Arugula Pesto


Do you ever lose things in the back of your fridge? Somehow I managed to do that with a giant container of arugula and it almost went bad. When I remembered that it was there it was far enough gone that I didn't want to eat it by itself, but it wasn't bad enough to throw away.

A few weeks back I saw a recipe for Arugula Pesto on Angela's Instagram (@barerootgirl) that I knew I wanted to try. And what better way to use questionable, but not gross yet arugula than to blitz it with some other delicious things in the blender and turn it into pesto?

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I, of course, didn't follow her recipe exactly. Instead of using pine nuts I used pistachios and I subbed apple cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar because those were the things that I had on hand. 

It turned out delicious! We had it on grilled salmon, which was amazing, but it would go great with pork or chicken or other fish too. 

Arugula is a leafy green, so it's obviously good for you. One meta-analysis found that for every 0.2 serving of green leafy vegetables you eat, your risk of type 2 diabetes decreases by 13%!

One other benefit of arugula is related to its high nitrate content. Most of the studies done on nitrates and their benefits to athletic performance were done using beets, but arugula actually has more nitrates per 100g than beets do (110mg in beets and 410mg in arugula). 

One study done by the University of Exeter looked at male cyclists. They examined a 4km and a 16.1km time trial and found that those who consumed beet juice had higher power output for the same level of effort, which suggests that they were more efficient. 

On average, the riders were 11 seconds faster on the 4km time trial and 45 seconds faster on the 16.1km time trial (around 3% faster for both distances). 

How does this work? First, nitrates cause vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels) which decreases blood pressure and allows for more blood flow. It also affects muscle tissues by decreasing the amount of oxygen that your muscles need during activity. The combination of these two effects have a huge impact on physical fitness and performance. 

Yes, it's true that until relatively recently, nitrates were considered toxic and long term exposure was thought to cause several diseases. But there is a growing body of research showing the protective effects of vegetables on our health, many of which are high in nitrates. Currently, experts believe that naturally occuring nitrates in vegetables might be responsible for some of their cardiovascular benefits. 

The moral of the story? If you want to go beets and arugula pesto!


Blackhall, M., Burke-Polden, E., & Walls, J. (2013). Dietary nitrate supplementation improves time to fatigue in maximal cycling performanceJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 16. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.10.089

Carlström, M., Persson, A. E., Larsson, E., Hezel, M., Scheffer, P. G., Teerlink, T., Lundberg, J. O. (2010). Dietary nitrate attenuates oxidative stress, prevents cardiac and renal injuries, and reduces blood pressure in salt-induced hypertensionCardiovascular Research, 89(3), 574-585. doi:10.1093/cvr/cvq366

Li, M., Fan, Y., Zhang, X., Hou, W., & Tang, Z. (2014). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studiesBMJ Open, 4(11). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005497

Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Contaminants in the Food. (2008). Nitrate in vegetablesThe EFSA Journal, 689.