It’s a familiar story, but always impressive: When medical researchers take a close look at ancient healing traditions and inevitably find that foods and herbs used for thousands of years have remarkable health benefits.
Consider arugula, a green-leafy vegetable popular in salads, which the Greeks and Romans considered an aphrodisiac. Modern day science shows arugula can in fact improve reproductive function. And that’s only the beginning of its amazing health benefits.
Studies of arugula now show that this cruciferous vegetable does improve sexual and reproductive functions. Added to that, investigations demonstrate that it can also help protect us from modern pollutants that the ancients never encountered, support our cellular defenses against cancer and increase the immune system’s ability to avoid harmful inflammation.
Fights illness at the Source
One of arugula’s impressive benefits is the way it helps the body cope with one of the most ubiquitous toxins in our food, water and air—a toxin that’s linked to cancer.
The toxin I’m talking about is BPA (bisphenol A), which is used in the plastic that goes into food containers, water bottles and the inner coating of aluminum cans for both food and beverages.
Unfortunately, research shows BPA can leach into food and drink. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) insist that the amount of BPA that we consume is too small to make a difference to our health. As you might guess, a lot of researchers who have investigated BPA’s effects don’t agree that it’s harmless.
They point to research showing how BPA can collect in the brain and prostate as well as negatively impact a child’s behavior. Plus, there are potential connections between BPA exposure and diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.1 BPA can also make you more vulnerable to thyroid issues, obesity, and cancer.2
Now, for the good news….
Laboratory tests involving researchers from both Italy and Tunisia show that the natural chemicals in arugula can help the body avoid many of these problems—especially when it comes to BPA’s damage to testicular function.
The investigation found that an arugula extract acts as an antioxidant that protects testicular cells from BPA damage and helps keep testosterone production at a healthier level.3 What’s more, the researchers note, arugula can also improve sperm health by reducing the mitochondrial damage caused by BPA.4
Studies that have investigated how arugula helps the body fight cancer have often focused on a compound called erucin, an arugula component that’s chemically related to sulforaphane, one of the main anti-cancer compounds found in broccoli.
A study at the University of California at Santa Barbara shows that erucin can stop the cellular processes breast cancer cells need to form larger tumors. In addition, erucin interferes with cancer cells’ efforts to spread throughout the body while increasing the chances that cancer cells will undergo apoptosis – programmed cellular suicide – that puts these cells out of commission.5
The California researchers report that erucin could be used to enhance the cancer-killing power of chemotherapy drugs. And, researchers say, when we eat arugula in our salads we’re probably getting the benefit of erucin’s power to stop the growth of pre-cancerous cells before they can become a malignant danger.
Added to all this, a fantastic study out of Harvard shows how erucin may lower a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer.6
If that’s not enough, erucin has also proven its value to human health in another way: By protecting vein and artery walls.
One of the worst things that can happen to heart health is when artery and vessel walls start to wear down with age and free radical (oxidative) damage. The deterioration can lead to heart disease and widespread inflammation.
But studies show that erucin can halt this process and act as an antioxidant to block the damage caused by free radicals and save the endothelial integrity of the blood vessel walls.7 The scientists also note that this action keeps the blood vessels from leaking and spreading inflammation from the circulatory system into other organs.
All of this research is good reason to include arugula in your salads.8 And if you’re like me, you won’t have to be forced because you already love arugula’s unique peppery flavor.
- https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/jmf.2019.0170?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub 0pubmed