When people find out I'm vegetarian, they often think I only eat salad. While that is certainly not true, salads made up of dark leafy greens are one of the most important things you can eat. Most people don't eat nearly enough. According to the CDC State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables for 2009, only 14% of American adults eat the minimum recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Now keep in mind that the minimum recommendation is to avoid serious deficiencies, not to promote actual health. To promote health and reduce risk of cancer, heart disease, etc. you need to eat double that amount. Here are 10 reasons to get more salad into your diet.
Top 10 Reasons to Eat More Salad
1. Dark leafy greens are the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. You can't eat too many.
2. Eating salad helps increase your raw vegetable intake. Raw vegetables contain enzymes that help your body digest food properly, as well as nutrients that are destroyed by cooking. Everyone should eat some of their food raw each day.
3. Eating a large salad as the centerpiece of your meal will fill you up with fiber rich, nutrient-dense food and help you to control your weight. This time of year that's a big issue for so many people. If you are craving sweets, adding some fruit or a fruity dressing can satisfy that craving and leave you feeling energized.
4. It requires no skill. Even if you can't boil water, you can put together a healthy salad, no cooking is required.
5. It's fast, salads are a great convenience food. Wash your greens, spin them dry, add a few chopped veggies or fruits, maybe some nuts or beans, voila! If that even takes too much time, prewashed packaged greens and chopped veggies are available at every supermarket. You can put a healthy salad together in less time than it takes to go out and pick up a pizza.
6. If you enjoy dining out, you can get one in pretty much any restaurant. Just leave out the bacon, chicken, cheese, croutons, and half cup of high calorie salad dressing. I've seen some restaurant salads touted as healthy that contain grilled chicken and over 1000 calories. Ask if they can add some extra veggies, or order some steamed or grilled veggies as a side dish and mix them into your salad.
7. The more you eat healthy foods the better your body will feel. Your taste buds will also adapt and you will begin to crave more healthy foods.
8. The varieties are endless. You never have to eat the same salad twice. There are buttery lettuces, peppery watercress, bitter arugula, softer textured dandelions, and crispy baby bok choy and romaine. You can add other vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes such as chickpeas or black beans. The more variety you add to your salads, the more nutritious they'll be. Use lots of colorful ingredients for optimal health.
9. It's important to get healthy fats. In this abstract from The Journal of Nutrition of an Ohio State University study the healthy fat in avocado significantly enhances carotenoid absorption from salad and also from salsa.
Vitamin D, beta-carotene, and vitamin E are just some of the nutrients that require fat to be absorbed. If you are eating that salad or those carrot sticks without any fat, you are not absorbing the nutrients. However, a little goes a long way, and make sure it is healthy fat- olive oil, a few nuts or seeds or some avocado.
10. This is my favorite reason- salads are fun and they taste good!
The salad photographed above was quite tasty. The vitamin c in the clementine helps with iron absorption from the spinach. I used my vitamix to make the smooth dressing, but you could use any blender, then just strain it.
Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
seeds from 1 pomegranate (reserve a few to sprinkle on the salad)
1/8 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 medjool date, pitted
pinch sea salt and pepper
Puree in blender, strain if needed. Drizzle a little over salad, store the rest in the fridge.
1 clementine, peeled and sectioned
few reserved pomegranate seeds
handful of raw sunflower seeds