6 Healthy Reasons To Eat Arugula!Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Arugula is one of those magical plants that is usually touted as being good for male fertility. It has been used as a natural aphrodisiac as early as the first century and is associated with the Roman god of fertility.
It is a bright, peppery green native to the Mediterranean region and belongs to the mustard family of plants along with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnip and bok choy.
And while I’m skeptical about this little green’s ability to significantly enhance sexual desire, after doing some research, I am confident that arugula can do a lot of great things for your health.
- Arugula may boost athletic performance.
Arugula is rich in nitrate. Out of the top 10 widely available sources of nitrate, arugula ranked #1.
Nitrate consumed from certain foods, like arugula, may help improve endurance. Several studies suggest that dietary nitrate improves athletic ability by improving oxygen delivery and utilization.
“Following ingestion, nitrate is converted in the body to nitrite and stored and circulated in the blood. In conditions of low oxygen availability, nitrite can be converted into nitric oxide, which is known to play a number of important roles in vascular and metabolic control,” reports the National Institutes for Health (NIH).
“Dietary nitrate supplementation increases plasma nitrite concentration and reduces resting blood pressure. Intriguingly, nitrate supplementation also reduces the oxygen cost of submaximal exercise and can, in some circumstances, enhance exercise tolerance and performance.”
- Arugula may be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
The nitrate in arugula may help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
“Dietary nitrate has been demonstrated to have a range of beneficial vascular effects, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction, enhancing exercise performance in healthy individuals and patients with peripheral arterial disease,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Arugula is also a good source of potassium (74 mg per cup) and magnesium (9 mg per cup). Both of these minerals may help combat high blood pressure.
Increasing your potassium intake while reducing the sodium intake in your diet may improve hypertension. Increased potassium may offset the adverse health effects of sodium.
- Arugula may help prevent cancer.
When you chew arugula and it breaks down, it releases a type of phytochemical called indoles.
“During food preparation, chewing, and digestion, the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables are broken down to form biologically active compounds such as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.”
Indoles may help protect you from cancer by preventing DNA damage to cells, inactivating carcinogens, preventing inflammation, inducing apoptosis (cell death) and inhibiting tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration.
One of the main isothiocyanates in arugula is called erucin, which may inhibit proliferation of tumor cells.
- Arugula may help protect your vision and eye health.
One raw cup of arugula (which is very little, especially if you cook it) contains 285 mcgs of beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is critical for the health of your eyes.
“To see the full spectrum of light, your eye needs to produce certain pigments for the photoreceptor cells in your retina to work properly. Vitamin A deficiency stops the production of these pigments, leading to night blindness,” according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
“Your eye also needs vitamin A to nourish other parts of your eye, including the cornea, the clear covering on the front of your eye. Without enough vitamin A, your eyes cannot produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.”
Arugula is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin (711 mcg in one raw cup).
These are two carotenoids and antioxidants that concentrate in eye tissue. According to the American Optometric Association, “[l]utein and zeaxanthin filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye.”
These carotenoids may help prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of visual impairment and acquired blindness in aging Americans.
- Arugula may increase mineral absorption.
Not only is arugula nutrient-dense, but it may also increase mineral absorption in the body due to its low level of oxalates. Oxalates are organic acids naturally found in many plant foods, including leafy veggies like spinach and beet greens.
Although they do not block the absorption of minerals completely, oxalates may reduce the absorption of calcium, iron and other minerals. Arugula, however, happens to have a very low level of oxalates.
This does not mean that you should avoid eating spinach and other foods that contain oxalates. But if you already suffer with malabsorption issues, it might not be a bad idea to talk to your doctor about reducing oxalates in your diet. Maybe eating more arugula than spinach is a better option for you. Every individual is different regarding nutrient and dietary needs, so this is why it is important to discuss your needs with a competent healthcare professional.
- Another major reason why you may want to eat arugula...chlorophyll!
Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants. When humans consume it, it may provide a variety of health benefits, including reducing oxidative stress, preventing the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, helping with wound healing, restoring red blood cells and detoxing the liver.
It may even help prevent bad breath and body odor!
Let’s check out some of the additional nutrients in one cup of raw arugula:
- Calcium, 32 mg. An adult between 19-50 years of age (male or female) in general should aim to have about 1,000 mg. of calcium per day. This mineral is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for clotting of the blood to stop bleeding and for proper functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart.
- Phosphorus, 10mg. Adults 19 and older usually need about 700 mg. of phosphorus daily. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells.
- Vitamin C, 3mg. Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients needed for survival. It is an antioxidant that protects your immune system from deficiencies that lead to cardiovascular illnesses. It also is responsible for helping the body produce collagen for your skin and bones and is a common ingredient in beauty products.
- Folate, 19 mcg. Most adults need about 400 mcg of folate daily. If you are pregnant, you may need more. Folate is essential for cell growth and many other bodily functions.
- Choline, 3.1 mcg. Choline is a nutrient that was recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998. “The importance of choline in the diet extends into adulthood and old age. In a study of healthy adult subjects deprived of dietary choline, 77% of the men and 80% of the postmenopausal women developed signs of subclinical organ dysfunction (fatty liver or muscle damage)," reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Vitamin K, 21.7 mcg. This vitamin is critical for proper blood clotting and bone metabolism. It may also help maintain brain function, a healthy metabolism and may even help prevent cancer.
If you are taking any medications, prescription or over-the-counter, talk to your doctor about including arugula in your diet. You never know how foods can alter drug-metabolizing systems in the body, and you always want to avoid drug interactions so that you will be healthy and your medication will work as effectively as possible.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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