Green leaves are nutrient rich because they contain the light-catching, energy-converting machinery of plants. Salad greens contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients. Leafy vegetables are a good choice for a healthful diet because they do not contain cholesterol and are naturally low in calories and sodium. Many of the health benefits that leafy greens provide come from phytonutrients, unique compounds that provide protection for plants. These compounds are becoming recognized as part of a nutritious diet that promotes long-term health. Phytonutrients can act as antioxidants, which help to prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease .
Lettuce, the most commonly consumed leafy vegetable, provides about seven calories per 1 cup serving. When it comes to satisfying your appetite, it helps to eat foods high in volume but low in calories like lettuce. Lettuce is not typically a stand alone vegetable. It is usually served with an array of other vegetables and fruits or used to add a crunch to sandwiches, hold a variety of fillings as a wrap, or provide color as a garnish.
Lettuce and other leafy greens are generally cool season crops with short growing periods. This means gardeners can get several crops of salad greens in the time it takes other vegetables to reach final maturity. Because leafy greens can grow in a variety of locations, they are often available at local farmers’ markets. Home-gardeners can enjoy lettuce and other types of leafy vegetables planted in traditional rows, containers, or even as accents in flower gardens.
To make great salads you must start out with fresh produce, preferably organic. It’s the greens that are considered the powerhouse of nutrition, so include a variety of leafy greens in your salads. Green leaf, red leaf, romaine, spinach, kale…really any kind of greens can be added to your salad.
To your highly nutritious greens you can add a wide variety of raw vegetables. Make your salad colorful, fun and exceptionally nutritious by using all the colors of the rainbow. We love vegetables like carrots, beets, turnips, squash, sprouts, sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers and red cabbage. But really, what ever you have on hand works well. To make your salad even more exotic try adding fruits, seeds, nuts and berries.
Food preparation is made easiest when you have the right equipment. First and foremost you must have a quality salad spinner to clean and dry your greens thoroughly. We found a great one at Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s large, spins and dries well and can be used to store your freshly prepared greens. You may find it convenient to prepare several days worth of greens at one time. That way, you can quickly throw some already cleaned leafy greens in a bowl and add a variety of raw veggies and "voila", you have a fresh garden salad ready in no time
Beyond the salad spinner a sharp knife is mandatory and a mandolin and a food processor are helpful to have as well. One of the ways to avoid salad boredom is by varying the veggies you put in your salad and by varying the cuts of the vegetables. Slicing, dicing, shredding them into different sizes, shapes and lengths makes your salads more appetizing. Another way you can add variety and maintain the health benefits of green salads is to use a variety of homemade salad dressings. Start with our basic vinaigrette dressings and then dress it up by adding things like ginger, garlic, mustard, herbs, Braggs amino acids or other favorite spices.
Sadly only 1 out of 100 Americans are eating enough nutrient dense raw vegetables to get the benefit of defending them against cancer. A good rule of thumb to use is making salads and raw vegetables your main course for lunch and dinner. Dr. Fuhrman recommends 1 large head a day per person or about 1 pound of greens. Personally, We eat about 2 large salads daily – the size of a dinner salad you would get at Chili’s or some other comparable restaurant. The bottom line is You can never eat too many greens and raw veggies. So fill up on them first and you will be on your way to better health and longevity.