7 reasons to include arugula in your diet

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arugula-salad(NaturalHealth365) Arugula, also called “rocket” (or roquette) lettuce, is currently the darling of nutritionists and health experts, with scientific studies confirming its health-giving effects. But this peppery, tangy salad green didn’t always enjoy such a wholesome cachet.

Once rumored to be an aphrodisiac, arugula lettuce had such a “spicy” reputation that scandalized monks once banned its cultivation in monasteries during the Middle Ages.  Can you believe that?!

Intriguingly, rocket lettuce does possess a double identity (of sorts). Botanically known as Eruca sativa, arugula is actually classified as a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family as superfoods like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. This means it confers the same benefits – and packs the same disease-fighting punch.

Arugula helps to prevent serious eye problems

Studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin, a pair of carotenoids (natural plant pigments) can help prevent age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65. These two powerful antioxidants are found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables – but dark leafy greens such as spinach and arugula may be the richest sources of all.

Lutein and zeaxanthin actually function as “internal sunglasses” to filter out harmful blue and ultraviolet light rays – and prevent AMD and cataracts.

Rocket lettuce has powerful anticancer and detoxifying effects

Like the other cruciferous vegetables, arugula contains glucosinolates. When crushed or chewed, glucosinolates release cancer-fighting, detoxifying compounds known as isothiocyanates, which activate Phase II detoxification enzymes and help to neutralize toxins and carcinogens.

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In a study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, sulforaphane (a variety of isothiocyanate) induced apoptosis, or programmed cell suicide, in human breast cancer cells.

Eat a salad with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties

Arugula is rich in potent antioxidants, including carotenoids, quercetin and chlorophyll. By reducing oxidative stress and damage, antioxidants help to prevent possible cancer-causing mutations in cell DNA.

Rocket lettuce also supports overall health by promoting the production of glutathione, the body’s most important antioxidant.

In addition, arugula fights inflammation by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals such as LOX-2. Many scientists believe that inflammation lies at the root of most major diseases, including cancer, heart disease, IBD and osteoarthritis.

Finally, a study published in Planta Medica attests that arugula also inhibits bacterial and fungal pathogens.

Arugula promotes weight loss and improves digestion

Nutrient-dense yet low in calories, arugula can help maintain healthy weight and even promote weight loss. Its high content of dietary fiber creates a sense of satiety – helping to curb appetite – while its zingy, slightly lemony taste may help satisfy food cravings.

And, arugula even appears capable of improving digestion and absorption of nutrients, while helping to prevent constipation.

In one study, patients with Crohn’s disease were found to tolerate arugula well, in spite of its classification as a cruciferous vegetable (these are sometimes discouraged for people on a low-FODMAP diet for gastrointestinal problems).

The researchers reported that not only was the arugula well tolerated, but it provided the patients with important vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Arugula promotes healthy, flexible skin

Believe it or not, arugula can play an important role in a beauty and skincare routine.

In addition to helping to defend against ultraviolet damage to skin (remember its high content of light-filtering lutein and zeaxanthin?) antioxidants in arugula protect the skin’s elasticity and fight the oxidative stress that can create wrinkles.

As if that weren’t enough reason to include arugula in salads –its high content of vitamin C can help promote the production of collagen, essential for healthy skin.

Arugula is high in folate

Bonus for expectant mothers: each cup of arugula leaves contains 19 micrograms of folate, an essential B-vitamin that helps to prevent neural tube defects in infants.

Arugula has a stellar nutritional profile

No surprises here: arugula is low in calories (with a scanty 5 per cup), low in fat, free of cholesterol and rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. It contains hefty amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, along with vitamin K (at 21.7 mcg per cup) – which is essential for the maintenance of bones and can help to prevent osteoporosis.

It also supplies calcium – important for strong bones and teeth – and magnesium, which supports healthy blood pressure.

Give recipes some “zing” with zesty arugula

Use rocket lettuce instead of – or even with – similar tangy greens such as watercress, basil and parsley.  Salads, wraps and sandwiches are all suitable partners for arugula – and will benefit from the fresh, zippy flavor.

Remember: Rocket lettuce should be consumed raw or very lightly steamed to preserve its valuable phytochemicals.  And, of course, you can increase the already-substantial health benefits of a smoothie to “warp drive” by tossing in a handful of organic arugula.

Feel free to borrow this recipe from NaturalHealth365:

Simply blend cold water with some ice, a half-cup of organic frozen blueberries, half of a ripe avocado, a tablespoon of almond butter, and half a frozen banana. Add the arugula and enjoy.

To make a truly flavorful pesto using rocket lettuce, lightly brown one-half cup of unsalted raw walnut halves, then use a food processor to roughly chop the walnuts, along with 2 cups of fresh organic rocket lettuce leaves and a clove or two of peeled garlic.

Drizzle in one-half cup of extra virgin olive oil during the chopping process, then stir in a little grated raw cheese (if you like)  and add sea salt to taste.

Sources for this article include:

Herbalgram.org
NIH.gov