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Can salads be a good source of nutrients?

While according to Gertrude Stein "a rose is a rose is a rose", at the World's Healthiest Foods, we could not say that the same thing goes for salads since "a salad is not a salad is not a salad". That is because to many people salads are thought of as more of an accompaniment or afterthought for a meal. Additionally, they oftentimes don't feature foods that are nutrient rich. But, salads can be thought of as meals, as dishes where you combine the unique tastes and textures of various foods, and as such salads can be nutritional powerhouses.

Salads — the old paradigm

Unfortunately, in some food traditions within the U.S., salad is considered to be merely a "side dish". To make matters worse in terms of salad's reputation, oftentimes salads in restaurants may consist of nothing more than a small bowl of iceberg lettuce with artificially-colored French dressing on the top.

Such a "salad" would not be a good source of nutrients; in a half-pound of iceberg lettuce, you won't find any vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin, D, E, K, nor any chromium, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, or zinc. (You won't find any of these nutrients in two tablespoons of most French salad dressings either, although you will find 120 calories.) At the World's Healthiest Foods, however, we would not consider this "side dish" to have qualified as a salad.

The origin of salad

The word "salad" comes from the Latin word salata, meaning "salted." During the time of the Roman Empire, a common meal consisted of vegetables that had been seasoned with brine; it was called herba salata, or "salted vegetables." We like this original meaning of the word "salad," because at the World's Healthiest Foods we think that vegetables are such an important part of what salads are all about!

The range of salads at the World's Healthiest Foods

At the World's Healthiest Foods, you'll find Black Bean Salad, Broiled Halibut Salad, Broiled Salmon Salad, Chinese Cabbage Salad, Creamy Caesar Salad, Seaweed Salad, Garlic Shrimp Salad, Greek Garbanzo Salad, Ground Lamb Salad, Mediterranean Salad, Romaine and Avocado Salad, Seared Tuna Salad, Shrimp and Avocado Salad, Soy Bean and Fennel Salad, and Warm Quinoa Salad! Many of these salads contain more protein than a slab of steak, and twice as many nutrients as a traditional "entree" plus two "side vegetables."

Salads can be complete nutritional meals

There is absolutely no nutrient that cannot be obtained from a salad. In fact, a salad containing a wide variety of vegetables - including root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, stalks, stems, and flowers - will often be closer to a "complete meal" than many other food possibilities.

The use of seeds, nuts, and beans in salads is extremely helpful in contributing protein, fiber, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids to the meal. Small amounts of "garnish" type ingredients - like a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds or a sprinkling of walnuts — are a very worthwhile addition in terms of nutrients. Trace minerals and small amounts of high-quality omega-3 fats are nutrients that most U.S. adults don't get nearly enough, and it doesn't take many pumpkin seeds or walnuts to bring at least some of these vital nutrients into the day's meal plan.

Practical tips

Think of a salad as a canvas upon which you can mix the different 'colors' of foods. Depending upon your mood, the season and what's in your refrigerator, mix a variety of your favorite vegetables into your salad bowl. Starting with a nutrient-rich lettuce like romaine and adding a mesclun or spring mix variety of lettuces will create a great foundation for any salad. From there you can add in a selection of leafy greens, stalks, root vegetables or other vegetables.

The sky's the limit (actually your imagination and palate are the limit) as to what combination of vegetables you can use. From there, you can add fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes ... .the list of what you can add to a salad to not only make it delicious but nutritious goes on and on. Mix up a lot of different foods that feature a spectrum of nutrients and your salad bowl may one day replace your multivitamin.

To find an array of delicious and easy to prepare salads, visit the Recipe Assistant.

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