I’ll be honest, when I think of salads, I think bo-ring. I see it as an obligatory food that I have to “get through” before having my more delicious meal. And the only time I would eat a salad is when we went out to eat and someone else made it for me.
But my journey toward optimal health has been reignited recently so I’ve been digging into the benefits of eating salad. On top of that, I’ve officially made it one full week of eating a salad every day! And I’ve got to say, I’m shocked at how enjoyable it’s been.
While I don’t have any life-changing transformations to report, I feel like I’m doing better for my body and I trust that all the goodness is happening within.
Over the past week I’ve realized that the key to making a delicious salad is all about finding ingredients that you love (while not ruining the salad with fatty dressing, cheese or bacon). I’ve put together a list of possible salad ingredients so keep reading for inspiration!
But before I can expect you to be gung-ho for salad, it would probably be a good idea to share why you should eat salad every day.
Salads are packed with fiber
Fiber is one of those minerals that are so important to our health, yet many of us don’t get nearly enough. Leafy greens and raw veggies are packed with fiber that will:
- lower bad cholesterol
- regulate blood sugar
- promote weight loss
- normalize bowel movements
- reduce risk of several cancers
If you’re eating enough fiber, your intestines will be clear and free to absorb vitamins from the food you eat, meaning you’ll be getting even more nutritional benefits in the long run.
So how much fiber should you be eating? Women need roughly 25 grams per day and men should get about 38 grams per day.
Fruits and veggies have tons of vitamins and nutrients
Building a salad with as many different colors as possible will provide your body with a range of vitamins and nutrients.
Many salad ingredients contain antioxidants like vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene. These antioxidants help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin K is also common in salads and can help build strong bones.
For a bonus, opt for raw fruits and veggies, which haven’t had their benefits cooked out of them. Raw foods also contain enzymes that help with digestion.
Salads are a great way to get healthy fat
Healthy fats like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocado and nuts are absolutely essential to our health. These fats help your body absorb the nutrients you’re getting from the fruits and veggies in your salad.
Omega fatty acids lower inflammation in the body, which can improve the health of your heart, joints and skin, just to name a few.
Adding healthy fats to your salads also makes them more filling and satisfying.
Salads are hydrating
Despite the fact that we know we need to drink a lot of water for optimal health, many of us still don’t get enough. One way to sneak some water into your body is through your salad! Like humans, most veggies are majority water so when you eat them you naturally hydrate your body.
Hydration is important for many basic bodily functions like protecting your joints, flushing out waste and keeping your skin healthy.
Lettuce is about 96% water so you can bet that your body will appreciate the additional hydration you give it from eating a salad every day.
Eating salad leaves less room for junk food
Many people tout the benefit that the fiber in salads makes you feel full so you eat fewer calories and thus lose weight. However, restriction and cutting calories is not a diet I condone because it’s not sustainable.
To be truly healthy, you must change the way you live long term and the excess weight will come off in due time. With that said, if you’re having a salad for a meal, you still want to beef it up with enough calories to really fill you up.
Whether you have a salad as a meal or before your main dish, that’s one less opportunity for you to eat something bad for you. Eating more food that’s good for you means you’ll have less time to eat junk food.
Salad Ingredient Inspiration
The two most important ingredients in a salad are the lettuce and the dressing. So do some tasting to find a lettuce you actually like the taste of. My favorite is red leaf lettuce.
For the dressing, you might be best off making a dressing at home so you can control all the ingredients. Most dressings you find at the grocery store are just plain unacceptable because they add so much bad fat and they sneak in questionable ingredients.
My husband discovered a store-bought dressing that is pretty clean and fairly delicious: Bragg Vinaigrette Salad Dressing. It does have honey in it so if you are against that, I wouldn’t recommend it.
To create a salad you love, get some inspiration from this list of ingredients. Play around with different combinations to find one that makes you want to come back again and again.
I like to keep mine simple most of the time with red leaf lettuce, the Bragg dressing, and avocado. I’m going to play around this week with adding in other toppings to get more vitamins and nutrients.
With all those amazing health benefits of eating salad every day, they can all be ruined very quickly.
Salad dressings are the worst offenders because, like I mentioned, they are often loaded with nasty ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or trans fats. Always, always, always read the ingredients before your buy a salad dressing and do your best to find a more natural one.
There are so many easy dressing recipes out there that you may just want to make your own and call it a day. It may take a bit more work on your part but you can make it to your liking.
Another mistake people make with their salad is they add unhealthy, processed foods like cheese, candied nuts, bacon, and croutons. Putting foods that are bad for you on top of a salad does not magically make them healthy.
Cut that out and stick with raw fruits and veggies or unsalted nuts.
After all that, I really hope you’re inspired to add even just one extra salad a week to your diet. I’m going to see where this “one salad a day” thing takes me and hope to see positive changes in my health.