Salad meals are an excellent way to get your daily required about of vegetables in your diet. It is also an important source of daily fiber. Salads can be paired with your favorite protein for a more filling and balanced meal. Salads can help Improved digestion, manage weight and appetite, aid to your intake of health fats, build stronger bones, protect your eyes, improve muscle performance, protect your heart and lead to Longer lifespan.
You should strive for at least one salad meals per day.
THE BENEFITS OF EATING SALADS: What Happens to your body when you eat salads.
Information provided by Samantha Boesch for EAT THIS NOT THAT website in collaboration with Lauren Hoover, RD, and Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert, and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author. Feb 2021.
Just like any other food, there are pros and cons you will want to take into consideration. It is also equally important that you contact a medical professional prior to embarking on any new dietary lifestyle.
#1: You’ll Increase your fiber intake.
Eating raw vegetables and fruits is a great way of incorporating more fiber into our diet, and this includes leafy greens. When you include fiber in your daily diet, you can help prevent obesity and type 2 Diabetes, as well as aid in healthy digestion.
“The fiber found in vegetables can also aid in blood cholesterol management,” says Hoover. “Therefore, if we are strategic about what we put in our salads, we can get several health benefits from eating them frequently.”
To increase your fiber intake when you reach for the salad, try adding some tomatoes, carrots, or cucumbers.
#2: You’ll consume beneficial nutrients.
Vegetables are packed full of nutrients that your body needs, but you may need to eat more of them.
“Only 1 in 10 Americans get the recommended daily amount of vegetables and fruit,” says Amidor. “This means 90% of Americans are not eating enough vegetables and fruit daily.”
If you aren’t getting enough, you’re missing out on a lot of important nutrients. According to Amidor, “vegetables provide many important nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, potassium, and an array of phytonutrients which are natural plant compounds that can help prevent and fight disease.”
The good news is that salad could be the answer. Hoover believes that salads are a great way of getting our recommended daily servings of vegetables.
“I generally recommend making each meal half the plate vegetables. So, including salads with your meals or having as your entrée, can be a helpful strategy to boost vegetable intake and achieve this proportion.”
According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who reported eating salads specifically had higher amounts of vitamins A, B-6, C, E, K, folate, choline, magnesium, and potassium.
#3: You could consume more calories and fat.
Although salads are packed full of fibers and nutrients that our body needs, it’s important to note that regularly consuming salads may sometimes bring some unwanted side effects as well. In the same study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it was found that regular salad consumers also showed higher numbers of sodium, fat, sugars, and refined grains.
According to Amidor, this is because most people often pack on ingredients that are higher in fat and sugar to make the salads more delicious.
“Salads that are made with numerous high-calorie ingredients like cheese, lots of nuts and seeds, tortilla chips, avocado, and creamy dressings can send the calories of the salad soaring to 800 or more,” says Amidor. “Eating meals that are very high in calories often can potentially lead to weight gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.”
Hoover also reminds us that “while salads can be loaded with nutrients, not all salads are created equally…some dressings have hidden ingredients that add extra calories and sugar to the salad.”
Both Hoover and Amidor believe that you can watch your calorie intake by carefully selecting your salad toppings.
“Top your salad with protein such as salmon, hard-cooked egg, beans, tofu, shrimp, chicken breast, or lean beef—and avoid fried foods,” says Amidor.
“It is important to build salads with green leafy vegetables, include colorful vegetables, top with lean proteins, healthy fats, and use a lower-in-sugar dressing, in order to reap their benefits,” suggests Hoover.
If you’re looking for some healthy recipe inspiration, here are easy, healthy, 350-calorie recipe ideas you can make at home.
#4: You may feel hungry and a bit unsatisfied.
Although salads can become calorie-heavy, it’s also important to make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients in your meal. If you are consuming salads with too few nutrients, calories, or protein, you may be left feeling hungry and satiated quickly after.
In a study found in the Journal of Nutrition on men and protein intake, it was concluded that inadequate amounts of protein left men of all ages feeling hungrier and less satisfied with their meals.
“If entrée salads are incomplete, meaning they don’t contain all the macronutrients—lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates—then they might not provide a satiating meal and in turn leave a person feeling hungry, says Hoover.”
Although you may be turning to salads to eat healthier and consume fewer calories, it may leave you overall hungrier and unsatisfied if you don’t pack those salads full of helpful protein and nutrients. Because of this, it’s important to listen to your body while you eat and incorporate protein where you can.
#5: You may feel more bloated.
Salads and raw vegetables can be great for regulating digestion and obtaining helpful nutrients. On the flip side though, too many raw vegetables may hurt your gut.
According to Hoover, “eating salad every day can cause some individuals to feel bloated because too many raw veggies and roughage can be hard to digest.” In a recent gastroenterology study, it was concluded that lettuce can in fact cause bloating, either related to increased gas through fermentation in the gut, or contractions of the abdominal wall.
If you’re feeling some discomfort and bloating, it may be helpful to check in and track your raw vegetable consumption. Our bodies are unique and can process salads and raw vegetables differently, which is why Hoover stresses that “it is very important to listen to your own body.”
A lot goes on when you eat a salad, but as long as you’re keeping it protein-packed, staying away from the wrong toppings, and are keeping track of exactly how your body is reacting, go ahead and keep eating those daily salads.