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A Salad a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: The Health Benefits of Green Salads

Updated on July 4, 2011

Eating a green salad every day is one of the healthiest habits you can get into.

Green salads are bursting with vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. Eating two cups of Romaine lettuce alone will give you a nice boost of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, calcium, folic acid, and many more important nutrients. Add in some carrots, tomatoes, and olive oil-based dressing and you can forget about your multivitamin pills! Raw vegetables and fruits are also bursting with antioxidants, which protect against many types of cancer and other diseases.

Green salads are also high in dietary fiber. Those same two cups of romaine lettuce will give you about 10% of your daily allotment of fiber. Fiber not only improves digestive health, it also helps protect the body against heart disease and many types of cancer. Not only that, eating a diet high in fiber will help you lose weight. Many foods high in fiber are "bulky" but relatively low calorie, so you will fill up faster, eat less food, and consume fewer calories in the food you do eat.

If your goal is weight loss, eating a large green salad before your meal is an especially good way to fill up on healthy but low calorie vegetables and fruits, so you eat less of your higher calorie entrée. Just leave off the high fat dressings and bacon bits, or replace them with heart healthier vinaigrettes and walnuts, which are rich in essential Omega-3 fatty acids.

Photo by foodistablog
Photo by foodistablog

The Perfect Salad

As you've probably guessed, a wimpy little salad with iceberg lettuce and a single anemic tomato slice is not going to cut it. If iceberg lettuce is what you're used to, I'm not asking you to immediately start cracking out the arugula. I'm not a big fan of arugula myself. But do start mixing basic iceberg lettuce with more nutritious leaf lettuces, especially Romaine.

Even if you're an experienced salad eater, consider experimenting with alternative toppings. Carrots and tomatoes make a great start, but have you considered the following (not all in the same salad!):

spinach, arugula, watercress, sprouts, parsley, cilantro, red cabbage, radish, beet, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, green peppers, red peppers, red onion, shallot, baby corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, artichoke hearts, green beans, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, button mushrooms, baby bella mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, black olives, kalamata olives, avocados, walnuts, cashews, almonds, apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, mandarin oranges, blood oranges, pineapples, currants, raisins, dried cranberries, pine nuts

In addition to bacon bits (real bacon, not fake!), other healthy(ish) toppings for carnivores include grilled chicken or fish (tuna and salmon are especially good) and grilled sirloin strips. Hardboiled eggs are excellent choices, and one of the tastiest salads I've ever eaten starred thinly sliced grilled duck with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. Greeks do fabulous things with a light crumbling of feta cheese.

The healthiest salad dressings are the vinaigrettes, which are mixes of oil (preferably olive or canola oil), vinegar, and spices or other flavorings. Vinaigrette dressings are actually quite easy to mix yourself, but you can buy good ones in stores as well. My favorite brand is Newman's Own.

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    • profile image

      Graeme21 

      6 years ago

      This week i have started eating a bowl of salad, and it sounds weird, but i feel good, like really good! eating a bowl of salad before dinner fills me up a little, so i do not eat as much fatty foods! So eat a bowl of salad a day, and you will feel good!

    • ChristinCordle12 profile image

      ChristinCordle12 

      7 years ago

      So true. Green salads or leafy salads are naturally healthy.

    • eatingright profile image

      eatingright 

      8 years ago

      Great hub on salads. I love an apple tuna salad topped with raisins, sunflower seeds, low-fat yogurt.

    • lindaadams37 profile image

      lindaadams37 

      8 years ago

      No doubt salad has to be the part of your daily intake and I believe it is the most convenient and natural way to keep up with minerals and vitamins that your body requires.

    • profile image

      rosalind 

      8 years ago

      A salad a day....is all I want.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      OK Kerryg,now you messed around and made me want a salad with hard boiled eggs in it. I love salad, but hate to make them. I will tonight though. Good hub on the health benefits of salad.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Very well written. I love Newman's Own dressing - all of his stuff is first class. My favorite is a golden apple and cheddar/colby cheese.

    • Abundance Of Love profile image

      Abundance Of Love 

      8 years ago

      You also feel better after a salad. More energy, clearer head. I was going to head out to get some vegetables and now my stomach is begging me to go!

    • Gomet profile image

      Gomet 

      8 years ago

      I completely agree with this topic...

      Salads can not only reduce the habit of over eating but also they are full of nutrition.

      Plus they are colorful ..

    • profile image

      Jeffrey Shore 

      8 years ago

      I love the cool, crunchy, colorful symphony of flavors that a good salad affords. I love creamy garlic and avocado dressing. I highly recommend salads for almost everyone.

    • nikki1 profile image

      nikki1 

      8 years ago

      great hub/ very informative. I love salads. Except for the whole eggs they are filled with cholestrol.

      Happy New Year to all

    • casey kaldal profile image

      casey kaldal 

      8 years ago

      Salads are so delicious when you get creative with them. One of my favorite ways to eat salad is to cook some quinoa, then top that with spinach or lettuce, chopped up purple cabbage, and sprouts. I make my own dressings with either flax or hemp oil to add more Omega 3s to my diet.

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 

      9 years ago

      Now theres a salad, yum yum, thanks

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 

      9 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      another great lens with informative content, thanks

    • AzMomTech profile image

      AzMomTech 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      Great hub! Lately I've been topping salad with thin sliced steak (I use leftovers), corn, peppers and basil balsamic vinaigrette dressing...it's a whole meal!

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 

      9 years ago from West Coast

      Great ideas. I was raised in a family that had a salad at every dinner it was and still is my dad's speciality. He makes an elaborate salad each and every day.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Thanks for all the salad additions. I am a salad nut, must have salad every dinner. And dispite this practice, salad always makes a meal feel special.

    • GA-PEACHES profile image

      GA-PEACHES 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for the tips on different toppings to go on my lunch. I have been needing to try something better for me and this sounds great.

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