Summer is so close we can taste it! As our favorite fresh organic veggies start appearing on supermarket shelves and hometown farmers’ market stands, we’ve got one thing on our minds: salad!
This salad we’re dreaming up? It’s not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill greens and dressing. It’s much, much more. How, you ask? Because every ingredient in the salad and the dressing packs a huge nutritional punch! That’s right – you won’t find a single unnecessary calorie, gram of sugar, or refined grain in this salad.
So let’s take every ingredient of our summer superfood salad and break down the wonderful effects each has on your well-being. By the end of this list, you’ll have the know-how to make a delicious, vibrant summer salad!
Superfood Salad Fixins’ & Their Health Benefits
1. KALE – Slash Cancer Risk
Ahh, the green of the hour, glorious kale. If you need another reason to love this versatile green, just look at a 2012 study out of China that linked increased intakes of cruciferous veggies (like kale!) to a lower risk of developing breast cancer. One group of active compounds in kale, called glucosinolates, were found to reduce breast cancer risk by about 15%. The body converts these compounds to isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, both of which are known antioxidants with anti-cancer abilities. Off to a pretty good start, eh?
2. CARROTS (shred ‘em for the best texture)– Lower Type II Diabetes Risk
Brand new research published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease this month found that high dietary intakes of beta-carotene are associated with a 22% reduction in diabetes risk! This bold benefit is likely due to the antioxidant ability of beta carotene, which is also responsible for supporting healthy vision and vibrant skin.
3. BEETS (boiled and chopped) – For Healthy Vision & Exercise Performance
Because of their high antioxidant content, beets are hailed as on of the healthiest foods in the produce aisle. But they also contain several anti-inflammatory compounds and abundant dietary nitrates, which are thought to help strengthen corneal endothelial cells by encouraging healthy blood flow in the eyes.
Beets have gained attention for sports nutrition in recent years because they contain nitrate, a compound that has been shown to help boost oxygen untake during exercise. Even the Auburn University football team players down a big glass of beetroot juice before games!
4. AVOCADO – Keeps Cholesterol in Check
In addition to avocado’s well-documented heart-healthy and brain-boosting benefits via their omega-3 content, these deliciously creamy fruits are also though to help keep cholesterol levels in check. Researched published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that eating just one avocado per day could lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals. So don’t be shy – load up that salad!
5. PISTACHIOS – Regulate Insulin Levels & Support Weight Management
What’s a superfood salad without a little crunch? The health benefits of pistachios keep popping up on nutritional news feeds as researchers uncover the big metabolic potential of these tasty green morsels. Last year, two promising studies emerged documenting the ability of pistachios to both decrease glucose and circulating insulin levels in patients with prediabetes and help people maintain a healthy weight. Remember – healthy fats won’t make you fat!
And Now for the Dressing!
How about that for a colorful, health-boosting, 5-ingredient weeknight salad! We may be done with the hearty ingredients, but we still have to make the dressing. We stuck by the same rule when creating this Asian ginger-garlic-miso dressing – superfoods or bust!
1. Garlic (1 large clove, crushed & chopped) – For Healthy Blood Pressure & Immunity
A recent meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials found that garlic holds the potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average 3.75mmHg and 3.39mmHg, respectively. The benefits are attributed to the compound allicin, which is formed when garlic is crushed.
2. Ginger (2 teaspoons, grated)– Soothes the Digestive System
Indigestion is thought to be caused by delayed emptying of the stomach, which prevents food from passing through the digestive tract in a timely fashion. Studies have shown that ginger may have the ability to speed up emptying of the stomach to aid in digestion. In one study, taking 1.2 grams of ginger powder before a meal was found to accelerate emptying of the stomach by 50%.
3. White Miso (1 tablespoon) – Boosts Beneficial Bacteria & Immune Health
White miso contains isoflavones, active compounds responsible for many of the health benefits linked to soy products. Like other fermented foods miso is rich in friendly bacteria that aid in digestion, bolster immune function, and help prevent leaky gut.
3. Unseasoned Rice Vinegar (1 tablespoon) – Promotes Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
The benefits of apple cider vinegar seem to pop up in the news every day, but what about rice vinegar? According to a 2012 study, white rice vinegar has been found to improve blood sugar control and liver function in diabetics! It was also found to improve the function of beta cells, the insulin-producing cells located in the pancreas.
4. Honey (1/2 teaspoon or to taste) – Reduces Allergies & Soothes Your Throat
Sore throat? Honey can help! Honey is what’s known as a demulcent, a substance that can help relieve irritation in the mouth and throat by forming a protective coating. This sweet treat is also hailed as an antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant powerhouse!
Theoretically, eating local honey can help you kick allergies to the curb by exposing your immune system to tiny amounts of allergens and building up natural immunity over time. According to one study, people who ate birch pollen honey experienced a 60% reduction in symptoms!