Learn more about one of the healthiest leafy greens around with this comprehensive guide to arugula health benefits.
While most leafy green vegetables are considered healthy and nutritious, the superfood arugula packs a nutritious punch that really stands out. Whether you’re trying to detox with healthy greens or simply want to add extra vegetables to your regular diet, bring home some arugula and improve your health outlook. This guide to arugula health benefits and nutrients makes it easy to maximize your intake of these salad greens and ensure better overall health. For more nutritious superfoods checkout our 50 Best Superfoods of 2015.
Arugula Nutrition Facts
Arugula is a low-calorie, low-fat food. A full cup of arugula contains just five calories, and it is high in calcium and iron. Arugula also contains about 475 IU of vitamin A per cup, which helps maintain eye health, and it provides 21.7 milligrams of brain-boosting, bone-building vitamin K. Vitamin C and several of the B vitamins can also be found in arugula, giving it even more nutritional benefits. Arugula is also high in antioxidant phytochemicals, which are compounds that aren’t vitamins or minerals but that boost health when consumed. Specifically, arugula contains the compounds kaempferol and quercetin, which are released when you chew or crush the leaves.
Arugula vs. Other Greens
The health benefits of arugula vs. spinach and other leafy green foods has a lot to do with arugula’s classification. Instead of being considered in the same class of leafy greens as spinach and lettuce, arugula is actually a cruciferous vegetable, similar nutritionally to cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, and collard greens. Cruciferous vegetables, including arugula, contain compounds called glucosinolates. These compounds are responsible for arugula’s peppery flavor, and they may help protect the body from cancer. In terms of overall nutrition, spinach and arugula are both good choices, and mixing them together in a salad or dish gives you a wide array of beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals. Because both spinach and arugula contain high levels of iron, they are good vegetarian iron sources for individuals who need to increase iron intake. If you’re using arugula to boost iron consumption, pair your arugula with a glass of orange juice or a few slices of fresh citrus. The high vitamin C content in these foods helps your body absorb the plant-based iron.
Health Benefits of Arugula
The health benefits of arugula greens include weight loss and maintenance, cancer prevention, and overall good health because of the wide range of nutrients present in the tender, peppery leaves. The health boost you get from specific nutrients, such as increased bone health from the vitamin K content, can also be counted as arugula health benefits. The fiber in arugula also boosts satiety, so you stay feeling full for longer after you eat it and can resist the temptation to binge on unhealthy foods. You can add arugula to your daily meal plan to reap the benefits or switch between different cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens to get a variety of healthy green vegetables in your diet. According to the USDA, you should consume at least 1.5 cups of leafy green vegetables every day to maintain optimal health, so including greens such as arugula is important to your basic physiological health even without considering all the additional benefits.
Selecting and Storing Arugula
If you’re ready to take advantage of the many arugula health benefits, you can easily find this tasty green vegetable at your local farmer’s market, major grocery stores or natural food stores. The following tips can help you pick out the best arugula. Commercially grown arugula tends to be milder than locally grown varieties, but both share the same health benefits. If you’re looking for an extremely peppery flavor, you might want to go with the locally grown leaves. When shopping for arugula, look for vibrant green leaves, which indicate a high level of nutrients. Keep arugula dry and store it in a cool place for up to two weeks. If it gets wet, arugula can rot quickly. You can keep it in a plastic bag in a refrigerator along with a paper towel to absorb moisture. If you really fall for the peppery taste and high nutritional value of arugula, you can try growing your own so you can reap the health benefits any time you want.
Incorporating Arugula into Your Diet
The easiest way to incorporate arugula into your diet is to eat it raw in a salad. Many of the cancer-preventative compounds in arugula break down when heat is applied. However, cooking can make other nutrients in arugula more accessible to the body, so switching things up and serving sautéed arugula or adding arugula to a cooked soup or stew once in a while can help you get a balance of all the beneficial components. You can even use arugula in place of other greens on a lunchtime sandwich or cooked with eggs for breakfast. For even more meal variety, add arugula to your favorite pesto recipe or make a nutrient-packed green smoothie by blending arugula with strawberries, coconut oil and blueberries.