Arugula or Eruca sativa is an annual, leafy green that belongs to the Brassicaceae family of plants. Despite its lettuce like appearance, Arugula is a close relative of cabbage, kale, mustard greens and cauliflower. This Mediterranean native has a sharp, spicy flavor profile and is a commonly found in Italian, Slovenian, Egyptian, and West Asian, Northern Indian, and Brazilian cuisines.
Medicinal Uses through History:
Arugula appears in Greek and Roman medical lore as an aphrodisiac, diuretic, and a way to restore sight. There have been some records found that indicate arugula was used to treat survey in sailors and administered to those with stomach pains and heartburn in the form of brewed tea. In ancient China arugula and dandelion were considered an effective way of detox and were said to contribute to healthy liver function.
Much like the rest of the cruciferous family, arugula is high in vitamin C, A, K, folate and potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, and other antioxidants. Some research suggests that many of the phytonutrients (indoles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates, sulforaphane) found in arugula have been linked to cancer prevention.
di-indolyl-methane (DIM) a compound derived from digestion of indole-3- carbinol found in arugula and other cruciferous vegetables has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Some research suggests that DIM may have beneficial effects against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) of the cervix. However, the study is inconclusive at this time.
Foods rich in Vitamin C help boost immune function, lower cancer risk, improve iron absorption, and help protect cells from free radical damage. Vitamin A found in arugula functions as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent and promotes retinal, skin, mucous membrane, teeth, and skeletal health. Arugula contains a significant amount of B-complex vitamins (thiamine, niacin, B-6, riboflavin) which are crucial to cell health and proper metabolic function. Another key nutrient found in this leafy green is Vitamin K. 100 g of arugula contains nearly 90% of daily value of Vitamin K which is important for bone health.
Choose Your Arugula:
- Look for crispy bright green leaves
- When picking arugula, avoid collecting from flowered plants as the leaves become bitter
- Store in the refrigerator at relatively high levels of humidity.
Cooking With Arugula:
Arugula is best consumed raw or lightly wilted. Try arugula in a salad, on your turkey burger, or as an addition to your smoothies or juices. In some parts of Italy arugula is used as a pizza topping. It is added right after the pizza is out of the oven to prevent significant wilting.
Wood R (1999). The new whole foods encyclopedia: a comprehensive resource for healthy eating. New York: Penguin/Arkana. ISBN 0-14-025032-8.