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What Is an Arugula Salad a Good Source Of?

by Jillian Levy, CHHC

Published: June 2, 2015

Arugula health benefits title

Arugula salad should be one of the foods on the top of your list due to its nutrient density. Arugula is an immune-boosting vegetable that packs an incredible nutritional punch, especially considering its tiny number of calories.

When it comes to your health, what is arugula capable of doing? As a high antioxidant food, arugula can help improve almost every system in the body and be part of a healing diet that serves as a natural cancer treatment. It’s also helpful for improving heart health and lowering inflammation thanks to its phytonutrients that reduce oxidative stress.

What Is Arugula Beneficial For?

Arugula, which is called rocket or roquette in Europe and Australia, provides generous portions of vital nutrients — including vitamin K, vitamin A and folate. In addition, arugula salad is a good source of eye-healthy beta carotene in the form of carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin.

But even more than individual vitamins and minerals, arugula is known to provide special chemical compounds called isothiocyanates, which have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative activities. This makes it a great addition to a healing diet that can reverse signs of aging and disease.

An interesting fact about arugula you might not be aware of?

Arugula was believed to be an aphrodisiac by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. Famous authors even wrote about arugula nutrition benefits, stating that this veggie had the ability to “excite the sexual desire of drowsy people.” Thousands of years ago, Romans found that those who ate arugula more frequently often experienced better health and were more sexually energized, perhaps because arugula helps improve circulation, blocks toxic environmental effects that can lower libido and has stimulating, energizing qualities.


Arugula vitamin properties and health benefits list

Arugula Nutrition Facts

Arugula (which has the scientific plant name Eruca sativa) is a member of the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables — the same group that includes vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale and Swiss chard. These protective vegetables are known to be an excellent source of anti-cancer phytochemicals that neutralize free radical damage and slow the aging process.

Cancer’s link to your diet is unquestionable, and a healthy diet filled with brassica vegetables, called “carcinogen killers,” supplies high levels of various antioxidants that speed up the removal of toxins from the body. In fact, one of the key dietary recommendations for cancer prevention of the American Cancer Society is to include brassica cruciferous vegetables in your diet on a regular basis.

Many studies show that frequently eating brassica vegetables can do even more than help fight cancer. Cruciferous veggies like arugula are also associated with a lower risk for obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders and heart disease. What’s even better is that arugula’s benefits can easily come in a double dose since it’s easy to eat more than one cup at a time of this leafy green.

One cup of raw arugula has about: (1)

  • 5 calories
  • Less than 1 gram of protein, sugar, fat or carbs
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 22 milligrams vitamin K (28 percent DV)
  • 475 milligrams vitamin A (10 percent DV)
  • 19 milligrams folate (4 percent DV)
  • 6 milligrams vitamin C (4 percent DV)
  • 32 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
  • 0.06 milligrams manganese (4 percent DV)

10 Health Benefits of Arugula

1. Fights Cancer

Arugula, like many other vegetables in the cruciferous family, contains glucosinolates, which are key phytonutrients believed to a type of natural cancer remedy. When you chew arugula, these compounds mix with a digestive enzyme called myrosinase that turns them into other cancer-fighting nutrients known as isothiocyanates.(2)

Arugula contains large quantities of sulfur-containing isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and erucin, the same phytonutrients found in veggies like kohlrabi and Chinese cabbage. These are what give most cruciferous vegetables their signature sulfur smell and are also believed to be responsible for their cancer-fighting activity. (3) Many studies find a strong relationship between higher consumption of raw vegetables containing these special compounds and a lowered risk for cancer. (4)

Isothiocyanates neutralize free radicals and dangerous carcinogens that can lead to DNA damage and cell mutation. They also inhibit cell proliferation and stop cancerous tumor growth. Studies show that arugula and other cruciferous leafy greens can especially help prevent cancer within the gastrointestinal track, such as colon and bladder cancer, along with breast, lung, esophageal and prostate cancers.

2. Protects Eye Health

What is arugula beneficial for when it comes to eye health? It can help protect eyes from age-related disorders because it’s a great source of protective carotenoid antioxidants. These special compounds have been extensively researched in relation to their ability to prevent macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults.

Arugula is a type of natural treatment for macular degeneration because it’s high in carotenoids like beta carotene, leutin and zeaxanthin. These are known to protect the retina, cornea and other delicate parts of the eyes from UV damage and other effects. (5) According to studies, lutein and zeaxanthin may also protect you against eye disease because they absorb damaging blue light that enters the eye.

3. Improves Heart Health

Arugula is capable of improving the health of blood vessels, acting as an anti-inflammatory food that lowers levels of cholesterol and homocysteine. This is one reason why cruciferous vegetable intake is known to lower the risk for heart disease and overall mortality. (6)

A diet high in low-calorie, high-nutrient vegetables is also linked with better blood pressure, improved circulation, and a lower risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Vegetables provide not only important inflammation-lowering antioxidants, but also crucial nutrients like potassium and magnesium that help control heart rhythms and dietary fiber, which removes cholesterol and toxins from the body.

4. Helps Maintain Strong Bones

One cup of arugula provides about over a quarter of the recommended daily value of vitamin K — making it a great source to prevent vitamin K deficiency. Vitamin K is essential for bone health and also for helping with blood clot formation.

In fact, some experts feel that vitamin K builds bones better than calcium to a certain extent. It’s thought to be a key player in developing a strong skeletal system, which is why studies show that people who consume more vitamin K tend to experience lower rates of bone fractures and osteoporosis.

5. Aids in Weight Loss

What is arugula salad useful for when it comes to losing weight? Arugula is an extremely nutrient-dense food, considering it has only five calories per cup but loads of antioxidants. Because people tend to eat more than one cup of leafy greens at a time, arugula is essentially a superfood for weight loss and a great way to obtain plenty of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients while still sticking to a low-calorie diet overall. Leafy greens like arugula provide detoxifying nutrients and dietary fiber, which help fill you up, prevent deficiencies and provide ongoing energy.

6. Improves Digestion

Like other leafy greens, arugula is an alkaline food that helps restore the body’s optimal pH level. An optimal pH level is crucial for digestive health in addition to a supporting a strong immune system.

Additionally, arugula is a hydrating food that helps nourish the digestive tract and aids in the removal of toxins or waste from the blood and digestive system. Regularly eating leafy greens like arugula is one of the best ways to help naturally prevent constipation and improve the health of the gut lining, colon, intestines and other digestive organs.

7. Helps Prevent Diabetes

Although people tend to only eat arugula leaves and not the seeds of the plant, clinical research confirms that plant extracts taken from arugula seeds help fight blood sugar fluctuations. A diet high in green vegetables is thought to be a type of natural diabetes remedy since it improves insulin responsiveness. Arugula extract, or oil taken from the Eruca sativa seeds, is considered an effective prevention and treatment method for improving insulin respobse, reducing hyperglycemia, and lowering high cholesterol and triglycerides. (7)

But even eating arugula salad leaves in place of other foods can have blood-sugar and inflammation-lowering effects — since it’s virtually free of sugar and carbs, yet a good way to fill up and add more volume to your plate.

8. Reduces Skin Inflammation and Infections

Arugula extract is also considered effective in preventing or treating skin disorders, according to traditional Middle Eastern medicine practices. According to centuries-old tradition, what is arugula known for when it comes to skin health? For many years, practitioners believed that arugula’s oils can prevent inflammatory skin diseases and be a natural treatment of eczema or psoriasis. (8)

Eating the raw leaves of the arugula plant can also provide defense against UV skin damage and slow signs of aging skin, since its antioxidants fight cell proliferation and protect skin’s elasticity, immunity and appearance.

9. Supplies Important Vitamins and Minerals

Arugula contains folate, a very important B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in unborn babies and reduces the buildup of a harmful blood chemical called homocysteine. It’s also a good way to obtain manganese and prevent calcium deficiency; in fact, arugula is similar in terms of calcium quantity to spinach nutrition but has fewer mineral-blocking oxalates. This means that less calcium is inhibited, and your body can actually absorb and use more. In addition, arugula provides smaller quantities of  iron, potassium, zinc, copper and magnesium.

10. May Act as a Natural Aphrodisiac

Although there haven’t been many studies done investigating the effects of arugula consumption on enhancing libido or fertility, we know that arugula’s natural aphrodisiac qualities might come from its ability to lower inflammation and supply trace minerals and antioxidants that can improve circulation.

Like most vegetables, arugula’s phytonutrients can help detox the body and reduce the presence of libido-reducing toxins than can negatively impact energy levels, mood and health of the reproductive organs. It seems like the ancient Romans were onto something when they prescribed arugula for a boost in sexual arousal!

History of Arugula

The arugula plant is native to the Mediterranean region, where it’s been eaten for centuries. Records show that arugula salad has been widely consumed in parts of Italy and around the Middle East since the first century A.D. At the time, part of a typical Roman meal was to serve a healing salad made with arugula, romaine lettuce, chicory, mallow and lavender.

Many centuries ago, benefits of arugula nutrition were already appreciated, especially when people ate the seeds in addition to the raw leaves. Arugula was actually thought of as a medicinal plant just as much as a food. In traditional medicinal practices across the Mediterranean, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria, the seeds were used for flavoring oils and had widespread benefits — from working as a natural infertility treatment to improving skin problems and digestion. In India, the leaves of the plant weren’t even eaten, but the oil was commonly pressed from them to produce taramira, a medicinal and cosmetic tincture blend.

Arugula is even mentioned in several religious texts, including the Bible. It’s also referred to in Jewish texts, such as the Mishna and Talmud, that date back to the first through fifth centuries A.D.

How to Buy and Cook with Arugula

Arugula salad has a signature, somewhat strong “peppery” flavor. Many people find that this provides a natural cooling effect on the body, which is indicative of many foods harvested in spring — as arugula is.

Young arugula leaves are the kinds used in salads, usually mixed with other greens in a mesclun mix. You can find fresh young arugula leaves at almost all grocery stores and at farmer’s markets in the spring and summer months. Older arugula leaves are also edible and used around the world too, although they’re less available in the U.S. They have a slightly more bitter taste and are usually cooked.

Look for arugula greens that aren’t wilted or spotted in color. Since it tends to be a delicate vegetable, try consuming it within a few days of buying it. After buying arugula, keep the leaves dry and wrapped up inside a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.

Arugula Recipes

Arugula tastes great either raw or cooked, so there are loads of ways to add some to recipes you already enjoy. The greens can even be finely chopped and used in place of other herbs like parsley or cilantro.

You can try adding wilted arugula to pastas, side dishes made with whole grains, sandwiches, wraps and soups. Arugula’s flavor goes well with goat cheese, balsamic vinaigrette, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic, which is why it’s sometimes blended into dips or spreads similar to pesto. If you have some favorite recipes that use watercress or spinach, you can substitute arugula for a similar peppery taste and texture.

Some uses for arugula around the world that might inspire you? In Italy, raw arugula is commonly added to pizzas or for making the pasta dish cavatiéddi, which calls for wilted arugula along with tomato sauce and pecorino cheese. It’s also used to infuse olive oil combined with garlic to make a heart-healthy condiment for cold meats and fish. In other parts of the world like Slovenia, it’s boiled with potatoes, used in soup or served with cheese.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad Recipe

Try this recipe below for a simple salad using arugula, which is a great addition to any meal or a delicious and snack.

Total Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4


  • Beets
  • 8 cups of organic arugula
  • Raw goat cheese (or chevre)
  • Walnuts
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup coconut kefir
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Boil the beets until a fork can easily go in them.
  2. Mix together salad ingredients.
  3. Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl and dress salad.
Beet and goat cheese spinach salad recipe, Dr. Axe Recipe

You can also try adding some fresh chopped arugula to some of these healthy salad recipes:

 Are There Any Reasons to Avoid Eating Arugula?

Arugula isn’t known to be a common allergen or cause side effects or reactions in many people. And because it’s such a low-calorie, low-sugar vegetable, it’s virtually impossible to overeat these greens!

Although it’s a cruciferous vegetable, it’s low in chemical compounds that can potentially interfere with thyroid function (as some veggies can when eaten in high quantities), so there seems to be very little risk in eating more arugula no matter what your current level of health is.

Read Next: 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Celery

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