10 Powerful Health Benefits of Arugula (Eruca Sativa)

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of arugula include weight loss, reduced risk of cancer, healthy bones, and improved eyesight. This plant has antioxidant properties and is good for the skin. It also helps in strengthening the brain, improving metabolic functions, mineral absorption, and boosting the immune system.

What is Arugula?

Arugula is a leafy green plant that is popularly used in salads. Arugula has a number of different names, depending upon where in the world you are located. These various names include salad rocket, garden rocket, rucola, roquette, and colewort. It belongs to the genus Eruca and the family Brassicaceae. It is closely related to radish, kale, and cauliflower, and has a slightly peppery, spicy taste.

Arugula grows to a height of 20-100 centimeters and is recognizable by its small, white flowers. The leaves of arugula are lobed in nature, with 4-10 lateral lobes and a longer terminal lobe. It is grown on a large scale for commercial consumption, but it also exists as a wild species throughout the world. It is predominantly used in the Americas, Europe, and North Africa.

To the untrained eye, arugula might just look like fancy lettuce, but not all greens are created, and arugula has a wide range of health benefits that frequent eaters of this cruciferous vegetable can enjoy.

Nutrition Facts

Arugula, raw
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]91.71
Energy [kcal]25
Protein [g]2.58
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.66
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]3.65
Fiber, total dietary [g]1.6
Sugars, total [g]2.05
Calcium, Ca [mg]160
Iron, Fe [mg]1.46
Magnesium, Mg [mg]47
Phosphorus, P [mg]52
Potassium, K [mg]369
Sodium, Na [mg]27
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.47
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]15
Thiamin [mg]0.04
Riboflavin [mg]0.09
Niacin [mg]0.31
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.07
Folate, DFE [µg]97
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]119
Vitamin A, IU [IU]2373
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.43
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]108.6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.09
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.32
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Arugula Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, arugula is a leafy green plant packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Amongst minerals, it provides calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium. It has high levels of vitamin C, and folic acid, fat soluble vitamins A, E and K (but not D) and small amounts of other B vitamins.

It is packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals, and carotenoids. As compared to other leafy greens, arugula is low in oxalates, which are chemicals that actually inhibit the absorption of minerals into the body. All in all, arugula is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich food.

Health Benefits of Arugula

The vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants packed in every leaf of arugula are certainly beneficial to those who incorporate it into their diet.

Rich in Antioxidants

Arugula is a great source of antioxidants and can greatly increase a person’s ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), a method for measuring antioxidant capacities. Antioxidants function to maintain a healthy balance of enzyme reactions within cells, while actively seeking out and destroying the disease-causing free radicals that can attack your system. This helps raise immunity levels in the body.

A wooden bowl filled with fresh arugula leaves

Boosts Bone Health

Arugula is rich in vitamin K, which is beneficial to bones. A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reinforces that vitamin K plays a critical role in promoting bone health and bone formation. The gradual degradation of neural pathways owing to age can be slowed down by an increase in the intake of vitamin K.

Arugula’s combinative effects of low oxalate levels (allowing more minerals into the system) and the presence of so many minerals in the plant itself make it a strong support system for healthy bones. Sufferers of osteoporosis can see improvements, and arugula can be used as a preventative step as well, ensuring bone health and strength before age/activity-based effects of bone degeneration become serious.

Helps Improve Immune System

Arugula is loaded with vitamins and minerals that in some way bolster the defenses of the body’s immune system. The body is stimulated to create white blood cells from the copper in these salad leaves, and the plant has a number of other ways to improve the strength of your immune system.

Vitamin C is one of the best defenses for your body to seek out dangerous, inflammatory free radicals and eliminate them from your body before they can cause real damage. This well-known vitamin is found in large quantities in arugula and helps maintain good health by giving an extra boost to your immune system.

Anti-cancer Properties

The European Journal of Nutrition has published a study that has found that certain phytochemicals, found in arugula, may inhibit the activity of cancer-causing cells. Phytochemicals are substances like thiocyanates, sulforaphane, or indoles that are effective in countering cancer-causing tendencies in the body’s own processes. A study in the PLOS One Journal suggests that these compounds help fight prostate, breast, cervical, colon, and ovarian cancers. However, the mechanism of action is not well-understood, so further ongoing research is needed.

Pre-natal Care

For expectant mothers, arugula is a wonderful choice to add to their diet. Folates, a classification which includes folic acid, have been shown to decrease occurrences of certain mental defects in newborns. It is rich in folates, as are many leafy vegetables.

Increases Metabolism

Another benefit of arugula is the presence of small amounts of B-Complex vitamins that assisting in promoting metabolism. Eight B-vitamins participate and aid in all different cell activities, including energy production, fat synthesis, the production of red blood cells, and many other vital processes for cell and metabolic health.

Improves Eyesight

Dr. Elizabeth J. Johnson, in her study on the role of carotenoids, states that they help improve eye health when consumed in natural form (not supplemental). Arugula is a well-known source of carotenoids, which are naturally occurring pigments that have long been famous for improving a person’s ability to see properly. In fact, carotenoids slow down the process of macular degeneration, which is when the center of a person’s field of vision becomes compromised. By increasing the number of carotenoids in your diet (and arugula is a great source for them), you may be able to slow down this classic symptom of old age.

Increases Mineral Absorption

Arugula has a very low level of oxalates as compared to other popular leafy vegetables like spinach. Oxalates inhibit the absorption of minerals by the body’s systems, which is counterproductive to consuming minerals in the same bite. So minerals, like copper and iron, which you get from the plant, are more easily absorbed by the body for efficient use.

Weight Loss

The inclusion of arugula in a diet is the same as any other low-calorie, vitamin or nutrient-rich plant; and it will inevitably have a positive effect on attempts at weight loss. By satisfying so many nutritional needs with a calorie density food, it is an easy way to watch your health and keep your system balanced, without making drastic changes to your diet.

Improves Overall Health

Vitamin A has a significant presence in arugula, which means the ‘garden rocket’ eaters should have an improved condition of their bones, teeth, and eyes. The flavonoid compounds in all leafy vegetables similar to arugula have been shown to protect against carcinogens of the skin, lung, and other organs.

Arugula Recipes

There are many ways in which arugula can be incorporated into your daily diet. Let us look at some quick and easy recipes:

Arugula Green Salad

Ingredients

Arugula (1 cup), lettuce (1 cup), radicchio (1 cup), parsley, olive oil (1 tablespoon), lime juice (3 teaspoons), salt, and pepper.

  • Step 1: Mix fresh arugula, lettuce, and radicchio leaves in a bowl.
  • Step 2: Add olive oil and lime juice for additional flavor.
  • Step 3: Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Step 4: Garnish the salad with freshly chopped parsley.

Note: You can also add other vegetables, fruits, and nuts to make your own salad.

Arugula leaves and raspberry salad

Arugula Cheese Salad

Ingredients

Fresh and dry arugula leaves (2 cups each), parmesan cheese (thin slices), onion (1), lemon juice (3 teaspoons), salt and pepper (to taste)

  • Step 1: Mix fresh and dry arugula in a bowl.
  • Step 1: Add thin slices of parmesan cheese and sliced onion to the bowl.
  • Step 1: Add lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

Pasta with Arugula

Ingredients

Pasta (300g), arugula leaves (2 cups), lime juice (3 teaspoons), olive oil (2 tablespoons), cheese (grated, 1/2 cup), salt and pepper (to taste)

  • Step 1: Mix arugula and lime juice in a bowl.
  • Step 2: Add lemon zest to the mixture for added flavor.
  • Step 3: Cook and drain the pasta and add the arugula mix.
  • Step 4: Season it with salt and pepper.
  • Step 5: Add olive oil and toss the pasta. Serve pasta topped with grated cheese and enjoy!

So, which one are you trying first?

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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