If you are one of those people who think you should have a salad but don’t because you’re afraid you’ll still be hungry, think again. Salad can be filling, satisfying, and unique every time you make it. That is, if you make it right. Plus, salad has great benefits for your health and weight. Eating raw, leafy greens like Boston lettuce, kale and red leaf lettuce supply important micronutrients, giving you energy and lowering your risk for illness. Add cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, or radishes and you’ve got even more health protection because they provide anti-cancer phytochemicals. Throw in tomatoes or carrots and you add antioxidants that help block free radicals. Plus salad is cheaper than other foods. Eating salad is like putting money in your healthspan bank account adding quality years to your life,
Here are my top five tips for making a better salad:
Salad shouldn’t be a few sad leaves of pale lettuce swimming in oil. A variety of leafy greens (including cruciferous greens – like cabbage, kale, and bok choy) is the best way to go. Since a variety of micronutrients is the key to optimal health, I try to use a mixture of greens, and not just a single type. Mache lettuce is one of my favorites now. It’s sweet, nutty flavor is great to mix with other more peppery lettuces like arugula or watercress. Leafy greens are superfoods; lettuces supply the body with antioxidants and cruciferous greens contain powerful anti-cancer compounds, and since they are less than 75 calories per pound you can eat them abundantly. So don’t add just a few leaves and call it a salad. And you can always save the leftovers for the next day.
Your grocery store is full of amazing fresh, seasonal produce. Use it! Take advantage of all the variety of foods this country is blessed with to make your next salad amazing. Add lots of different textures and colors. Red and yellow peppers, carrots, tomatoes, berries and other colorful foods owe their brilliant hues to flavonoids and carotenoids, phytochemicals that defend against oxidative cell damage. Try adding cooked vegetables to a raw salad – leftover broccoli, green beans and asparagus all make tasty additions and add another layer of texture and flavor. You can even throw in a handful of frozen peas, they defrost quite quickly.
Don’t forget onions and mushrooms. The aroma and tang of raw, chopped onion is essential to a great salad. Besides adding tons of flavor, they provide anticancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties from their sulfide compounds – that’s the same stuff that make your eyes water. Cooked mushrooms (raw ones contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine which reduces significantly upon cooking) are great for lowering your cancer risk. Eating just one mushroom per day can cut your risk for breast cancer.
Looking to make this salad a complete meal? Throw in some beans! These powerhouses of superior nutrition help you feel full and have a low glycemic load, which help to keep blood sugar down (making them the perfect carbohydrate) and they help prevent food cravings.
The only thing left is the perfect dressing for your perfect salad. So don’t add an oil-based dressing to your healthy creation. A single tablespoon of olive oil, or any oil, has 120 calories. A quarter cup? That’s 500 calories. Not to mention the added salt in store-bought dressings. Don’t do it. Instead, top your salad with a nut-based dressing. Make it simple by taking some nut butter and mixing in some lemon juice or vinegar, or you can try some of my delicious dressings using the recipes in this free infographic.
Nuts, and seeds, are healthy fat sources that enhance meal satisfaction and enhance human lifespan. Because the fiber in cell walls is not easily broken down, not all of the calories in nuts and seeds are accessible for the body to absorb. For those calories that are absorbed by the body, it occurs over hours (oil calories are absorbed in a few minutes) allowing them to be mostly burned for energy and not stored as fat. Because of this unique trait, adding nuts and seeds to a salad – or any dish—promotes weight loss. Plus, the fat in nuts and seeds enhances our absorption of carotenoids (like beta-carotene and lycopene) from the raw salad vegetables. How great is that?