(Natural News) Did you know that one in 10 American adults does not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables? This does not even consider the children yet. Eating green leafy vegetables is an excellent way to get your much-needed vitamins and minerals. Take arugula, a low-calorie, nutrient-packed leafy green. Despite its bitter taste, its health benefits are well worth it.
What is arugula?
Arugula (Eruca sativa) is a cruciferous vegetable, related to cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts and kale, among others. It is a staple in Mediterranean cuisines and has been used as food since ancient times. Some historic records show that it was even used as an aphrodisiac and anesthetizing agent.
Arugula has a distinct peppery taste, but people sometimes report that it is bitter. The bitterness stems from sulforaphane, a known anticancer compound. For some people, it is a matter of genetics. The bitter taste is stronger among these people, similar to how others cannot stand cilantro.
Adding arugula to salads and green smoothies is an effective and convenient way to consume this health-packed vegetable. Mixing it with other foods like cherry tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries can help balance the bitter taste.
Reasons to add arugula to your diet
Arugula is packed with vitamins and minerals that help boost overall health. Consuming it daily may result in the following positive health outcomes:
1. Supports the growth of strong bones
Arugula is a rich source of calcium and vitamin K. Both nutrients help improve bone density and maintain overall bone health. Eating arugula may help prevent fractures and bone-related conditions, like osteoporosis and arthritis.
2. Contains cancer-fighting compounds
Cruciferous vegetables like arugula are well-known sources of antioxidants. These compounds help fight free radicals that cause oxidative stress. When left unmanaged, oxidative stress can damage cell DNA and produce cancer cells. Other foods like avocado, oats and nuts contain antioxidants that help prevent cancer.
3. Protects the eyes
Arugula contains vitamins K and A, along with beta-carotene – all of which help protect the eyes. Beta-carotene, in particular, acts as an antioxidant, protecting the eyes from free radicals and oxidative stress.
4. Aids in diabetes management
Green leafy vegetables like arugula contain a compound called alpha-lipoic acid. This compound is linked to lower blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity. Following a diet full of leafy greens do not result in blood sugar or insulin spikes, which may be highly beneficial for people with diabetes.
5. Improves digestion
Arugula is packed with dietary fiber, which helps boost the functions of the digestive system. It helps keep the intestines healthy, thus promoting nutrient absorption from food. Furthermore, fiber bulks up stool, which is a big help for people experiencing diarrhea.
6. Boosts the immune system
Gut health is closely related to the immune system, so improving the former boosts the latter. This is because most of the bacteria and enzymes that contribute to the immune system are found in the gut. Arugula also contains vitamin C, which is key to building a strong immune system.
7. Helps in weight loss (when coupled with exercise)
Arugula – and leafy greens in general – are low in calories, but are packed with fiber and nutrients. In this manner, people can eat a lot of these foods and still maintain a healthy weight when coupled with regular exercise. Eating greens also promotes satiety or fullness, thus preventing the unhealthy habit of overeating. In this way, you can lose weight healthily without compromising nutrition.
Depending on your taste and preference, arugula may be bitter or may have a peppery-mustard taste. Despite its peculiar flavors, properly preparing arugula can make it a great addition to any meal – not only in taste, but also in nutritional benefits.