By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
A salad is usually served at the beginning of a meal, but a salad can be a meal if you make it big enough. Eating a big healthy salad can also be a great way to get more fruits and veggies that are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. (1)
Eating just one salad a day provides even greater health benefits than previously thought, according to a study that examined the salad consumption of more than 17,000 adults. The study, conducted by the UCLA School of Public Health, and published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA),found that those who eat salads and raw vegetables with salad dressing have considerably higher levels of vitamins C, E, and folic acid— all key nutrients in promoting a healthy immune system.
According to the study:
- Eating a salad a day is directly correlated with higher nutrient levels.
- Adding salad dressing to a salad increases the absorption of certain nutrients being consumed.
- The fat in salad dressing helps absorb key nutrients such as lycopene and alpha- and beta-carotene.
- People who eat salads, salad dressing, and raw vegetables are more likely to meet recommended intakes for vitamins C, E and folic acid.
- High fruit and vegetable consumption has also been associated with lower rates of pre-menopausal bone loss in women.
- Consumption of as little as one serving of salad or raw vegetables per day is significantly associated with the likelihood of meeting the recommended nutrient intakes of each of vitamins A, E, B6, and folic acid.(2)
The Best Salad Ingredients
Choose the Best Salad Greens: Leafy green vegetables are nutrient rich because leaves contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants. Salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium. (3)
The base of your diet-friendly salad should be leafy greens. Choose a few fresh spring greens for flavor and then bulk up your salad with mild, crispy greens to add crunch and volume.
Select Colorful Vegetables: The best vegetables for a healthy salad will come in a wide range of colors. To get a variety of flavors and healthy nutrients, add roasted or raw vegetables from each color category.
Choose Healthy Fats: Adding fat to your diet-friendly salad will boost the calorie count. Remember that even healthy fats are a significant source of calories. So add them in moderation. E.g.-Avocado, Olives, Olive oil, Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts), Seeds(sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds).
Add Protein: If salad is the main course of your meal, you should add a lean source of protein to get the important muscle-building benefits that it provides. E.g.-Meat (Leftover lean steak, grilled chicken or turkey), Seafood (Salmon, tuna (fresh or canned), shrimp, sardines, anchovies), Grains (Quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, barley).
Mix in Herbs: One of the best ways to add flavor to your salad is to add chopped herbs. Chopped fresh herbs are a flavorful and healthy addition to any diet-friendly meal. E.g. – Basil, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Tarragon, Thyme.
Healthy Low-Carb Salad Dressings: whatever salad dressing you choose, be sure to measure it carefully. Adding too much dressing can quickly turn it into a fat- and calorie-dense meal that may hinder weight loss and weight management. (4)
A tasty salad dressing can really be a positive addition to a salad. While adding flavor, the oil can help make nutrients in the salad particularly the fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals more accessible to your body. E.g.-Oil, Vinegar or lemon juice, Mustard, Salt and pepper, Herbs, spices, fruit, other flavorings to taste (check mixes for added sugars). (5)