Arugula: Health benefits and nutrition

It’s tangy, peppery, and a great way to spice up your salads, but is it as nutritious as other leafy greens? Read on to find out the health benefits and nutrition of arugula.
Published November 7, 2020

Long gone are the days of iceberg lettuce salads: Leafy greens have cemented their place on nearly every menu. While kale has gotten the most attention, arugula also deserves a place on your plate. A staple in Mediterranean diets, arugula is one of the most flavorful leafy greens and is linked to a number of health benefits. Here’s everything you need to know to start appreciating—and enjoying—arugula.

Here’s everything you need to know to start appreciating—and enjoying—arugula.

What is arugula?

Arugula is a leafy, dark-green vegetable. It’s part of the Brassica or cruciferous group, which also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, explains Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, and owner of BZ Nutrition. Arugula’s thin leaves look delicate, but they have a strong, peppery taste.

At the grocery store, you’ll find arugula near herbs and other leafy greens, either in bunches or in a clamshell container. It's also often included in mixed salad blends. On a restaurant menu, arugula is sometimes listed as garden rocket, rocket, or roquette.

5 health benefits of arugula

Cruciferous veggies are linked to several body-boosting benefits, but simply adding a handful of arugula to a dinner won’t necessarily make a significant difference. To improve your health, try incorporating more produce overall to create a healthy diet.

1. May reduce cancer risk

People who eat diets rich in produce have a lower risk of many cancers, according to a research review published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Veggies like arugula may be especially beneficial: “Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, compounds that play a role in protecting against certain cancers,” says Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many studies have confirmed a link between cruciferous veggies and a lower cancer risk, but more research is needed to determine if the benefits are truly unique to these particular vegetables.

2. Boosts heart health

Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease—and green leafy vegetables are the most protective of heart health, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. That’s thanks in part to their high levels of folate, a B vitamin that helps break down an amino acid in the blood that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Helps prevent osteoporosis

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables—and arugula is a wise pick to include. “Arugula is a good source of vitamin K, which helps build and maintain strong, healthy bones,” Zeitlin says. After all, low vitamin K intake is associated with low bone mineral density in women, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

4. May reduce the risk of diabetes

More than 34 million Americans are living with diabetes and an estimated 88 million have prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But eating leafy green vegetables, like arugula, significantly lowers your risk of type-2 diabetes, according to a meta-analysis published in The British Medical Journal.

5. May improve athletic performance

While all vegetables contain dietary nitrate, arugula has one of the highest concentrations. Nitrates are compounds that help lower resting blood pressure and boost oxygen levels, which may improve exercise performance, according to recent research. (The studies on the link between nitrates and performance involved supplements—future research will need to determine if food-derived nitrate is just as effective.)

Arugula nutrition

Arugula is nutrient-dense, meaning it delivers a number of key nutrients in few calories. A one-cup serving is only 5 calories and contains the following:

Nutrient Amount

Protein 0.5 g

Fat 0.1 g

Carbohydrates 0.7 g

Fiber 0.3 g

Calcium 32 mg

Iron 3 mg

Magnesium 9 mg

Potassium 74 mg

Vitamin C 3 mcg

Folate 19 mcg

Vitamin A 474 IU

Vitamin K 22 mcg

Recipes: Incorporating arugula into your diet

Leafy greens are super-versatile—and this one is no exception. Arugula has a peppery taste, so it pairs well with sweet and tangy foods, like watermelon and feta, says Leslie Fink, RD, nutritionist and recipe editor at WW. Want less bite? Look for baby arugula, as mature leaves have a more bitter taste.

Whether you enjoy it cooked or raw, this green is easy to incorporate into your daily meals. Check out these 23 delicious arugula recipes for ideas:

Arugula and weight loss

There’s no miracle food when it comes to weight loss, but eating more fruits and vegetables like arugula can help. The green veggie is low in calories for its volume (just 5 per one-cup serving), delivering a lot of flavor and nutrients in an all-you-can-eat package. Arugula is a ZeroPoint™ food across all myWW™ plans.

Potential side effects and risks of arugula

Health experts usually urge people to eat more vegetables. But if you have hypothyroidism, you may have heard you should avoid cruciferous ones. That’s because veggies like arugula affect how your thyroid absorbs iodine, a mineral it needs to produce several hormones. However, you would need to eat far more than a typical serving of arugula for this to be an issue.

Arugula is also high in vitamin K, which in addition to boosting bone health is important for blood clotting. People on blood-thinning medication need to keep their intake of this nutrient consistent, so some avoid leafy greens for fear of a spike. Again though, quantity is key: You’d need to eat five or six cups of arugula to approach the daily 90 to 120 mcg of vitamin K that’s typically recommended for adults.

The bottom line: The benefits of eating more greens like arugula far outweigh the risks. But if you have a health condition, you should always discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.

The upshot: Is it time to spice things up with arugula?

Experimenting with new fruits and vegetables is half the fun of eating more healthfully! Arugula contains valuable nutrients and adds a unique flavor to many dishes. Not a fan of the peppery taste? Mix it up: “Buy a leafy green salad mix that includes arugula, plus other greens like spinach,” recommends Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND, founder of The Gourmet RD. “You’ll get the spicy notes of the arugula, without it being too overpowering.”


Nicole Saporita is a senior content manager for consumer wellness at WW. A writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York, she specializes in health & wellness, lifestyle, consumer products, and more. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Prevention, and REDBOOK magazines.