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Is eating lots of salads good?

Jul 1, 2019

 

Many experts agree that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables (especially dark green and orange vegetables) and legumes — all popular salad ingredients.

David Jacobs, Ph.D., professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, says in an email interview that there is plenty of evidence that nutrient-rich plant foods contribute to overall health.

If you frequently eat green salads, you’ll likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene,) especially if your salad includes some raw vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

To be more precise, here is a list of benefits for eating lots of salads daily:

  1. Eat Salads for the Fiber

It’s hard to believe that something we can’t even digest can be so good for us! Eating a high-fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation.

Not only that, says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, eating more fiber can help you feel fuller, eat less, and ultimately lose weight.

  1. Eat Salads for the Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

Many experts agree that Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables(especially dark green and orange vegetables) and legumes — all popular salad ingredients. David Jacobs, Ph.D., professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, says in an email interview that there is plenty of evidence that nutrient-rich plant foods contribute to overall health.

If you frequently eat green salads, you’ll likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene,) especially if your salad includes some raw vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

For years, researchers have noted a link between eating lots of fruits and vegetables and lower risks of many diseases, particularly cancer. A recent study from the National Cancer Institute suggests that people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk of developing cancers of the head and neck — even those who smoke and drink heavily. Foods found to be particularly protective include beans and peas, string beans, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apples, nectarines, peaches, plums, pears, and strawberries.

3. Eat Salads to Cut Calories and Increase Satisfaction

If losing weight is your goal, you may want to start your meals with a green salad. Studies have shown that eating a low-calorie first course, like a green salad of 150 calories or less, enhances satiety (feelings of fullness) and reduces the total number of calories eaten during the meal.

Rolls, lead researcher of the study, suggests that “bigger is better” as long as the salad is bigger in volume, not in calories – which means more veggies and less dressing and other fatty add-ons.

“We saw reductions in consumed calories when people ate salads that were 1 1/2 cups and 3 cups in volume but around 100 total calories,” she says. The 3-cup, 100-calorie salad reduced the total calories consumed at the meal by about 55.

4. Eat Salads to Get Smart Fats

Eating a little good fat (like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocado, and nuts) with your vegetables appears to help your body absorb protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark green vegetables.

A recent study from Ohio State University measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed by the body after people ate a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach, with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eaters absorbed eight times more alpha-carotene and more than 13 times more beta-carotene (both of which are thought to help protect against cancer and heart disease) than the group eating salads without avocado.

If you dress your salad with a little olive oil, there may even be some additional years in it for you. Italian research on people aged 60 and older has suggested that a diet that includes plenty of olive oil and raw vegetables is linked to reduced mortality.

However, there are a few factors that should take into consideration to make sure that your daily eating salad habit keeps you on the healthy side indeed. Those significant factors could be:

  1. You choose the wrong dressing

Pre-made dressings can turn your healthy salad into a calorie bomb since they’re often high in fat, salt, and, sugar. “Ask for dressing on the side and add in a little at a time,” says Mills. Avoid fat-free versions, which can be higher in sugar to make up for the lack of fat. An even better bet is to ask for a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Or, try going dressing-free by opting for a healthy protein salad, instead. We make a pre-made chicken salad that’s lower in fat and calories than traditional ones because it’s made with an avocado-based mayo and all white meat. So watch out for sneaky reasons like this that would make your healthy diet not work.

  1. You overdo the cheese

Cheese isn’t a bad salad topping—it’s a good source of calcium and contains protein—but the wrong type can easily sabotage your salad. “Cheese is a big culprit of hidden calories and fat, particularly if you’re ordering out,” says Mills. Stick to grated varieties like Parmesan, which go further and are better distributed throughout, or look for low-fat mozzarella or feta. “Even though feta can be a little high in sodium, it’s a lower fat cheese with more flavor, so you can back off the quantity,” she says.

  1. You don’t eat enough raw veggies

Stock up on salad basics like tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, and raw broccoli; they’re freebies because of their low-calorie content and will help you eat less because they fill you up.

  1. You forget about the protein

No salad is complete without a source of protein, and if you’re bringing one from home, it’s important to plan ahead. Grill up a bunch of chicken breasts Sunday night and cut one up fresh each day to throw on your greens. For a quick fix, keep tuna in your cupboard for a low calorie but a protein-filled option. Tonnino gourmet tuna is low in mercury and can even save you the trouble of adding dressing; not only is it packed in olive oil, the fillets themselves are tasty enough on their own, with flavors like jalapeño or capers and garlic. For a vegetarian option, choose chickpeas or lentils, powerful sources of plant-based protein that are also packed with fiber.

For any questions or further tips on leading a healthy eating lifestyle, contact us at catering@mangia.nyc

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