Nutrition, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is…Arugula

Spatula on an orange backgroundHave you ever watched Food Network show Iron Chef?  It’s a competition between two chefs to create several gourmet dishes in an hour.  The catch is each dish has to feature a secret ingredient revealed just prior to starting the competition.  The idea of a secret ingredient is the inspiration of this new series.  Each month, we’ll profile a different food item or “secret ingredient” and discuss some of their health benefits, unique characteristics and preparation tips.  Some may be brand new, while others are old favorites.  If you’ve ever wondered what is that? we hope this will be the place to have your questions answered.  We welcome you to leave suggestions for future “secret ingredients” in the comments section. 

We’ll begin our series by profiling arugula. 

Arugula is a dark green leafy vegetable originally from Europe and the Mediterranean.  Although similar to lettuce or spinach, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.  

Most often served raw in salad, you can sometimes find arugula in packages of salad mixes in the supermarket’s produce section.  Unlike iceberg lettuce and other mild tasting salad greens, though, this green veggie has a distinctive strong peppery flavor.  When cooked, arugula wilts down much like spinach and can be added to soups and healthy pasta dishes.   

As with other brightly colored vegetables, arugula is a good source of important vitamins and nutrients.  In particular arugula is a good source of vitamin A, an important vitamin for maintaining eye health, and vitamin C which helps support the immune system. 

The balanced plate guide for healthy eating recommends devoting half your plate to vegetables.  But remember also to include a variety of colors with each meal to get a good assortment of nutrients in your diet.  Each food “color group” contains a number of nutrients beneficial for maintaining health and wellness.

Information reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department