I am writing this just as the sun is finally coming out after a pretty slow start to the year. During the warm spring and summer months we look at salads as a delicious way of packing in the vegetables.
However there’s a real difference between a salad that consists of some iceberg lettuce and a piece of tomato and a Health Boost salad. We use salads as a way of packing in lots of nutrients and making them nutrition powerhouses.
We always include at least 3-4 portions of vegetables – grated carrot, grated beetroot, grated courgette, blitzed cauliflower, roast sweet potato, sweet red peppers, crisp cucumber or tomatoes.
As a base we tend to use the darker green lettuce varieties or a colourful salad leaf mix. The darker the greens the more antioxidants and magnesium they contain. Think spinach, kale, rocket, watercress and radicchio. The benefit of including some of the more bitter leaves is that it helps to increase your digestive enzymes. As we get older our digestive enzymes decline and with this comes more digestive problems and less absorption of vital vitamins.
Also make sure you are including some protein in your salads as this will help you to feel fuller for longer – eggs, fish, chicken, lentils, beans or cheese are all good options. A palm-sized amount is adequate.
Don’t skimp the dressing. If you are regular readers of our column you will know that we encourage people to make sure they are including healthy fats in their diet – in particular extra virgin olive oil, which has so many health benefits. The fat helps us to absorb the nutrients from the vegetables.
Boost your salad
We also use salads to add a few extras to make them even more nutritious.
Sprouts: You can now buy packets of sprouts from your local health shop or supermarket. Or can start sprouting yourself with just some seeds and a jar. Sprouts are baby plants that are edible after just a few days when they are at their peak of nutrition.
They are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes as well as plant compounds that help balance our blood sugar and improve gut bacteria. Broccoli sprouts in particular are excellent for female hormone health.
Seeds: We like to sprinkle a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and a tablespoon of sunflower seeds on our salads. Not only do they provide a delicious crunch, but they also provide some extra minerals.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, a hard to find mineral important for a healthy immune system. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which is an excellent antioxidant and essential for cardiovascular health.
They are also rich in selenium (essential for thyroid health), copper, manganese and vitamin B1.
Avocado: is another delicious addition to a salad. Rich in monounsaturated fat that has been shown to be so beneficial in a Mediterranean diet and helping with heart health. It is also very rich in dietary fibre – a whole avocado contains about 10g of dietary fibre.
Tahini: Adding tahini to a salad dressing is a great way to boost your calcium intake. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds that are rich in calcium. With so many people recently cutting out dairy products then alternative calcium sources need to be looked at. Tahini is also an excellent source of copper, a mineral that helps with anti-inflammatory action. See overleaf for a tahini dressing.
Sauerkraut: We make our own sauerkraut and adding a tablespoon to the top of salads gives our gut an extra boost. Sauerkraut is rich in beneficial bacteria that help to keep our guts happy. It’s easy to make (we hold regular workshops) or you can buy in a health food shop or supermarket.
Katharine Bright is a Registered Nutritional Therapist with a clinic in Sevenoaks. To book an appointment call her on 07769 636352 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. She is co-founder of The Health Boost (thehealthboost.co.uk) – a website dedicated to providing a family friendly solution to healthy eating. For day-to-day healthy inspiration and new recipes follow them on Facebook and Instagram.