We love our salads around these parts. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, interesting combinations of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats make up the foundations of our meals. If you are new to the wonderful world of salads, or just curious about our favorites, here are ten must-have ingredients for salads that will nourish and delight you.
Fresh Dark Greens
Build your salads on a base of dark greens like arugula, spinach, baby kale and Swiss chard, and even romaine (more of a light green, but still a nutrient powerhouse that is high in vitamin A). These greens are high in many vitamins including vitamins C, K, and the B vitamin folate.
Folate has been shown to reduce the risk of developing ovarian, breast, and colorectal cancer because it helps maintain healthy cell growth. Leafy greens also provide a satisfying crunch and lots of fun chewing with minimal calories. For even more protective power, add parsley for its high iron content, and cilantro for its heavy metal detoxification properties.
Homemade Green Sprouts
Nutrients are even more concentrated in sprout form. Sometimes called micro-greens, these tiny leaves pack the power of their full-grown relatives in miniature. And you can grow them at home for pennies a serving. Add sunflower, clover, radish, broccoli, kale, and broccoli sprouts to bring out the power in your salad and make it more fun and at least partially homegrown.
Almonds are high in protein, fiber, and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that halts free radical production and has been shown to reduce depression and the development of Alzheimers. Soak raw almonds overnight to make them more digestible. Soaked walnuts are a great nut to include as well, for their omega-3 content, though almonds are more alkalinizing.
Avocados are essential for any filling salad. They are high in vitamin E, fiber, and other nutrients. And the fat they contain is an important synergist with the vegetables. Many of the nutrients in vegetables, such as beta-carotene and lutein, require the presence of dietary fat to be absorbed. Avocados also help balance blood sugar and increase the feeling of fullness, making your salad power go a lot further.
Cold-Pressed Organic EVOO
Another important healthy fat, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is a salad winner. It adds flavor and makes the nutrients in the vegetables more digestible. It also has been shown to offer innumerable health benefits, including protecting the heart.
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a great simple dressing. For a creamy and more flavorful dressing, blend the avo, olive oil, vinegar, and a few fresh herbs. Make sure your olive oil is organic, and from the first cold pressing for highest quality and nutrient content.
A powerful vegetable you definitely want on your salad team. In addition to its many other vitamins and minerals, broccoli is high in potassium, which is important for electrolyte balance and proper hydration. Adequate potassium consumption also lowers blood pressure and helps prevent stroke. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant that helps protect the body from developing cancer.
Legumes are another great way to make your salad more filling and get vital antioxidants, fiber, and protein. They are particularly high in fiber, which supports the health of the digestion, balances blood sugar levels, and lowers cholesterol levels. These in turn decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Legumes also suppress the production of enzymes involved in tumor development. To keep you super salad raw, sprout legumes like red beans, lentils, adzuki beans, and mung beans.
Red and Yellow Bell Peppers
A healthy salad contains a combination of bright colored foods the more vibrant and varied the colors, the better. Bright colors (that occur naturally) in food are a sign of high nutrient content. Red and yellow bell peppers are especially high in vitamins A and C.
Carrots are vital for protecting the eyes that they resemble. Carrots are high in carotenes, antioxidants that support eye and lung health and reduce the likelihood of developing ovarian and kidney cancer.
In addition to adding a burst of flavor and more fiber and vitamins, tomatoes are high in lycopene. Lycopene helps protect the heart and cardiovascular system. Orange tomatoes are particularly high in lycopene.
Of course, the ingredients of your salad are limited only by your imagination and dietary choices. Sometimes we like to add surprise ingredients like fresh mango slices or sprouted buckwheat. Dried fruit can be a helpful addition to balance out the bitter greens. Some days we like our salads very complex with over a dozen ingredients, and sometimes we just want a simple affair with five or six items to entertain our palettes. Try starting with these ten ingredients and see what kind of healthy and delicious salads you can concoct for yourself.