Too often we think of salads as the forgettable first course to a real meal, or the exclusive domain of dieters. We ignore the fact that salad is an infinitely customizable dish, packed with flavor and nutrition, which can actually be quite filling and satisfying. Eating some salad every day provides a host of health benefits, including weight loss, but encompassing so much more.
Salads can also be unhealthy, depending on how you build them. Too much fatty dressing or rich cheese can kill some of the health benefits. But we’re not saying to skip the tasty toppings all together. The key is in the proportion of ingredients. The right balance of your favorite greens, vegetables, fruits, and proteins is sure to create a thrilling flavor profile that doesn’t need a ton of dressing.
And don’t forget – if you don’t have the time or energy to toss your own diverse salad at home, you can buy them prepared almost anywhere food is sold, including fast food restaurants. Still not convinced? We’ve got a list of reasons why eating some salad every day is a fantastic habit to pick up.
You’re going to love #5!
1. Improved Digestion And Gut Health
Most of the ingredients in salad – lettuce and veggies, especially – have a ton of healthy fiber. Even though our bodies don’t exactly digest fiber, it is still a critical part of a healthy diet. For one thing, fiber helps you feel full and therefore eat fewer calories per meal. Use a diverse mix of ingredients for the best results.
Fresh produce typically contains either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber (sometimes both). Soluble fiber is partially digested and creates a thick substance that helps push food through your digestive tract and keep you regular. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, can’t be digested at all by our bodies, but it does serve as helpful nutrition for the good bacteria that populate our gut biome. Without the good bacteria, digestion would be uncomfortable and ineffective at extracting nutrients.
2. Lower Disease Risk, Especially Cancer
The fact that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of many different diseases is probably not news to you. What is interesting, though, is the results from a recent study done by the National Cancer Institute, which suggest that a diet full of produce can protect against cancers of the head and neck – even if you drink and smoke heavily!
A daily salad habit could therefore compensate (at least a little) for some of your other less healthy indulgences. According to the NCI, foods that are especially protective include tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, string beans, peppers, apples, pears, and strawberries. Any of those could be a tasty addition to your salad.
3. Preserved Youth And Vitality
The ingredients in salad tend to have high levels of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, lycopene, folic acid, and beta carotene. Antioxidants prevent cellular damage and therefore help you feel and look young.
Free radical damage can occur anywhere in the body, but it is visible in the quality and texture of your skin. Vitamin C especially is good for staying smooth and soft all over. And again, it is no surprise that eating well provides the sustained energy and mental wellbeing necessary to attack your day with gusto.
4. Lose Weight
Studies have shown that starting your meals with a green salad enhances your feeling of fullness without costing a lot of calories. As you move on to your main course, you will eat less without feeling deprived.
You can also replace a meal per day with a salad. Just about any protein can go nicely in order to provide the sustained energy you need. If weight loss is your goal, stick to lean meats like chicken or fish; beans of various kinds also contain a good amount of protein.
5. Get Your Good Fats
Fat is not the enemy! Of course, you need to limit your intake of artery-clogging saturated fats, but healthy unsaturated fat can actually improve your cholesterol numbers. It also helps your body to digest and absorb certain valuable phytochemicals such as lycopene (in tomatoes) and lutein (found in dark green veggies). Great sources of monounsaturated fat include olive oil, nuts, and avocado – all great additions to a salad.
Studies back up our support of healthy fats. Ohio State University researchers found that adding 2 ½ tablespoons of avocado to a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach allowed participants to absorb 13 x more beta carotene than those who ate the same salad without avocado. And research out of Italy suggests that a diet high in olive oil and raw vegetables can extend the lifespan of people over 60.
6. Reduce Your Bad Fats
One of the nice things about salad is that it is easy to rely on healthier unsaturated fats for that delicious flavor and texture we associate with fatty foods. But you may also want your salad to pack more protein with some slices of chicken or beef, and amp up the flavor with a sprinkling of cheese.
When those items are just part of a diverse set of ingredients, you need less to feel satisfied than if they were the centerpiece of your meal.
7. Hit Your Nutritional RDI More Easily
We are all supposed to be getting a certain amount of vital nutrients each day, but many Americans are falling short. Our reliance on heavily processed food is partly to blame, so eating as much whole produce as possible is really important. Ingredients grown and plucked from the earth tend to have a more diverse nutritional profile than processed convenience foods because the more processing that occurs, the more depleted the original nutrients.
When you eat a salad each day, and especially when you vary the ingredients to include different greens, vegetables, fruits, fats, and proteins, you can feel confident in reaching your reference daily intake (otherwise known as recommended dietary allowance, or RDA) of the vitamins and minerals essential to overall health.
So there you have it – 7 great reasons to eat a salad every day whether you are dieting or not. There are few dishes as nutritionally complete as a green salad, and even fewer that can be customized to contain such a huge variety of ingredients.
With a little creativity, you can craft a new delicious salad for every day of the week, which is awesome because that’s how often you should be eating salad. Whether you supplement your meals or replace meals, salads are one habit your body will thank you to acquire.