Salads trace its origin back to the Roman days. Basically salad means raw vegetables seasoned with salt or salty substance. The French called it “Salata” which means salted things which later coined as “salllat” or “salad” by the English in 14th century. (Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2nd edition, 2006 (p. 682)).
Basically salad refers to a healthy way of consuming vegetables and food. The principles of a healthy salad are as follows:-
1. Minimal cooking to preserve the healthy nutrients found in the food
2. Prepared in a way that the already present nutrients are made easily available for absporptiom in the gut.
3. Provides fiber which is essential in prevention and management of diabetes,obesity, cholesterol and bowel health.
4. And of course the last but not least, tasty and palatable.
Salads contain three basic elements.
The base usually forms the bulk of the salad. It is can be green leafy vegetables (salad leaves, lettuce, spinach etc.), colored vegetables (carrot, peppers, and pumpkins) or fruits. They provide the essential nutrients like iron, flavonoids, vitamin C, Vitamin E, antioxidants and fiber. Minimal cooking or rather no cooking ensures these rich essential nutrients are preserved and not damaged. Flavonoids and anti-oxidants are essential in prevention of cancer and excessive cellular aging. Vitamin C and E are potent immune protectant.
As the name suggests, depth enhancers are substance added to the salad to give a crunch or texture. They could be meat (preferably lean meat), nuts, seeds, pastas, brown rice etc. A point to note again is healthy salad should have lesser of the depth enhancers as compared to the base. The lean meat ideally just steamed, grilled or roasted with minimal oil. The best way is to pan fry in minimal olive oil. Bacon used sensibly can add great depth and flavor to the salad but used excessively just adds unhealthy fat. Nuts and seeds (like pumpkin seeds) are rich in selenium that are mood enhancers as well as strong anti-oxidants.
Binders or Dressings.
As the name suggest the function of the binder is to bring together all the components of salad and makes it palatable. The dressing are also responsible in making sure the essential nutrients said above is easily absorbed by the body and they themselves act as anti-inflammatory aid if prepared accordingly.
Substance that are usually used in preparing dressings:
– healthy option will be olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
– ensures the fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E,K are made readily available for absorption
– provides omega 3 and 9, which are potent anti-inflammatory nutrients.
– provides good cholesterol which is cardio protective.
– these can be variety of substance.
– Best is to avoid over the counter or processed sauces or condiments
– Salt should be ideally used in very minimal amount. Anchovies and capers are healthier substitute. Bacon can also be used. Brine should again be used minimally
-Vinegar can be replaced with the apple cider vinegar or citrus fruit juices like lemon, lime orange or grape fruit. These citrus juices are high in vitamin C which is a potent anti- oxidant and facilitates iron absorption. The green leafy vegetables are rich in iron but vegetables like spinach is also high in oxalate that hinders iron absorption. Hence the vitamin c provided by the citrus juices counter the oxalate and improves the absorption of iron. Cider vinegar helps to boost up your metabolism and immune system.
– Usage of pepper as seasoning agent should be also limited to minimum. Instead paprika, fresh garlic, onion, fresh ginger can be used as healthy option.
-Herbs like thyme, basil, oregano, cilantro, mint are also healthy option of adding flavor as well as providing many health benefits.
– spices like turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and at the same time adds a distinctive taste to the salad.
– yogurt can be good source of probiotics that helps in digestion and maintaining the healthy bacterial colony of the gut.
A few additional tips on preparing salads
1. Wash all your ingredients thoroughly as they are consumed raw.
2. Prepare them just before serving and consume them as soon as possible
3. Try to use organic vegetables or fruits.
4. make sure to include at least one salad per meal.
Simple Healthy salad ideas:
1 small sized red, yellow, green peppers diced
500gms rocket leaves or any salad leaves
1 cup cooked brown rice (crunchier the better)
1 pomegranate seeded
300gms steamed chicken breast – diced ( can be omitted by vegetarians)
2- 3 tablespoon of olive oil
½ lemon ( juice expressed)
1 tsp. sesame seed roasted with ½ tsp turmeric made into fine pwder
3 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 inch ginger finely chopped
1 tbsp. water
¼ tsp. brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1. Prepare the dressing -Mix all the ingredients and flavor accordingly
2. Mix the base and the depth enhancers thoroughly refrigerate for 30 min
3. Mix the prepared dressing to (2) and serve immediately.
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