The salad is the main dish – and the dressing is crucial
For years, I have advised my patients and readers to make salad the main dish – here’s why:
Eating large salads is an effective weight loss strategy. Raw leafy greens contain less than 100 calories per pound, so you can eat huge quantities of these healthful foods with almost no caloric impact. Leafy greens and other raw vegetables are bulky and rich in fiber, which promotes satiety and blunts appetite. For those that desire to lose large amounts of weight, eating a large salad at the start of lunch and dinner is extremely helpful. It has been shown in scientific studies that women who started their lunch with salads consumed fewer calories from the rest of the meal; plus, larger salads had greater calorie-reducing effects.1, 2
Salads provide powerful health benefits – especially with the right dressing.
High intake of salad, leafy greens, or raw vegetables has been linked to reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and several cancers.3-8 Cruciferous leafy greens often used in salads such as kale, arugula and cabbage are rich in anti-cancer and cardioprotective compounds.9, 10 Lettuces are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals such as carotenoids and quercetin; eating lettuce has been shown to increase blood antioxidant capacity.11, 12
There is an important issue to note here: the maximal benefits of leafy greens can only be realized if their phytochemicals are efficiently absorbed. Beneficial fat-soluble phytochemicals – like carotenoids – can only be effectively absorbed in the presence of fats. 13, 14 This means that using a fat-free dressing severely limits the health benefits you obtain from your salads.
However, I don’t recommend adding oil to salads in order to absorb the carotenoids; oils are calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted processed foods.Adding hundreds of empty calories to one’s salad counteracts the negative caloric effect of the raw vegetables, promoting weight gain; excess weight increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. 15-17 This is why I recommend nut-based and/or seed-based salad dressings. Nuts and seeds are high in fat, but they are extremely healthful foods.You get healthy fats to absorb carotenoids, plus al l the additional health benefits that come along with eating nuts and seeds regularly, like lower cholesterol, enhanced endothelial function and reduced risk of heart disease. Plus nuts and seeds provide additional satiating power to salads, which contributes to maintaining a healthy weight. Many studies have now confirmed that eating nuts and seeds, contrary to popular belief, does not promote weight gain.18, 19 Blending nuts, seeds, fruit, vinegar, herbs and spices into a salad dressing not only makes your salad taste great, but increases its nutritional value.
No time to make homemade salad dressings? That’s why I created my own
Not everyone has the time to make their own nut-based dressings all the time, and it is certainly helpful to keep some healthy dressing on hand for busy evenings and quick meals. There are simply no readily available salad dressings on grocery store shelves that are healthful enough; most are loaded with oil, salt, and/or sugar. So I designed a line of salad dressings made from natural whole foods and nothing more – healthy fats from raw nuts and seeds and great flavor from vinegars, fruit, herbs and spices.
4.Oude Griep LM, Verschuren WM, Kromhout D, et al: Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011;65:791-799.
12.Serafini M, Bugianesi R, Salucci M, et al: Effect of acute ingestion of fresh and stored lettuce (Lactuca sativa) on plasma total antioxidant capacity and antioxidant levels in human subjects. Br J Nutr 2002;88:615-623.
13.Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al: Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:396-403.
15.Coutinho T, Goel K, Correa de Sa D, et al: Central obesity and survival in subjects with coronary artery disease: a systematic review of the literature and collaborative analysis with individual subject data. J Am Coll Cardiol 2011;57:1877-1886.
17.American Institute for Cancer Research. New Estimate: Excess Body Fat Alone Causes over 100,000 Cancers in US Each Year [http://www.aicr.org/site/News2/153571380?abbr=pr_&page=NewsArticle&id=17333&news_iv_ctrl=1102]