It's quite possible that no food that has more potential to pack so much good nutrition into one bowl than a creatively tossed salad. Salads are open to a wide variety of ingredients, and the more you add, the more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients you get from your salad bowl. The right kind of salad mix helps you stay healthy, fight aging, stave off chronic disease, and keep your weight in check. Here's why:

Volume for Weight Control

You can eat volumes and volumes of tossed salad and never gain weight from it. Just go easy on the toppings. Most of the calories in a leafy green salad are in the dressing, but if your salad dressing is made with olive oil, at least those calories are coming from healthy fats. Don't overdose on dressing, however, because it is possible to get too much of a good thing in your diet, and too much fat of any kind in your food can end up as too much fat on your body.

Anitoxidants for Disease Prevention

Dark, leafy salad greens such as romaine lettuce, watercress, arugula, and spinach and deeply colored vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet red, green, or yellow peppers are packed with vitamin C and vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Carrots and broccoli are also loaded with antioxidant vitamins that help protect against cancer and other chronic disease.

Phytochemicals to Prevent Premature Aging

Greens and other colorful salad vegetables are also rich in phytochemcials, plant chemicals that are not vitamins or minerals but that act as antioxidants in your body to prevent cell damage that causes premature aging and the breakdown of body systems.


Essential Minerals for Strong Bones

Very dark, leafy greens like as spinach provide hard-to-get but important minerals such as magnesium, which supports nerve, heart, and bone health and helps your body produce energy.  Some greens are also good plant sources of calcium. For more minerals (and other good stuff), toss some nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits, or a sprinkling of crumbled cheese into your salad bowl.

Fiber for Intestinal Well-Being, Heart Health, and Blood Sugar Control

Plant fiber not only helps move food through your digestive tract, it decreases your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Vegetables and fruit are all good sources, but to really boost the fiber content of your salad, add legumes such as chick peas, white beans, and lentils. Beans also bring B vitamins and more minerals, such as iron and potassium, to the table.

For a nutritional bonus, add a little lean protein to your salad and call it a one-dish meal. Chicken, turkey ham, seafood, beans, and hard-cooked eggs are all nutritious, high-protein choices.



American Dietetic Association/Eat Right: Color Your Plate with Salad Web 20 April 2011

Colorado State University: Health Benefits and Safe Handle of Salad Greens Web 20 April 2011