Whenever we would whine about eating our salad, our Grandpa Don would say, “There’s always room for salad”. He was a great salad eater, and it seems he was on to something! As we are now in the season for fresh, local lettuce, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a little mini series on green salads. There are so many variations, I know I won’t even scratch the surface of this topic and the vast variety of recipes, but I do hope that I will give a little inspiration and encouragement. I will be going over some of the basics in this series-the lettuce, the dressing, the extra veggies, and other ideas. But first things first….
We all have the vague idea that green salads are healthy for us. But most of us don’t know the details. Let’s look at some of the health benefits of this important part to our diets.
Benefits of Some Raw Food in our Diet
While I do not advocate eating all raw vegetables (some of us do much better with cooked veggies), raw vegetables can be of great benefits to most of us. Raw lettuce provides “roughage”, for example. Henry Bieler, in Food is Your Best Medicine, while adding that those with inflamed intestinal linings must be very careful in eating raw fruits and vegetables, says, “But to man, raw vegetables are also of great value, mainly for bulk and roughage as well as to keep the intestinal content from becoming too dry.”1 In other words, it keeps us regular.
Many people also believe that the natural enzymes found in raw vegetables and fruits help you properly digest your food and prevent stressing your body.
Lettuce contains important nutrients
Raw food aside, lettuce has important nutrients for us. In fact, a study conducted by the UCLA School of Public Health and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, found that those who eat green salads and raw vegetables with salad dressing, “have considerably higher levels of vitamins C, E, B6, and folic acid—key nutrients in promoting a healthy immune system and reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses” 2 And half of us don’t have adequate amounts, so this could be of great benefit to many of us.
Looking at a specific lettuce, Romaine, you can see some of the nutrients it contains.
“Romaine lettuce is an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, manganese and chromium. In addition, romaine lettuce is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and the minerals potassium, molybdenum, iron, and phosphorus.”3
Full of beta-carotenes, who would have thought?
Here, Sally Fallon talks about how greens actually have high amounts of beta-carotenes.
“Carotenes are what give orange and yellow vegetables their color. In green vegetables they are masked by the green color of chlorophyll. Animals and humans convert carotenes to vitamin A, but the carotenes themselves have many functions. Beta Carotene, the most active of several carotene compounds has been shown to boost the immune system and to fight against cancer.
We need to get beta carotene from the foods we eat—carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, orange fruits, green leafy vegetables-because synthetic beta carotene has adverse effect when use in human studies. “1
And it is important to have that dressing (read, fats) with the vegetables
“Interestingly, clinical trials have shown that adding salad dressing to a salad not only adds a delicious flavor, but also increases the absorption of certain nutrients being consumed. “It’s not just the leafy greens and vegetables that are doing a body good,” said Arab. “Some fat can also enhance the absorption of nutrients such as lycopene and alpha- and beta-carotene.” “2
Lettuce is alkalizing
While this post can’t adequately explain the importance of alkalizing food, I try to have alkaline forming food as a big part of my diet. The basic premise of this concept is keeping your body alkaline because when it is acidic, health problems arise quickly. Certain foods cause your body to become either alkaline or acidic (a healthy person may want to eat 60 percent alkalizing, to 40 percent acidic). While I am still cautiously exploring this idea, many of the main concepts make a lot of sense. And while some food can be hard to figure out whether it is alkalizing or not, lettuce is always listed as alkalizing. Just one more reason to eat your salad!
So, there are just a few great reasons to enjoy your salad. And this isn’t even counting all of the nutrition you can get from extra veggies, nuts, and other additions to your green salad! We will be looking soon at what we can add to our green salad to step up the taste, and add even more nourishment.
Meanwhile, here’s a few tips for your greens
*As a general rule, the darker the color, the higher the nutrients. Look for dark greens.
*Baby green are very pretty, but unless you get them from a very superior source, they can be older and less flavorful than a mature head of lettuce. A head of lettuce is almost always cheaper as well.
*Dirt and water will make your lettuce decay so wash and dry well. I wash each leave carefully (even more carefully since I buy organic and there can be bugs!), then I will fill the salad spinner with water and wash the leaves in that “bath”. Sometimes I will add a drop of essential oil of lemon. I will then spin dry. If you don’t have a spinner, you can use a bowl to wash it, and pat dry with towels. Since I like to buy my lettuce for the week at the farmer’s market, I will buy enough for the whole week. I store the wash and dried lettuce in a plastic ziploc bag. If worried about moisture, put in a paper towel.
Now that next question is, what to dress it with? I will be sharing some of my favorite and simple ways to dress up a salad in my next post.
So my kitchen tip of the day is to eat your salad! Check out Tammy’s Recipes for more kitchen tips.
1-As quoted in Nourishing Traditions