I eat salads all year long. One of the benefits of modern life is that we can get most of the foods we like to have at any time of the year. In the summer, though, we can get many of our salad fixings close to home – in our own yards, at local farmers’ markets, at health food stores that try to supply us with locally grown organic fare. Occasionally the big chain grocery stores will have some locally grown produce.
The point is that, in the summer we can double up on all those dark leafy greens that are so nutrient dense and detoxifying, and many other salad ingredients. They are everywhere, and for the most part, at a better price and higher quality than we see in the winter months.
Salads make a great meal, because they require very little preparation, are one of the healthiest things you can eat, they are portable for a commute to work, and can be stored for the better part of a week.
Even better, if they are made correctly, salads can provide you with everything you need in a typical meal: vitamins, anti oxidants, and nutrients. It’s hard to go wrong with frequent salads.
Another good feature of salads is that they can be low in calories and high in fiber, which makes them excellent for helping to maintain a good weight. A vegetable salad holds only about 200 calories, though, which is not enough to get you very far in feeling full and satieated. The good news is that there is no limit to the type or number of ingredients that can be added to salads to leave you feeling not only well-nourished and cleansed, but also ready for a day’s activities.
This is a good place for thinking “outside of the box.” Consider these ways to make an already wonderful dish a frequent main focus of your meal.
1. Mix the greens. The varieties are endless, and all them have a different set of nutritional, texture, and taste gifts. Use a combination of some different lettuces and other greens, and venture in to ones you don’t usually buy. A friend of mine brought me some mustard greens from her garden recently. These leaves, like kale, dandelion, turnip and others are more bitter to the taste than I frequently eat, and they are known to be detoxifiers, helping the body to rid itself of metals and other toxins that accumulate. The bitterness can be balanced with some blander, crunchier greens like iceberg lettuce, radicchio, and escarole.
2. Make herbs a habit. From your garden or patio garden or farmer’s market, herbs are an excellent way to add robust flavors to your leafy base. They help create an adventurous blend of flavors in your mouth, even as they add substantial nutritional benefit. Some of my favorites are dill, parsley, basil, and mint. Choose your own and try some new ones sometimes. Herbs are rich, rich foods.
3. Think about texture. An interesting salad is one that will keep your taste buds guessing. “What will I bite next – something soft or crunchy?” A nice combination of crunchy, sweet, savory and creamy is ideal, so consider adding avocado, chopped nuts, softer-tasting vegetables like cucumber, celery, zucchini, and carrots. Sprouted mung beans, chickpeas, or lentils provide lots of fiber as well as texture surprises. Two or three tablespoons of a raw sauerkraut has uniqueness, for sure, and is a a great natural pro-biotic for encouraging proper gut bacteria.
4. Balance is a good thing. Nuts provide balance to salad, as do pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds. – even hemp seed or ground flax seed. Hemp and ground flax seed are high in omega 3 fatty acids which support heart health and my help with blood pressure regulation. All nuts and seeds contain some nice fats as well as protein, providing additional heart and brain support.
5. Cultivate color. “Eat the rainbow,” as the saying goes. Fresh fruit adds both a panoply of color, some sweetness, more fiber, many vitamins, and beauty to salads. The sweetness will balance out the bitterness of greens, and the vitamin C found in most fruits helps with the absorption of greens from kale, spinach, and other greens. (Hold the dried fruits, though. They are usually preserved with extra sugar and are generally not healthy for snacks, let alone a good salad.
7. Be judicious with dressings. This may be the time to concentrate on making your own dressings. They don’t take much time, are far tastier, and free of sugars and other toxins than come from the bottled ones. Too much of any dressing will detract from the flavor of your salad dressings. Used sparingly, a good dressing will elevate the tasting pleasure of your salad.
8. Plan for the week. Most salads can be prepared well in advance and last for close to a week. So, load up a big bowl with the greens, crunchy things, and other vegetables. Then, each day, in a separate bowl, add the soft things like tomatoes, avocados, and fruits. Then add an appropriate dressing and you’re set.
Spruce up those salads, eat them frequently, and they will speak for themselves with the increased health and vigor of your body.