Pungent and peppery, arugula (aka rocket) is a bold, flavor-packed alternative to leafy greens like spinach, romaine lettuce, or kale. But what does it have going for it, nutritionally?
Turns out, quite a bit. The leafy green is a good source of several vitamins and minerals and packs antioxidants that deliver proven health benefits. Plus, it’s ultra low in calories while still filling you up.
Want to find out more? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about arugula, how it actually stacks up against other leafy greens, and how to know if you’re one of the few people who might need to avoid it.
You know leafy veggies are all pretty much good for you, since they’re low in calories and carbs and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But what does this spicy green actually serve up, from a numbers perspective?
Two cups of raw arugula — about what you’d use to form the base of a meal-sized salad — delivers:
- 10 calories
- 1 gram protein
- 1 gram fat
- 1 gram carbs
- 0.5 gram fiber
- 1,476 milligrams potassium
- 284 micrograms vitamin A
- 64 milligram calcium
- 44 micrograms vitamin K
- 39 milligrams folate
- 19 milligrams magnesium
- 0.5 milligram iron
Now that we’ve looked at the nutritional stats, let’s chat about what it all means. Arugula delivers some big health benefits that’ll definitely have you wanting to get your fill.
It can help your weight loss efforts
Arugula is a super low energy density: At 90 percent water, it takes up lots of space in your belly for very, very few calories. Adding it to your meal means it’ll take fewer calories to fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied, which are two musts for successful long-term weight loss.
It might boost your athletic performance
The leafy veg is loaded with naturally occurring nitrites, compounds that are known to lower blood pressure and enhance physical performance by reducing the amount of oxygen you need to take in while you’re active.
In other words? Having an arugula salad for lunch might enable you to push yourself longer or harder during a late-afternoon workout.
It promotes healthy blood pressure
In addition to being rich in BP-lowering nitrites, arugula is a primo source of potassium — 2 cups pack the same as what you’d get in 3 1/2 medium bananas. The mineral relaxes blood vessels while causing the body to pee out more sodium, which together can help keep blood pressure in check.
It keeps your eyes sharp
All that blue light your eyes are exposed to from staring nonstop at your laptop and phone? It can add up to serious damage over the years, upping the risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration.
Here’s how arugula helps: It’s rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are known for their ability to protect the health of your eyes and slow the progression of blue light-induced damage.
It promotes strong bones
Arugula’s pretty low in calcium, BUT it’s packed with vitamin K, which the body needs to build and maintain dense, sturdy bones.
Missing out on the vitamin can increase the risk for fractures, especially later in life, but regularly eating arugula will help you get your fill: 2 cups of the green has half a day’s worth of vitamin K.
It lowers your risk for chronic diseases
It might come as no surprise to hear that folks who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to be healthier overall — and have a lower risk of dying from any cause.
In particular, the antioxidants and B vitamins in leafy greens like arugula are thought to help protect against DNA damage that can lead to cancer: Studies show that eating just two to three servings of leafy greens per week could reduce the risk for stomach, breast, and skin cancer.
Arugula is clearly a healthy food. Still, where does it fall on the spectrum of leafy greens when you stack it next to other options like kale, spinach, or lettuce?
In general, dark leafy greens like arugula tend to pack more nutrients than very pale ones. That makes arugula a more nutrient-rich choice than, say, romaine or iceberg lettuce. Still, it’s not quite as nutrient-packed as greens like kale, chard, collard greens, spinach, or watercress.
On the other hand? As this article hopefully makes pretty clear, arugula is still a nutritious food with loads of health benefits, so it’s worth eating on the reg.
But if you aren’t a huge fan or it’s not available, you can totally reap similar — or even bigger benefits — by swapping it out for other leafy greens. Watercress is another hearty, peppery option, while baby spinach is a milder alternative.
The vast majority of humans can enjoy arugula in moderation, no problem. But it is possible to be allergic to arugula (especially raw arugula), and you might be more prone if you have a history of grass or pollen allergies.
Problem is, most people who have an arugula allergy don’t know it until they take a bite and start to have symptoms like swelling in the mouth, a feeling of choking in the throat, or even trouble breathing.
Should you be worried? Thankfully, arugula allergies are pretty rare, so it’s unlikely that your salad will trigger a reaction. But if you notice any unusual symptoms shortly after eating arugula, you should definitely seek medical attention ASAP.
You should also be mindful of your arugula intake (or intake of other dark green veggies) if you take a blood thinning med like warfarin, since the high vitamin K content can affect the way your blood clots and make your meds less effective.
People on blood thinners don’t have to steer clear of arugula altogether, just make sure to not to go crazy. Two cups of arugula serves up 44 micrograms of vitamin K, which is around half the amount of vitamin K that those taking blood thinners should have in a day.
Aim to keep your intake of leafy greens consistent from week to week.