There is plenty of skepticism surrounding the benefits of eating salad, but what remains true is that salads are a healthy meal choice that can be successfully adapted to virtually any nutritional demands and dietary restrictions. Because they contain mostly fresh produce, but also raw nuts, seeds, healthy oils and quality sources of protein like eggs or cheese, salads are abundant in essential vitamins and dietary minerals as well as provide all three essential macronutrients along with a generous intake of antioxidants with important health benefits.
What makes a salad? The notion of salad has evolved with time to include more than just some leaf vegetables thrown in a bowl together with a little vinegar or olive oil dressing. Presently, salads have come to denominate complete meals with either fresh or cooked produce, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, meat, dairy, exquisite dressings and quite wild combinations of ingredients. The enriched meaning of the word ‘salad’ is a result of the dish itself becoming richer, more complex, satiating, savory and varied.
A salad is no longer a flavorless, low-calorie dish for just losing weight, but something a growing child, expectant mother, athlete, bodybuilder, supermodel or anyone with average or increased nutritional demands can eat and enjoy wonderful benefits from. It’s a dish anyone can make and enjoy at any point in the day for a boost in energy and a taste of savor. A salad can be a real potpourri of produce and other healthy ingredients. And what are the health benefits of eating salad? Here are 9 wonderful reasons to eat a salad today:
1) Rich source of vitamins and dietary minerals. Whatever its ingredients (spinach, kale, arugula, apples, strawberries, peaches, pears, almonds, walnuts, goat cheese, Parmesan, eggs etc.), any salad can provide a wide range of essential nutrients to draw wonderful benefits from.
2) Boosts immunity. Most foods often incorporated into salads are important sources of nutrients that boost immunity. Strawberries, kiwifruit, citrus fruit, bell peppers are all rich in vitamin C. Nuts and seeds provide much needed zinc. Greens supply vitamin A. You get vitamin D from dairy like goat cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan and so on. Whatever your choice of salad, it will surely contribute to better immunity.
3) High antioxidant value. For the most part, salads contain fresh produce. And fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants like carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, vitamins A and C. Raw nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E and dressing oils like olive oil or perilla seed oil provide the antioxidant Omega-3 fatty acids. All of these antioxidants reduce free radical damage and work towards preventing diseases associated with cell damage and oxidative stress like cancer, heart disease and others.
4) Anti-inflammatory benefits. As long as your salad has some greens or other color of vegetables or fruit (red beets, purple carrots, yellow tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, purple plums, pink grapefruit, white mulberries, white beans, dark red cherries, green or red peppers), it is sure to contain a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds which help reduce swelling in the body and improve various aspects of your health.
If you have a cherry or sour cherry salad, the quercetin and other flavonoids in the cherries can help reduce arthritis pain and swelling in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. If you spice up a warm bean salad with a bit of pepper and turmeric, the piperine and curcumin in the spices will further provide strong anti-inflammatory benefits for you to enjoy. If you make a strawberry, kiwifruit and grapefruit salad, you will get a generous amount of vitamin C to stop inflammation and pain.
5) Cardiovascular benefits. Any salad that contains walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds and other nuts and seeds, purslane, perilla leaves or oil, olive oil or other cold-pressed oils with healthy Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids will most likely promote heart and vascular health. Healthy fatty acids have strong antioxidant effects on blood vessels, reduce bad cholesterol levels, raise good cholesterol and help prevent plaques from forming on the inside of our arteries.
6) Regulates digestion, transit and treats constipation. Salads are generous source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, meaning they help regulate digestion, improve transit time and relieve constipation. Moreover, certain foods that make up popular salads like cabbage, apples, cheeses or beans ferment and thus feed the good bacteria in our stomach, providing prebiotic benefits (read more about the benefits of dietary fiber).
7) Promotes weight loss. Salads are generally light, but satiating and good for weight loss. They provide good amounts of dietary fiber which reduces fat absorption at the intestinal level. They are low in calories, but rich in vitamins and minerals, meaning they help you lose weight while meeting your nutritional needs.
8) Boosts energy levels. A modern salad contains more than just leaf greens and, as such, provides important amounts of vitamins and minerals which increase energy levels and fight fatigue. Beans and cereals used in salads give us plenty of B vitamins for a good energy metabolism. Nuts, seeds and herbs contain incredible amounts of most essential nutrients and up our intake easily, boosting energy levels. Protein sources in salads such as eggs, cheese or meat add a bit of fat and calories to further support our need for elevated energy levels.
9) Beautiful skin, hair and nails. The zinc in nuts, eggs and fish will get you strong hair and nails. The vitamin E and oils in eggs, fish, avocado and nuts will improve skin and hair aspect and nourish them to better retain moisture. The vitamin C in strawberries, bell peppers and other fresh fruit and vegetables will help prevent wrinkles. Whatever you may add to your salad, it will contain a nutrient to improve skin, hair and nails aspect.
In its modern presentation, a salad is many things. It is a tool for losing weight in a healthy manner. It is a promoter of digestive health and regulates transit for constipation relief. It is a source of nourishment and helps prevent dehydration. It provides antioxidant protection and anti-inflammatory benefits. It boosts energy levels, provides cardiovascular benefits and contributes to a strong immune system response. The best part is everyone can find a salad or more to their liking and enjoy all the wonderful benefits this healthy dish has to offer.