By Vicki Boortz, Gundersen Lutheran registered dietitian
Before you reach for a head of iceberg lettuce to make your next salad, get out the arugula instead. These greens will give your salad a fresh taste and many more nutritional benefits than that boring head of iceberg lettuce.
Arugula is a member of the Brassica family of vegetables - a group that is well known for veggie superstars such as broccoli, kale and cabbage. It's hard to go wrong with a lineage like that.
Fresh arugula is available year round. When buying it, look for crispy green young leaves. Avoid flowered harvest, as its leaves are tough and bitter in taste. Also, discard any bruised or slump leaves and stems before storage.
What are the health benefits of arugula?
- Vitamins and minerals - Arugula blasts iceberg lettuce right out the produce stand when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Arugula is a good source of vitamins A and C and an even better source of vitamin K, a vitamin that is important for healthy blood clotting and bone health. It's also a good source of calcium, magnesium and potassium to help control blood pressure and preserve bone health. Plus, it's a fair source of iron to build healthy red blood cells.
- Carotenoids - Unlike iceberg lettuce, arugula contains carotenes such as beta-carotene and lutein which help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. A diet high in carotenoids from green, leafy vegetables such as arugula may lower the risk of certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer.
- Cancer protection - Because arugula is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, it has many of the same anti-cancer benefits as broccoli and cabbage. It contains natural phytochemicals called indoles, which may help to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
- Low in calories - One ounce of arugula has only seven calories.
Use arugula in salads and in place of lettuce on sandwiches and wraps. Use it as a healthy pizza topping, add it to soups, or steam it and use it as part of a pasta topping. How about an arugula and goat cheese salad? Use it when you would normally use lettuce. It’ll give you greater taste
and much more nutritional value.
Enjoy the recipes on page 2 using arugula:
Chicken with Grilled Peaches and Arugula
Makes 4 servings
4 (6 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 medium red onions, sliced
3 peaches, cut into wedges
1 bunch arugula, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Heat grill to medium-high. Brush chicken with 1 tsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, toss the onions, peaches, 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Grill the chicken and onions until chicken is cooked through and onions are tender, 5-6 minutes per side. Grill peaches until charred, 2 minutes per side. In a large bowl, toss arugula with onions, peaches, vinegar and remaining oil. Top with cheese. Serve with chicken.
Per serving: 345 calories, 14 g fat, 38 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 673 mg sodium
Arugula & Strawberry Salad
Makes 4 (1½ cup) servings
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups baby arugula or torn arugula leaves
2 cups strawberries, sliced
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until brown, about 3-5 minutes. Add arugula, strawberries, cheese, pepper and salt. Sprinkle vinegar and oil over the salad; toss gently and serve immediately.
Per serving: 204 calories, 16 g fat, 3 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 262 mg sodium
If you would like more information about nutrition and healthy eating, please call the Gundersen Lutheran Nutrition Clinic (608) 775-3447 or visit their website.