That old saying about always eating your greens wasn’t a bunch of hooey. That bit of homespun wisdom was all fact. There’s nothing but truth in a salad. It’s nature’s most honest meal — and one of its most nutritious, too. Consider salads to be a bowl of raw material to run the body.
A single salad a day provides even greater health benefits than previously thought. A recent study by the UCLA School of Public Health examined the salad consumption of more than 17,000 adults and concluded that those who eat salads and raw vegetables have considerably higher levels of vitamins C, E, B6, and folic acid.
What does that mean?
Well, if those aren’t the building blocks to life, they’re certainly the mortar that holds it all together by promoting a healthy immune system and reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Think about fitting in two and a half cups of vegetables a day to improve your nutritional intake and give you the benefits of more energy, a more robust immune system, and heightened heart health.
Salads, particularly, are a generous source of water-soluble vitamins. And raw vegetables in salads — like broccoli and cabbage — add fibre for better digestion, plus antioxidants. A salad without dressing is virtually free of fat and cholesterol, while stocked high in calcium, potassium, and protein.
A healthy (and tasty) salad begins with organic leafy greens. According to Joel Fuhrman’s book “Eat To Live”, the one food that research shows time and again to be the most highly associated with longevity is leafy greens. They are the most nutrient packed foods available to us. Fuhrman explains that more than 200 studies show raw vegetable consumption to be our strongest defence against cancer.
Making a great salad greater
Start with leafy greens. Go for variety to add taste and texture: green leaf, red leaf, Cos, spinach, kale — anything that crunches! And for the salad that makes the biggest crunch, look for dark green leaves and white spines. The darker the leaf the more beta-carotene, an antioxidant that fights everything from cataracts to heart disease and cancer.
Mixed leaves are grown locally all summer. It’s usually harvested and in stores within 24 hours for maximum freshness.
Add fun and colour with carrots, beets, turnips, squash, sprouts, broccoli, peppers, and red cabbage. And to give it that extra kick, try sprinkling on some fresh organic fruit, seeds, nuts, or berries. You can even up the taste with garlic, ginger, mustard, or your favourite herbs.
And don’t sweat about a little fat in the dressing. It turns out that’s good for you.
A study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that eating fresh vegetables with a little fat (an oil-based salad dressing) helps the body absorb those nutrients, such as lycopene and beta-carotene. Eating a salad without any fat may actually deprive the body of these phytochemicals.
Making your salad feel like a meal and not a good-for-you punishment:
•A handful of cheddar or Parmesan can boost the protein (and add taste).
•Grilled veggies add a smoky, rich taste to greens. Quickly grill slices of aubergine or courgette or even tomatoes for fab flavour.
•Try strips of smoked salmon, slices of chorizo sausage, or even blackened tofu slices to up the intensity and add protein.
•Add chick and kidney beans for protein and fibre. They’ll help your stomach feel full.
Or how about spinning that around and turning a main meal into a salad, reducing calories and fat while boosting nutritional content?
Start with loads of freshly chopped tomatoes, grated purple cabbage, fresh Cos, coriander, and a sprinkling of salsa with grated, aged cheddar. Chop one or two taco shells and add as a flavourful topping.
Check out Blazing Salads Salad Bar and Cape Clear Organic mixed leaves at Select Stores Dalkey