What Are the Benefits of Arugula?


Arugula -- a spicy, flavorsome herb with dark green, elongated leaves that resemble those of romaine -- is often mistaken for lettuce. It is actually a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family as such health-enhancing foods as broccoli and cauliflower. Arugula -- also called rocket and roquette -- is packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Its flavor has a peppery tang similar to that of watercress. Use arugula to add zest to salads or to garnish sandwiches; you can also served it steamed. No matter how it's served, arugula is a healthy dietary choice.

The Basics

A cup of arugula contains .52 g of protein, .13 g of total fat, .73 g of carbohydrates, .3 g of fiber and .41 g of natural sugars. Arugula is low in fat, low in salt, high in fiber, and cholesterol-free. At a negligible 5 calories per cup, arugula is truly a low-calorie food; you would need to eat nearly 20 cups of arugula to get the calories afforded by a single medium-sized apple. Arugula's healthy amounts of dietary fiber help to create a feeling of fullness, and may help you avoid snacking on more fattening fare


Arugula is an excellent source of vitamin A, offering up 475 IU per cup. Vitamin A -- a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin -- is needed for vision, bone growth, the division and differentiation of cells and proper immune function. A cup of arugula also provides 285 mcg of beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor that turns to retinol --a natural form of vitamin A -- in your body. In addition, arugula has sky-high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, offering up 711 mcg a cup. Researchers believe that these antioxidant plant pigments can help prevent macular degeneration, an age-related eye disease. Finally, a cup of arugula contains 21.7 mg of vitamin K, essential for the proper clotting of blood and maintainance of bone density. Nutrition and You reports that vitamin K limits neuronal damage in the brain, and is currently being studied for potential applications in treating Alzheimer's disease.


Like other cruciferous vegetables, arugula has high levels of a sulfur-containing compound called glucosinolate. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, chopping -- as well as chewing -- arugula turns glucosinolates into indoles and isothiocyanates, which have cytotoxic effects on cancer cells and may help to protect against breast, prostate, cervical and ovarian cancers.
In a scientific review published in 2004 in "Mutation Research," Yuesheng Zhang, M.D., PhD., of the Department of Chemoprevention at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, evaluated existing laboratory and animal studies and asserted that isothiocyanates have multiple anti-carcinogenic mechanisms, including inhibiting cancer-activating enzymes and arresting the progression of cancer cells. Zhang characterized the ability of isothiocyanates to attack both developing and fully developed cancer cells as "remarkable."


Arugula provides modest amounts of essential minerals. A cup of arugula contains 32 mg of calcium -- needed for strong bones -- and 74 mg of potassium, necessary for maintaining stable blood pressure. The same cup of arugula also provides trace minerals, with .29 mg of iron -- vital in making red blood cells -- and .09 mg of zinc, essential for wound healing. Other trace minerals present in arugula include copper, manganese and selenium.