It’s National Salad Week! To me there’s no better way to get in my veggies than in a salad. Salads need not be boring iceberg lettuce and a couple of cucumber slices anymore. There are many different ways you can prepare a salad. It makes a great side or main dish and is refreshing, light fare during the summer’s heat.
Have you heard the expression “eat the rainbow?” It’s referring to the range of colors fruits and vegetables come in. Plants contain compounds called phytonutrients (“phyto” meaning plant) which give them their color and some of their nutritional value. There’s a lot of research about phytonutrients and the roles they play in health, and much of it is positive. Phytonutrients partner with vitamins and minerals in making your body work efficiently.
Many fruits and vegetables contain multiple phytonutrients so it’s best to eat a variety from all the colors of the rainbow.
Here are some colorful suggestions:
Red and Orange: Red and orange vegetables are rich in carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lycopene. Carotenoids may reduce the risk of heart disease, age-related eyesight degeneration, and some cancers. Carrots and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of beta-carotene and you can find lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon. You can actually find both phytonutrients in red carrots!
Yellow and Green: Xanthophils give yellow fruits and vegetables such as pineapple and yellow peppers their color, while chlorophyll gives green fruits and vegetables like pistachios and celery their color. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, also contain indoles. These phytonutrients work together to maintain eye health and heart and liver function, and may prevent some cancers.
Blue and Purple: Anthocyanins give blueberries and red cabbage their characteristic colors. Anthocyanins are thought to help maintain healthy blood pressure, help prevent unnecessary blood clotting, and also lower the risk of some cancers.
As always, the best way to get these phytonutrients is naturally in fresh, minimally processed foods and there’s no better way to get all of these goodies than in a tasty salad. Add a lean protein like grilled shrimp, chicken, a healthy carb such as quinoa, and a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and you have a healthy meal full of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. And you get to keep cool while preparing it – no oven needed!
Your turn to take action: Create your own rainbow salads this week and share your combinations in the comments below.