Making one simple change to your diet – adding a salad almost every day – can pay off with plenty of health benefits. A salad is only as good as the quality of its ingredients, and to make a truly great salad you’ve got to use ingredients that are fresh, ripe and in season. If you think the world of salad is limited to watery lettuce and a few chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, think again. There are an endless amount of wonderful combinations and you can make a salad as simple or as complex as you like.
Here are four main health reasons to reach for a salad today:
1. Eat Salads for the Fiber
2. Eat Salads for the Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables
3. Eat Salads to Cut Calories and Increase Satisfaction
4. Eat Salads to Get Smart Fats
PREPARING AND WASHING SALAD LEAVES
Wash your salad leaves before using them. Make sure your sink is clean then fill it with cold water. Gently wash the salad leaves in the water until they are clean, and then transfer them to a salad spinner and spin dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner, put them into a clean tea towel, gather the edges up, then nip outside and spin it around your head. Make sure they’re properly dry – if they aren’t, the salad dressing won’t cling to them. Keep them in a fridge or bowl under a damp cloth until you’re ready to use them. Raw crunchy veggies, like carrots or radishes, are great in salads. But they can be quite hard if they’re in big pieces, so slice them finely or shave them into ribbons with a speed peeler. Raw beetroots, spring onions, cucumber, courgettes and celery all work well like this. Cooked vegetables are also fantastic in salads. Peas, broad beans, asparagus and corn, cooked very quickly so they are tender, add flavour and colour. Tearing in soft herbs at the last minute adds loads of extra flavour. Basil, coriander, parsley, dill, mint or even thyme or marjoram tips are all great choices. It’s also nice to add a bit of protein to a salad, especially if you’re having it as a main meal. For a bit of crunch, try adding a few nuts or seeds.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DRESSING
A good salad dressing is the key to making a salad absolutely delicious, meaning you want to eat it rather than feel you have to. Another great thing about dressings is that they help us get the most from the salad: the oil and the acid in the dressing actually help our body absorb far more of the nutrients from the vegetables. Think of your salad dressing as the link that brings all the ingredients in your salad together. There are loads of ready-made bottled dressings available in the shops, but it’s so easy to make your own so try and get into the habit of doing that rather than buying them. Most salad dressings contain an oil element – such as extra virgin olive oil, groundnut oil or sesame oil – and an acid element, such as balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or lemon or lime juice. Aim for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part acid then add any other ingredients you fancy. If you want a slightly creamy dressing, try stirring a spoonful of natural yoghurt into the dressing.
DRESSING YOUR SALAD Once dressed, salad leaves can wilt after a few minutes, so always add your dressing right before serving. If you want to ensure a really good even coating, using clean hands, quickly toss everything together. Just make sure you don’t add all of the dressing at once; add a little, mix it up then have a taste before deciding whether you need to add more. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.
AYURVEDA & SALADS
According to ayurvedic principles, a majority of warm, cooked foods are most suitable for human physiologies, with raw food indeed consigned for the warmer seasons and/or those with strong digestive fires. Raw vegetables are cold, rough and require very strong digestive fire, Agni, to digest. They can be a source of toxic impurities, or ama, when eaten in large amounts or at the wrong time of day. This does not mean they should necessarily be entirely eliminated, just that raw vegetable salads play a more minor role in ayurvedic meals than other dishes – certainly more so than in the West, where a raw salad can comprise the full meal. Salads containing raw vegetables appear in smaller amounts in ayurvedic meals, served more as a condiment or small side dish. Another ayurvedic option is to prepare salads based on cooked ingredients, such as grilled vegetables, cooked and cooled beans, pasta, and grain. In general, serve salads during hot weather, when their cooler temperatures can help balance Pitta. Chilled ingredients extinguish the digestive fire, Agni; room temperature is a wiser choice. Serve salads at the noontime meal, when the digestive fire is most powerful, with spices and seasonings that help digestion. Black pepper, ginger, and cumin are Agni-kindling spices, and lemon/lime juice both kindles Agni and help cut ama.