Some Summer Salad Tips For Health, from Dr. Phil

Posted on August 8, 2012 by

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While the summer heat is still here, it’s a great idea to fill up on refreshing salads filled with all sorts of goodness. Salads are awesome because you can really top them with whatever your heart desires and they will still taste good! I always look forward to my big salad every day at lunch. Each day is a little different, but I thought I would share with you some of the regular toppings that I put on mine and explain some of the health benefits of each!

*Please Note: All of the ingredients below are organic and bought as locally as possible!*

 

Ingredient Suggestions

When it comes to lettuce, you want to get as much nutrition in there as possible. Traditional choices, such as iceberg and even romaine are nutritionally void. To get the most out of this meal, we can make some more nutrient-dense choices such as dark leafy greens.

As a base, I always start off with a mixture of raw baby spinach and kale. These are packed full of nutrients, including antioxidants, iron, vitamins A, C & K, omega-3, etc. So much goodness and this is just the beginning!

Don’t forget the lemon! Dark leafy greens contain a compound called oxalates that binds to other nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Using a fresh wedge of lemon on the salad (most importantly, on the greens) helps to neutralize this nutrient-robbing compound. Besides that, lemon is a wonderful metabolic booster and detoxifier!

 

On top of that goes a colourful medley including, but not limited to:

Cherry tomatoes: Bite-sized goodness!A good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, carotenes (especially lycopene), folate, magnesium, phosphorus and copper and a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, potassium and manganese. Phewf! Tomatoes are well known for their lycopene content which has been shown to be extremely protective against breast, colon, long, skin and prostate cancers. Lycopene lowers the risk of these and other diseases by neutralizing harmful oxygen free radicals before they can do damage to cellular structures.

Bell peppers: Bell peppersare one of the most nutrient-dense foods available! They are very low in calories and very high in nutrition. Peppers offer vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K, thiamine, folic acid and B6. They are also known for their antioxidant activity and because they contain the same carotene that makes tomatoes red, lycopene, they have the same protective benefits listed above. For that reason, red peppers are considerably more nutrient-dense than the green variety. Please note that peppers are high on the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods that are heavily sprayed with pesticides and should be bought organic when possible.

Cucumbers: Thesethirst-quenching little guys are perfect for summer salads! The flesh of cucumbers is a very good source of vitamin C, A and folic acid and the skin is rich in fiber and contains a variety of minerals. Cucumbers are an excellent source of silica, a trace mineral that contributes to the strength of our connective tissues such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone.

Sprouts: Crunchy and packed full of goodness!The sprouting process brings out many live enzymes and nutrients in the germinated seeds, legumes and grains, making them nutrient rich and easy to digest. Sprouts are considered to be living foods that are full of vitamins and minerals, rich in chlorophyll and also a great source of plant protein!

Carrots: If there is one thing that everyone knows about carrots, it’s that they are a good source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, but carrots have a lot more to offer than just these benefits. Apart from vitamin A, carrots are also good sources of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and K, biotin, fiber, potassium and thiamine.

Raw Zucchini: Most people don’t think to eat zucchini raw, but it is so good in salads or as noodles! It is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, making it a great thing to include in your diet to reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. If you have a spiralizer, you can make little zucchini noodles for the top of your salad. Fun!

 

Don’t Forget the Protein!

As tempting as this salad is sounding so far, we aren’t done yet. We are missing one of the key ingredients: a source of protein! This is where you can get really creative. If you choose to eat meat or fish then this would be a good place to add some in for an extra boost.  But, if you are vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry; there are plenty of options for you too!

Looking for complete veggie proteins to add in?

Try:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • nutritional yeast
  • spirulina
  • soy (tempeh, TVP, tofu, etc.)

 

Here are some of my favourite proteins that I add to my salads:

Legumes: Typically high in fiber, calcium and iron, beans and legumes are also a great source of protein. Combined with whole grains, such as buckwheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa and teff, beans and legumes not only make a delicious meal, but also provide the full compliment of essential amino acids needed by the body.

Quinoa:  Quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and zinc and lower in sodium compared to wheat, barley and corn. This high-fiber, gluten-free grain also receives an honorable mention for being a complete protein having all 8 essential amino acids. Perfect for vegans and vegetarians!

Nutritional Yeast: Is used quite a bit in vegan cuisine because it is a great dairy-free substitute for cheese! It is great-tasting and is super versatile so you can use it in sauces, salads and really anywhere you use cheese. Nutritional yeast is also the only reliable plant-based food source of vitamin B12, so if you’re vegan, it’s a good idea to add some to your meals regularly. This one gets extra points for doubling as a source of complete protein!

Walnuts: Walnuts have long been known as the one nut with superior health benefits. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fat. The omega-3s found in walnuts is cardio-protective, manages inflammation in the body, and supports proper immune function and brain health. Regular intake of walnuts in the diet helps to lower total, as well as LDL, or “bad cholesterol”, and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. Plus, healthy fats keep hair, skin and nails vibrant and healthy for years to come.

Avocadoes: Avocadoes are a great source of vitamins A, C, E, iron, potassium, niacin, protein and monounsaturated fat. Research studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet that is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, fish, flax, chia, etc.), helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring a healthy blood lipid profile. Not to mention that eating avocado with a meal, such as a salad, allows for certain nutrients from the salad to be absorbed better than when eaten alone.

Goji Berries: This superfood is another source of complete protein along with it being a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals! If you don’t like the taste of them on their own, then a salad is the perfect place for them as they’ll add texture and a little hint of sweetness to your salad.

 

Dressing Up Your Salad

Skip the processed salad dressings that line aisles upon aisles at grocery stores. Making your own salad dressing is as easy as 1-2-3!

Choose oil: I like a blend of walnut, avocado, flax or olive, but whatever oil you choose is sure to have different health benefits.

Balsamic vinegar: Pretty standard, but the ratios of oil to vinegar are different for everyone. I like mine zippy, so I usually add more vinegar, but start with a 3:1 (oil: vinegar) ratio and work from there.

Lemon: Lemon is one of those super foods with a myriad of health and cosmetic benefits. A twist of lemon helps to fight against infection. It also contains vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant protecting the body from harmful free radicals. The acid in the lemon also helps to neutralize oxalatic compounds found in green vegetables, making the nutrients more bioavailable.

Mustard: Not French’s, look for a nice Dijon mustard with whatever flavors you like. I’m always one for a little kick, but that’s just me!

Syrup: Agave or coconut nectar are great choices that are both low on the glycemic index (less of an impact on the blood sugar).

Salt & Pepper: Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and a smidge of Himalayan salt to top it all off!

Shake together the dressing ingredients, pour it on top of that healthy salad and enjoy all of the nutritional goodness and deliciousness!

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