All leafy vegetables are healthy for you as they are low in calories. But not all of them can provide you with all the essential nutrients that your body requires. However, one salad green that stands out for its high nutrient density is Arugula. Popularly known as the salad rocket or garden rocket, Arugula (Eruca sativa), is a nutritious and healthy leafy vegetable with leaves similar in appearance to dandelion leaves. It’s not just the leaves, but the flowers, seeds and seed pods of this plant are also edible. Arugula grows at a strikingly fast rate and hence the name rocket. It is a drought resistant plant that can grow in areas of poor rainfall and dry soil. Since it needs less water, it is very easy to grow them in your garden along with other herbs. Arugula has a unique aroma and peppery taste that makes it a delicious addition to salads. It is also added to pasta, pizza, breads, and used as decoration on food. It is popular in Middle east and Eastern Europe as salad vegetable and spice. Some other common names are – roquette, rucola, rugula, colewort, eruca, roka or taramira, jarjeer (urdu).
Nutritional value of Arugula
Just like other leafy vegetables, Arugula is also low in calories but with a high concentration of many nutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. It has good amounts of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and B complex vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate. 100 gram of leafy vegetable can meet your full daily requirement of Vitamin K and half of your daily requirement of Vitamin A. Arugula is also a rich source of minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc.
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This vegetable is an excellent source of various phytochemicals like indoles, isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which have been found to have anti-cancer properties. It has high concentration of glucosinolates and flavonol. Leaves of arugula bear essential oil, often called rocket arugula oil or jarjir oil, which contains mainly sulfur and nitrogen containing compounds which gives typical pungent peppery flavor.
Health benefits of Arugula
Arugula is packed with a plethora of nutrients that cannot be found in most of the other vegetables. The many health benefits and healing properties of this salad green are due to the abundance of these nutrients. Ancient medicine forms of Ayurveda, Unani and Arab traditional medicines have employed rocket for its medicinal properties. In Unani medicine, it is used as diuretic, stimulant and treating scurvy and digestive disorders.
Arugula is good for your eyes
Eating arugula regularly is a great way to promote good eye health. Beta-carotene in this vegetable is known to prevent eye disorders like age related macular degeneration and cataract. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A inside our body, which helps in maintaining proper eye health and vision.
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Arugula and brain health
It has been found that the regular consumption of arugula will help in protecting your brain from aging as well as cognitive decline. This vegetable is a rich source of B vitamins along with folate that plays a major role in preventing cognitive decline. It also contains high amounts of vitamin K that prevents neuronal damage, thus reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Arugula is also a good source of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. According to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the risk of developing this condition is lowered (by more than 20%) in people who consumed higher amounts of these antioxidants.
Arugula can prevent cancer
Just like cabbage and cauliflower, Arugula also belongs to the category of cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables are found to have the ability to protect you from certain types of cancers. This anti-cancer effect can be attributed to the presence of compounds called glucosinolates that get converted to isothiocyanates, that plays a key role in preventing cancer. Arugula also contains antioxidants like lutein, beta carotene, and zeaxanthin, all of which are helpful in eliminating the harmful free radicals and preventing diseases like cancer. This vegetable is also capable of fighting off the carcinogenic effects of the hormone estrogen, thus protecting against certain types of cancers like breast, colon, cervical, ovarian and prostate cancers. Studies with extracts from leaves, roots and seeds of rocket salad showed that it exhibits properties to prevent growth of cancer cells. Seed oil was found to reduce tumor growth in mice effectively.
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Arugula aids digestion
Arugula offers good amount of fibers, which aids in digestion and the better absorption of nutrients by your body. It also offers various Vitamins and minerals which play important role in digestion and metabolic activity. Arugula contains high amounts of B group vitamins that play a vital role in promoting cell metabolism and activities such as synthesis of fat, production of energy, production of red blood cells, and many more.
Arugula protects your heart
The very fact that arugula helps in maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels indicate that it is a heart healthy vegetable. Plus it is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that help in lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A diet rich in potassium is known to be beneficial in controlling blood pressure as it helps in lessening the negative effects of salts or sodium. Since arugula contains high amounts of potassium, consuming this vegetable helps you keep your blood pressure levels under check.
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Arugula for diabetics
Clinical research shows that extract of parts of Arugula helps in reducing oxidative stress which may result in diabetes mellitus. In animal study, Arugula seed oil helped in prevention and treatment of drug induced diabetes. Supplementation of diabetic rat with arugula seed oil reduced blood sugar level.
Arugula is good for pregnant women
Arugula has been found to be a safe and healthy choice for pregnant women. In addition to providing high nutrition to both the mother and growing fetus, this vegetable is also a good source of folic acid that is necessary to prevent neural tube defects in the baby. It also offers body vitamin K, which is required during pregnancy and health of baby.
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Arugula for treatment of ulcer
Traditionally, Rocket salad has been used in treatment of ulcers. A in-vitro study has identified inhibition of urease, suggesting its traditional use of the plant for treatment of ulcers. In lab studies, rocket salad extract showed anti-ulcer activities against experimentally induced gastric ulcers. Anti-secretory and antioxidant properties of arugula has been attributed for anti-ulcer benefits.
Arugula has aphrodisiac properties
A secret that most people don’t know about Arugula is that it boosts your libido. This wonderful salad green has been found to have aphrodisiac properties. This discovery was done by the Romans several centuries ago as they found that people who ate this vegetable were sexually more active. Leaves and seeds of this plant are used in Arabian countries as sex tonic. In fact, arugula is often combined with other herbs that possess this property such as chicory and lavender to make love potions.
Arugula improves bone health
Arugula is considered to be one of the best bone healthy foods. It is rich in vitamin K, which is essential for the absorption of calcium and in promoting osteotrophic activity. It contains good amounts of vitamin C that is crucial for collagen production and in maintaining healthy bones and cartilage. Calcium found in Arugula helps in the formation, growth, development and maintenance of bones. Arugula also contains magnesium and manganese, two other minerals closely associated with bone health. While magnesium helps in calcium absorption and improving bone health, manganese is needed for the production of connective tissue in bones and cartilages.
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Arugula promotes weight loss
Being a low calorie food, Arugula is a perfect addition to any weight loss diet. Moreover the fiber in this vegetable improves satiety, so that you stay feeling full for longer hours after you eat. As a result you are less likely to indulge on processed and unhealthy foods that make you gain weight.
Arugula can boost your immunity
Arugula is packed with powerful antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help in strengthening your immunity and in fighting off diseases. Arugula offers ample quantity of vitamin C which help in developing natural defense against pathogens. Studies have further isolated di-indolyl-methane, an indole derivate with ability to modify immunity and antimicrobial properties. Like other green vegetable, Arugula offers high levels of chlorophyll which help in protection of body parts and increasing immunity.
Antimicrobial properties of Arugula
Arugula seed oil is used in Ayurveda and Unani medicinal forms for treatment of skin infection, fever, urinary tract infection and diarrhea. Clinical research suggests potential of this herb as antimicrobial agent. Lab studies show that crude juice of Arugula leaves is effective over various bacteria. Antibacterial activity can be mainly attributed to presence of bioactive isothiocynates and erucic acid present in arugula seed oil and other parts of the plant.
Arugula protects kidney
Arugula has been found to have diuretic properties that increases the production of urine and prevents water retention. This helps in promoting the natural detoxification of the body by flushing out the wastes and toxins. The diuretic property is helpful in preventing urinary tract infections and formation of kidney stones.
People who have had a history of kidney stones are often recommended to consume foods with low oxalate content. This is because foods high in oxalate can lead to the formation of stones as the oxalate sometimes accumulates and hardens into hard stones. Salad rocket in comparison to other salad vegetables like spinach, celery, etc have low oxalate content and hence is beneficial for preventing kidney stones. The potent antioxidant activity of arugula helps in protection of kidney from oxidative stress.
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Arugula is a remedy for anemia
Incorporating arugula in your regular diet is a great way to prevent anemia caused by iron deficiency. This vegetable also contains high amounts of vitamin C that helps in the better absorption of iron by your body.
Arugula benefits to skin
Arugula offers skin with anti-aging benefits. Arugula is packed with nutrients that inhibit the aging process, thus keeping you young. It contains plenty of water, which helps in hydrating your body and keeping your skin soft and supple. Moreover, Arugula is loaded with powerful antioxidants that fight off the free radicals that are responsible for causing damage to the cells, leading to early aging.
Arugula offer protection over Atopic dermatitis. Lab studies show that Eruca sativa extract with its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial property protects from skin disorder. Flavonoids in Arugula acts as skin barrier and treats atopic dermatitis. Isothiocyanate isolated from Arugula seed have been found to have properties which reduces skin inflammation.
Hair benefits of Arugula
Seeds of Aragula bear oil popularly known as Taramira oil or jamba oil; it offers benefits for hair. It is normally used in treatment of dandruff, lice and other scalp condition involving itching and inflammation. Aragula seed oil is believed to keep hair strong and healthy. Jamba oil is uses for massaging scalp and body.
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Culinary uses of Arugula
Most common use of Arugula is its leaves in salad for offering peppery flavor. Oil from seeds of Arugula is used in India as substitute of mustard oil in pickling or as cooking oil. Leaves Arugula are grind along with olive oil, garlic and other spices to make chutney or pesto. It can be used with baked dishes. Rucolino is an Italian liquor made from arugula, with peppery flavor often used as digestive tonic. Arugula is used with pasta and pizzas for seasoning.
Arugula is not just a salad green. Rather it is a versatile and healthy food that can improve your health. With its health benefitting and medicinal properties, it is worth adding this vegetable to your regular diet to step up your health.