Make Your Salads Healthier!

My challenge to you this month is to eat leafy greens every day. Even though this month is almost over, don’t stop eating those greens! Make it a habit for life to help decrease cognitive decline as you age, boost your health, and keep body fat off.

To help with this challenge, this week’s Tuesday Tip addressed some tricks for making salads more nutritious. Here are the tips in a nutshell:

1. Add avocados to your greens to increase nutrition (and tastiness!): According to recent studies, the monounsaturated fat in avocado causes a significant increase in the absorption of the carotenoid form of vitamin A and of phytonutrients (like lutein and lycopene) in spinach, lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. This absorption can be as much as 12 times what you would have absorbed from your salad without the avocado. So add avocado to your salads to get the full benefits of the other veggies in your salad: you’d be surprised how much of a difference it makes!

2. Tear Lettuce: Instead of cutting lettuce leaves, tear them to avoid the release of ascorbic acid oxidase. This destroys vitamin C. However, don’t feel like this is a deal breaker. Please eat salad even if it’s cut, but if you have the opportunity to tear your lettuce rather than reduce it, then tear away.

3. Choose lettuce varieties besides iceberg: Out of the five different types of lettuce, iceberg contains the least amount of nutrients. Romaine lettuce is crunchy like iceberg lettuce but is more nutritious!

4. Skip croutons: Croutons are usually made from white flour and are processed. White flour puts your body in fat making mode, so let’s replace it with foods that help you lose fat. Add nuts or seeds instead. They are full of healthy monounsaturated fat (like avocado) to increase the absorption of nutrients and also help decrease belly fat. Slivered almonds or sunflower seeds are excellent replacements for croutons. Hemp Heart seeds from Manitoba Harvest recently came out with Hemp Heart Toppers that are excellent on salads. There are two varieties of hemp seed mix toppers that are particularly good on salads: chipotle, onion, garlic and onion, garlic, and rosemary. Give them a try for some new salads.

5. Add an ancient grain: Grains like sorghum, black rice, or farro add texture, nutrition, and bulk to your salad. Salads with whole grains become an entire meal and keep you satisfied longer. Preparing great grains is easier than you think!

6. Add lentils or beans to your salads: Canned beans like chickpeas and already cooked lentils available in stores now, are an easy way to boost your salad’s nutrition and improve the taste. Plant-based protein full of fiber and other nutrients is always a bonus to your health if you tolerate legumes. To make beans easier to digest and eliminates gas, cook your beans in a crockpot and add dried kombu seaweed to the cooking water. For more details, check out my Tuesday tip Facebook video on the Foods With Judes Facebook page to show you how.

7. Mix herbs to your greens. Herbs are concentrated in flavor and nutrition. Herbs, like mint, parsley, and basil add a surprisingly refreshing taste to your salad while adding an extra bang for your buck.

8. Try pre-made salad kits from Eat Smart! Eat Smart offers gourmet vegetable salad kits that contain super nutritious foods like kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and chicory for a significant health boost and are hearty enough not to go bad the minute you buy the bag (tell me that hasn’t happened to you)! The kits come in a variety of types, but all are tasty and loaded with nuts and seed toppings you add just before you serve the salad. Make them healthier by using just half the dressing that comes in the kit in combination with a little oil like refined safflower oil or extra virgin olive oil. Both these oils are high in monounsaturated fat that helps increase the absorption of nutrients and decrease belly fat. Sometimes, I add Romain lettuce and avocados to the kits for extra nutrition, to have them go farther, and to make them taste even better.

Try some or all of these tips to maximize your salads for years to come! To make eating salad even more manageable, don’t miss my salad and 60-second salad dressing formulas in my book, 12 Fixes to Healthy, for a nutritious and delicious salad every time!

Judith (aka Judes) Scharman Draughon, MS, RDN, LD is a registered, licensed dietitian nutritionist, author of 12 Fixes to Health: A Wellness Plan for Lifeas well as a corporate wellness speaker. Judes inspires many with her high-energy nutrition presentations, workshops, and seminars throughout the county. She is known as “Foods With Judes.”

Judes is passionate about her quest to empower people to make small changes that make a big difference. She can’t wait to empower you!

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Contributor: Ray Norton