As our readers know our Monday featured articles are set aside for the promotion of the Meatless Monday food program. By doing this, we are able to share information about a program designed to have individuals take one day a week off from eating meat. Not only does this make the individual healthier, but it gives them a way to help do their part in helping the planet.

Our articles have ranged from introducing the Meatless Monday program, to providing meatless recipes, to profiling food trucks that serve vegetarian or vegan cuisine, and finally on health related articles on how someone can find protein on a food truck without ordering meat.

In today’s article we will focus our attention on healthy source of nutrients and low in calories which can be found on gourmet trucks or carts around the country. Arugula gained a lot of recognition when President Obama mentioned it during his Presidential run in 2008, but was an ingredient found in almost every vegetarian or vegan refrigerator prior to that time.

Spicy Green with Unique Nutrient Combo

While Ancient Egyptians and Romans considered arugula to be an aphrodisiac, modern nutrition science suggests it may have benefits for your bones.

Nutrient-rich and low in calories – just 20 calories in about three cups (85g) – arugula provides an excellent source of folate, vitamins A and C, and over 100% of your daily vitamin K needs. This same serving supplies a good source of calcium, magnesium and manganese. The fact that this leafy green, unlike spinach, is lower in oxalates (which as discussed in previous DNNs can inhibit mineral absorption) gives a “green” light to arugula’s calcium availability. Researchers now believe that the nutrients needed for bone building go beyond calcium.

For example, vitamin K has been linked to a reduced risk of bone fractures. The Framingham Heart Study found that people who consumed approximately 250mcg/day of vitamin K had a 35% lower risk of hip fractures compared to those who consumed just 50mcg/day. Research also shows potassium and magnesium may boost bone mineral density. Vitamin C has been linked with greater forearm bone mineral content in post-menopausal women and helps promote collagen formation (collagen is needed to build strong bones).In addition, manganese is a cofactor for enzymes involved in the formation of healthy cartilage and bone, while folate lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to increased risk of fractures.This unique combination of nutrients make arugula a Superfood for your bones.

Arugula also has significant quantities of the phytochemicals beta-carotene (promotes healthy eyes, skin and immune function), lutein and zeaxanthin (promote eye health) and glucosinolates (promote the body’s natural detoxification systems).Besides its health benefits, arugula, or “rocket,” is peppery and aromatic, with a pungent, somewhat bitter flavor that adds zest to any meal.

Arugula is available year round.

Current Facts
Arugula that is sequentially planted and harvested encourages new growth and prevents the plant from bolting, which produces flowers and decreases the life longevity of the plant. One can determine aged crops vs. fresh crops by the toughness and intensity of the leaves and the woodiness of its stems.

Arugula appears to be a leafy green, but it is in fact an annual herb. Its flavor proves its herbaceous qualities with peppery essences and mustard like flavors. When the plant matures it produces four-lobed white flowers with purple veins that are also peppery in flavor and equally edible.

Arugula is considered an herb, a salad green and even a leaf vegetable, making it a versatile ingredient in a food truck’s kitchen. When arugula is grown as an herb it is often woodier and more strongly flavored. Add this variety of arugula to raw pesto and sauces where its pungency will come through. Add whole leaves to grilled cheese sandwiches or a BLT. Use as a leafy bed for grilled seafood or vegetables. Use herb arugula within a week of purchase and keep dry and refrigerated.

Ethnic/Cultural Info
Arugula is used as a pizza topping in Italian cuisine, often finishing the pizza at the end of the baking period or just after it comes out of the oven so as not to lose the intensity of its flavor.

Arugula’s vernacular name is garden rocket or simply rocket. It is of the species Eruca setiva and native to the Mediterranean region, specifically Morocco, Portugal and Lebanon. It can grown on dry land and wet soil alike.

As you can see from this information, arugula is a fantastic and tasty option on any type of burger, salad, or even grilled cheese sandwich. Please do your part today and join the Meatless Monday movement.

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Mobile Cuisine Magazine looks forward to continued coverage of Meatless Monday for our readers!