye health, aid in digestion, reduce the risk of cancer, and help with weight loss. It contains calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth, and vitamin K, which improves bone density and healing.
Arugula's phytochemicals, such as isothiocyanates and phenolic compounds, have been linked to cancer prevention.
The vegetable's dietary fibre supports digestion and can reduce the risk of constipation.
Additionally, arugula may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and blood clotting.
It is low in calories and high in water content, making it a suitable addition to a weight-loss diet.
Arugula can be used in various ways, such as in salads, soups, pizzas, and sandwiches. It is also versatile, as you can enjoy not only the leaves but also the roots, flowers, and seeds.
While arugula is generally safe to consume, people with allergies to this vegetable should avoid it. Allergic reactions can include itching, rash, swelling, and vomiting.
Overall, arugula is a nutritious and flavorful addition to your meals, offering a range of health benefits.
- Bell L, Wagstaff C. Rocket science: A review of phytochemical & health-related research in Eruca & Diplotaxis species. Food Chem X [Internet]. 2018 Dec 22 [cited 2023 May 24];1:100002. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6690419/
- Fooddata central [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169387/nutrients
- Rodríguez-Olleros Rodríguez C, Díaz Curiel M. Vitamin k and bone health: a review on the effects of vitamin k deficiency and supplementation and the effect of non-vitamin k antagonist oral anticoagulants on different bone parameters. J Osteoporos [Internet]. 2019 Dec 31 [cited 2023 May 26];2019:2069176. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6955144/
- Vitamin K in osteoporosis [Internet]. Health Research Authority. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.hra.nhs.uk/planning-and-improving-research/application-summaries/research-summaries/vitamin-k-in-osteoporosis/
- Bello I, Smimmo M, d’Emmanuele di Villa Bianca R, Bucci M, Cirino G, Panza E, et al. Erucin, an h2s-releasing isothiocyanate, exerts anticancer effects in human triple-negative breast cancer cells triggering autophagy-dependent apoptotic cell death. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2023 Jan [cited 2023 May 26];24(7):6764. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/24/7/6764
- Campbell B, Han D, Triggs CM, Fraser AG, Ferguson LR. Brassicaceae: nutrient analysis and investigation of tolerability in people with Crohn’s disease in a New Zealand study. Functional Foods in Health and Disease [Internet]. 2012 Nov 21 [cited 2023 May 26];2(11):460–86. Available from: https://www.ffhdj.com/index.php/ffhd/article/view/70
- Ratajczak AE, Szymczak-Tomczak A, Rychter AM, Zawada A, Dobrowolska A, Krela-Kaźmierczak I. Does folic acid protect patients with inflammatory bowel disease from complications? Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 Nov 12 [cited 2023 May 26];13(11):4036. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618862/
- Fuentes E, Alarcón M, Fuentes M, Carrasco G, Palomo I. A novel role of Eruca sativa Mill. (Rocket) extract: antiplatelet (NF-κB inhibition) and antithrombotic activities. Nutrients. 2014 Dec 12;6(12):5839–52.
- Amalia L, Dalimonthe NZ. Clinical significance of platelet-to-white blood cell ratio (Pwr) and national institute of health stroke scale (Nihss) in acute ischemic stroke. Heliyon [Internet]. 2020 Oct 7 [cited 2023 May 26];6(10):e05033. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7553977/
- Panche AN, Diwan AD, Chandra SR. Flavonoids: an overview. J Nutr Sci [Internet]. 2016 Dec 29 [cited 2023 May 26];5:e47. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5465813/
- Marcelino G, Machate DJ, Freitas K de C, Hiane PA, Maldonade IR, Pott A, et al. Β-carotene: preventive role for type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity: a review. Molecules [Internet]. 2020 Jan [cited 2023 May 26];25(24):5803. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/25/24/5803
- Kellie FJ. Vitamin K supplementation during pregnancy for improving outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2017 Jun 26 [cited 2023 May 26];2017(6):CD010920. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6481496/
- Damiani E, Aloia AM, Priore MG, Pastore A, Lovecchio A, Errico M, et al. IgE-mediated reaction induced by arugula (Eruca sativa) ingestion compared with a spectrum of Brassicaceae proteins. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr) [Internet]. 2014 Sep 1 [cited 2023 May 26];42(5):501–3. Available from: https://www.elsevier.es/en-revista-allergologia-et-immunopathologia-105-articulo-ige-mediated-reaction-induced-by-arugula-S030105461300147X
- Food allergies [Internet]. [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/food-allergy