What is Arugula?
Arugula is a dark leafy green in the cruciferous family of vegetables. It is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and brussel sprouts, some of the most potent anti-cancer foods around. It has a peppery, mustardy flavor with a slight bitterness. Younger leaves, known as baby arugula, are more tender and less pungent than the more mature greens. Arugula leaves are shaped like oak leaves or dandelion greens.
This salad green is also very aromatic; its seeds where at one point used to make an aromatic oil. Popular in both Italian and French cooking, arugula greens have only recently become a mainstay of the American diet; in fact they have become a trend. Arugula is also called rocket, or roquette.
Nutritional Benefits of Arugula Greens
There are a number of nutrients in arugula, although most are found in small quantities. A serving size of five cups provides a hefty portion of vitamins and minerals; one cup only offers a fraction. Still, arugula greens provide a readily absorbable source of calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and potassium. They are also a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and folic acid. All the nutrients in arugula come with a mere handful of calories per serving.
The primary benefits of arugula leaves are due to their phytochemical content. Like all cruciferous vegetables, this green should be eaten on a regular basis to prevent most types of cancer. Research has linked a diet high in cruciferous vegetables with disease prevention time and time again. They are pound for pound the most potent anti-cancer foods. Some of the phytochemicals, such as glucosinolates and sulforaphanes, are responsible for stimulating enzymes which help the body cleanse itself of toxins and potential carcinogens. Others are powerful antioxidants. Carotenes for example can protect against sun damage, heart disease, and cancer. They also improve communication between cells, something that may play a large role in the well-being of cellular function.
Arugula is also a wonderful source of chlorophyll, a compound that the body can always benefit from. Chlorophyll cleanses and energizes the blood. It helps bring large amounts of oxygen to all parts of the body, creating an environment undesirable to viruses and harmful bacteria. Chlorophyll also supports healthy skin, and limits the potential of carcinogens.
How to Cook Arugula
In order to absorb the highest quantity of the nutrients in arugula, this vegetable should be eaten raw. Fortunately it serves its role as an ideal salad green. Full of flavor, arugula greens enhance salads. They can be mixed with milder greens, or simply tossed with a simple vinaigrette, sliced cherry tomatoes, and crumbled walnuts. Baby arugula makes a better salad green than larger-leafed arugula because of its milder flavor.
Arugula is excellent cooked as well. As long as the greens are not overcooked, most of the nutrients are retained. Saute arugula with olive oil and garlic at a medium-low heat. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Add this green to soups or stews, fold into omelettes with shredded cheese, put on pizzas, even sandwiches.
With so many benefits of arugula, this tasty green should definitely be enjoyed. It can be integrated into almost every meal, so why not fill your refrigerator with this dark leafy green. Yes, it may be trendy – but its good for you too.
This post is part of the series: What’s in Your Salad?
- Beyond Lettuce: A Guide to Healthy Salad Greens
- Health Benefits of Arugula
- Different Types of Salad Greens: Frisee Lettuce and Nutrition
- Health Benefits of Spinach