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Health & Wellness

Satisfying Salads With Serious Health Benefits

by Karen Milton, RD, LD, CDE

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Satisfying Salads With Serious Health Benefits When making these salads, start with healthy ingredients by using organic, locally-grown produce from farmers’ markets and health food stores. Fresh, local produce contains more nutrients and is picked when naturally ripe. Commercial produce, on the other hand, is picked unripe and treated with ethylene gas to ripen artificially late. Then it is shipped on a week-long, sometimes even month-long, cross-country trip before it is served on your dining table—how’s that for fuel efficiency? While the waste of gas is bad enough, studies regularly emerge about the hazardous effects of pesticides and herbicides used on commercial crops: cancer risk, inflammation, reproductive imbalance, among other dangers. So eat food grown close to home: it’s better for your health, better for the environment, and has an unbeatable taste!

Try the following six quick and simple salads that can help you live longer.

1. Classic Beet Salad
Steam beets and slice into a salad of mixed greens, sliced avocado, and a handful of pine nuts and walnuts. If you want to bulk up the salad, add crumbled soft tofu or shredded chicken.

What is this salad doing for you?
This is an all-in-one anti-aging salad. Beets contain powerful nutrients that help protect against heart disease, birth defects and cancer, especially colon cancer. The avocado and pine nuts are healthy fats and walnuts have omega-3 fatty acids, which bring heart health benefits.

2. Cooling Cucumber Salad
Thinly slice cucumbers, removing the peel if you prefer, and toss with red onions. Let this sit for 30 minutes, then top with apple cider vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard.

What is this salad doing for you?
Cucumbers are a cooling food and also a natural diuretic, helping to hydrate you and lower the pressure in your arteries. The vinegar has antiseptic and antibiotic properties and may also help to reverse hardening of the arteries, as well as dissolve gall stones and kidney stones.

3. Tomato Basil Salad
Cook whole cherry or grape tomatoes in olive oil over medium-high heat until they are lightly browned. Cool, and then toss with fresh basil. For dressing, combine olive oil, vinegar, and a pinch of fresh oregano.

What is this salad doing for you?
Cooking partially breaks down your food, making the nutrients accessible to your body's systems; for example, lycopene, an essential carotenoid antioxidant that has been found to reduce the risks of heart disease, macular degeneration, as well as prostate and other cancers, is more available in cooked tomatoes than uncooked. Basil is filled with luteolin, a bioflavonoid that studies have shown to be the best protection of cell DNA from radiation.

4. Fennel and Dried Plum Salad
Combine sliced fennel, sautéed or raw, and dried plums on a plate. Drizzle with a ginger vinaigrette. (Olive oil, vinegar and minced ginger, if you are making yourself.)

What is this salad doing for you?
This salad soothes digestion and supports weight loss. Fennel helps digestion in two ways: It stimulates the production of gastric juices and also calms the nervous system, regulating the action of the muscles that line the intestine. Packed with vitamin C and essential minerals like potassium and magnesium, dried plums contain a perfectly balanced proportion of soluble and insoluble fibers, ensuring bowel regularity and preventing insulin resistance—making them a great ingredient for weight management.

5. Asian Carrot Salad
Combine shredded carrots, green onion, and sprouts (alfalfa, red clover, daikon radish, and bean sprouts will all work). Dress with sesame oil and rice vinegar. Then sprinkle sesame seeds over the top. For extra kick, add a small amount of grated ginger or chili pepper.

What is this salad doing for you?
Carrots are antioxidant-rich foods filled with beta-carotene, beneficial to eye health. Sprouts are packed with many nutrients with a bounty of health benefits. And sesame oil is rich in phytic acid, the antioxidant that may prevent cancer.

6. Watercress with Tofu Dressing
To make the tofu dressing, combine 1/2 pound of plain tofu with a 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of rice or apple vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of tamari soy sauce (or a pinch of salt), and 1 tablespoon of tahini. Simply blend until creamy and drizzle over a bed of salad greens.

What is this salad doing for you?
Watercress contains a rich supply of vitamins A and E as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous, iodine, and zinc. It is also a natural diuretic that cools you down, and helps alleviate excess water retention and the bloated sensation that comes with it.

Karen Milton is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian, and Certified Diabetes Educator. Karen received her degree in nutrition from Oregon State University and completed her dietetic internship at Indiana University Medical Center, Indianapolis, IN. Karen has practiced in the field of nutrition for 24 years and has been a diabetes educator for 5 years. Karen is a member of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists practice group of the American Dietetic Association. Karen is also a freelance writer with articles published in various lifestyle and health magazines.

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