Arugula consists of vibrant green leaves attached to a pale creamy green hued stem. The leaves are lobed and can be harvested when young and mild in flavor or when fully mature at 3 or 4 inches in length. Arugula offers a herbaceous, peppery flavor with nuances of nuts and mustard.
Leaves allowed to mature too long on the arugula plant will become bitter in taste. The pungent flavor of arugula is due to its high content of sulfur containing compounds known as glucosinolates.
Arugula scientifically known as Eruca sativa is a member of the mustard or Brassicaceae family along with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard, radish and collard greens.
Also known as salad rocket, roquette, Italian cress and rucola, both the leaves and flowers of this annual herb are edible and most commonly used today as a salad green.
Arugula is a nutrient rich leafy green providing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, copper, iron, zinc, folate and potassium.
Cruciferious vegetables such as arugula are also high in antioxidant phytochemicals and rich in sulfur containing compounds known as glucosinolates which have been shown to have detoxifying properties and may be beneficial in the prevention of certain types of cancer.
In the culinary world is used as an herb, a salad green and even a leaf vegetable, making it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It can be used both raw and cooked, though cooking will give the leaves a milder flavor.
Add to raw pesto and sauces to showcase its pungency. Use as a leafy bed for grilled seafood. Chop and sprinkle atop pizza and pasta just before serving.
Combine with other greens to spice up a salad. Add whole leaves to grilled cheese sandwiches or a BLT. Use in lieu of spinach in omelets and quiche. In the Gulf of Naples on the island of Ischia arugula is made into a liqueur known as Rucolino.
The sharp flavor of arugula pairs well with citrus, roasted beets, pears, pine nuts, olives, tomato and robust cheeses such as goat, blue and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Health Benefits Of Arugula
The vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants packed into every leaf of arugula are certainly a benefit to those healthy eaters who incorporate it into their diet.
Antioxidant Properties: Arugula is a great source of antioxidants and can greatly increase a person’s ORAC value (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity), which is a measurement of antioxidant strength. 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.
Your immune system will also thank you for choosing arugula, because antioxidants work to bolster your defenses against simple illnesses like the common cold as well as more complex afflictions, such as cancer, heart disease, and premature aging.
Healthy Body: Vitamin A is one of the antioxidants mentioned above, and its significant presence in arugula also guarantees “rocket” eaters improved condition of their bones, teeth, eyes, and teeth.
The flavonoid compounds in all leafy vegetables similar to arugula have been shown to protect against skin, lung, and various oral types of cancer.
Strengthens Bones and the Brain: Another key bonus of arugula in a regular diet is the inclusion of vitamin K. This heavy-hitting antioxidant also functions as an anti-inflammatory boost to your body. Vitamin K also spurs on osteotrophic activity in cells, meaning that it helps bones form and strengthen.
Gradual degradation of neural pathways, like that found in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, can be slowed down by an increase in Vitamin K in a person’s diet. As such a good source for Vitamin K, the consumption of arugula has been cited as a small, yet worthwhile, preventative method of diseases of that type.
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, but arugula can be used as a preventative step as well, ensuring bone health and strength before the age/activity-based effects of bone degeneration become serious.
Healthy Immune System: This well-known vitamin is found in large quantities in arugula and helps to prevent cancer and maintain good health in the body by giving an extra push to 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
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 more white blood cells from the copper in arugula, and the plant has a number of other ways to improve the strength, durability, and functionality of your immune system.
Cancer Prevention: The consumption of arugula is a deterrent to cancer, because it has lots of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are substances like thiocyanates, sulphoraphane, or indoles.
Studies have shown these to be very successful in countering cancer-causing tendencies in the body’s own processes, helping to fight prostate, breast, cervical, colon, and ovarian cancers. These phytochemicals, found in large quantities within arugula, inhibit the activity of those cancer-causing cells.
Pre-Natal Health: For mothers who are expecting, arugula is a wonderful choice to add to your diet. Folates, a classification which includes folic acid, have been shown to decrease occurrences in certain mental defects in newborns. It is rich in folates, as are many leafy vegetables.
Metabolic Functions: Another benefit of arugula is the presence of B-Complex vitamins, formerly known simply as vitamin B, which are is actually a group of eight distinct vitamins all working to promote cell metabolism and health. 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.
It has large amounts of B-Complex vitamins in its organic structure.
Eyesight: 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.
In most instances, this causes cataracts, which then have to be removed. By increasing the amount of carotenoids in your diet (and arugula is a great source for them), arugula eaters may be able to slow down that classic symptom of old age.
Mineral Absorption: Arugula has a very low level of oxalates when 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. It does not have those high levels of oxalates, so the minerals, like copper and iron, which you get from the plant, are more easily absorbed by the body for efficient use.
Eating something green does not necessarily mean that you are eating something healthy for you. Specific attention must be paid to what benefits certain plants and vegetables are actually providing.
Weight Loss: The inclusion arugula in a diet is the same as any other low-calorie, vitamin/nutrient-rich plant, and it will inevitably have a positive effect on any attempts at weight loss. By satisfying so many nutritional needs, it is an easy way to watch your health and keep your system balanced, without making drastic changes to your diet.
Quick Serving Tips
Pasta: Mix arugula and lime juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cook and drain the pasta and add the arugula mix, olive oil, and cheese.