The Best Ingredients You Can Put in Your Salad and What to Avoid
Are you a salad lover? Find out what ingredients to put in it to make it healthier and what surprising ingredients you should avoid.
Salads are a great staple meal to put in your diet. They are a great way to incorporate lots of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, and proteins all in one meal. It’s also great to eat when you feel like having something light but filling, and they’re delicious! Often, salads are thought of as a “diet” meal because it has minimal calorie intake. However, this isn’t really the case with all salads. Since salads are just basically a mix of different ingredients, you may find something in there that isn’t that good for you. Certain toppings, dressings, and additives can quickly add calories, fat, and sodium - in some cases as much as a cheese burger! To help you out, here are some of the best things you can put in your salad to get the most health benefits, and a few things you should avoid putting in it:
The Right Leafy Greens
Kale is one of the most well-loved leafy greens in the health community, and rightfully so. Kale is a health powerhouse rich in numerous amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and nutrients that are wonderful for your body. It contains high amounts of Vitamin A, K, C which will boost your immune system and give you the energy that you need.
There’s a reason why Popeye gets super strength when he eats spinach. Spinach is packed with Vitamin C, A, K, and folate along with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. that will just about give you the strength, immune system, and energy of Popeye!
Romaine lettuce is another great lettuce choice for your salad. It has Vitamin C, A, and K, along with some folate that will boost your immune system, help your vision, improve healing process, and help prevent anemia.
The Right Protein
Grilled chicken is low in calories but very filling because it’s super high in protein. Grilled, skinless chicken breasts are especially great to pair with your salad because it’s “lean” meat, which means less fat, less oil, and more protein. It’ll fill you right up and it’s also quite delicious!
Hard Boiled Egg
Eggs have gained kind of gained a bad reputation because of its cholesterol and fat content. However, eggs are actually one of the healthiest sources of fats that your body needs to function, and contains some essential vitamins like D, B-12 and B-6. Eggs also contain 6g of protein per serving that will keep you full and energized throughout the day.
Chick peas, which are also called garbanzo beans, are a great vegan-friendly source of protein, which will give you energy and keep you fuller for longer. They’re rich in dietary fiber, which will help keep your colon working properly and fight constipation. They also contain Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to keep your brain and heart healthy, folate to keep your blood from clotting and minerals like phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
The Right Dressing
Olive oil is one of the best dressings you can put on your salad. It’s lower in calories than store-bought dressings, and it contains monounsaturated fats that are digested really quickly and burned as energy rather than lingering in your body. It also contains health properties that can prevent heart disease diseases and hypertension. Not to mention, it also tastes wonderful with veggies.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is already raved about as a “superfood” in the health community. Not only does it help protect and even heal you from a lot of diseases and illnesses, it also is a great food for weight loss. Some people choose to drink apple cider vinegar on its own; however, it goes even better with some salad. Mix it with some olive oil and you have yourself a delicious, vinegar dressing that’s super good for your health!
The Right Fruit
If you like to have a little sweetness in your salad, berries are a great fruit to put in there. Berries are rich in fiber to help fight constipation and keep your digestive system working properly, and antioxidants to help flush out toxins from your body such as Vitamins C, K, and A.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and it’s absolutely true! Put some apples in your salad to incorporate powerful flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamins into your meal. These numerous nutrients help prevent a lot of diseases and keep your body functioning healthily.
The Wrong Ingredients
Not all leafy greens are the same. Unlike the previously mentioned leafy greens, iceberg lettuce, the which is used most often used in salads, actually have significantly less health benefits than its counterparts. Even though it is a leafy green, you might want to choose a more nutritious option, like the ones mentioned above, to be your salad leaves.
Ham is often included in a lot of salads as the “protein” or to give it some flavor. However, it is super high in sodium and fat, and may cause a fat buildup in your system rather than be digested or burned quickly.
Bacon is one of the most common salad toppings. However, you may already know that bacon just isn’t that good for you. Even tiny bacon bits can have a high amount of unhealthy sodium and fat that can linger in your body instead of be used or burned as energy. It is also heavily processed, meaning that you release cancer-causing free-radicals in your body when you eat it.
A common misconception is that as long as you eat the right ingredients (vegetables, fruit, protein, etc.) in your salad, you can “make up” for unhealthy toppings. This isn’t true - the healthy benefits of the vegetables you pick goes to waste if you pick the wrong kind of dressing. A lot of creamy dressings like Ranch, Caesar, Thousand Island, and bleu cheese can have a ton of calories and fat that you don’t really need on your salad. It’s best if you opt for a vinegar/olive oil type dressing.
Canned fruit is definitely something you should be staying away from. Fresh fruit is always your best bet. Canned fruit which is filled with unnecessary sugars and preservatives that are bad for your health, so stick to fresh cut fruit like apples and berries instead.
The Toss Up
If you are trying to be healthy by choosing a salad as a meal, you might as well make the best of it and choose the healthiest possible ingredients you can get in there. Choose your salad ingredients wisely. Avoid those that can damper the health benefits of your salad and stock up instead on ingredients that will fulfill your body’s nutritional needs.