Arugula benefits plus arugula walnut pesto recipe

Food as Medicine: Arugula-Health Benefits

If you wonder what is arugula, what are the health benefits of arugula you are at the right place.

We will present to you why arugula is important to add it to your daily diet and also bonus recipe: arugula and walnut pesto.

Arugula (Eruca sativa, Brassicaceae), also known as rucola and rocket, is a weedy annual that is drought-tolerant and prefers a hot, dry climate.

The name “arugula” is a modern American designation and likely derives from the Italian term “rucola.”

The name “rocket” is more common in British English, as is roquette in France.

Both rucola and roquette are diminutives of the Latin eruca, which means “caterpillar” and may refer to the fuzzy appearance of the young stems.

The different names for arugula demonstrate the wide-area where it grows, in a swath of the northern Mediterranean and the near east that stretches from Portugal to Afghanistan.

It has been naturalized in northern Europe and North America.

Intriguingly, rocket lettuce does possess a double identity (of sorts). Botanically known as Eruca sativa, arugula is 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.

Health Benefits of Arugula 

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

Rocket lettuce has powerful anti-cancer 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.

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.

Also, 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 a healthy weight and even promote weight loss.

Its high content of dietary fiber creates a sense of satiety – helping to curb appetite – while it is 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).

Related: Low-FODMAP Diet and IBS Syndrom

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.

Recipe: Arugula and Walnut Pesto


  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnuts halves
  • 2 cups fresh arugula leaves
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste


In a dry, nonstick skillet over medium heat, toast walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the heat.

In a food processor, combine arugula, walnuts, and garlic and pulse until roughly chopped. Continue pulsing, drizzling in olive oil in a steady stream until combined. Stir in Parmesan cheese and add salt to taste.

Alternatively, this recipe can be made with a mortar and pestle. Roughly chop the arugula leaves and toast walnuts as described, then combine nuts, salt, and garlic in a mortar and grind until smooth.

Then add the cheese, olive oil, and arugula, and continue grinding until smooth.

Conclusion: As we can see from all mentioned above arugula is one of the “superfoods” and it can be used to help with various health issues.

Health benefits of arugula are numerous so you should add it to your diet and use it in your healthy recipes or smoothies.


Arugula health benefits

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