Wellness Challenge: Salads

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What could be better than a taste of summer in the depths of winter? Your wellness challenge for this week is to have a side salad with dinner for four or more nights this week. Need some motivation? Here are some reasons why eating salads is good for you:

Eat Salads for the Fiber

Eating a high-fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation. And eating more fiber can help you feel fuller, eat less, and ultimately lose weight.

Eat Salads for the Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables

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

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.

“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.

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 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.

Click here for some ideas on delicious side salads. Enjoy!