If you are consuming less than 5 cups of salad a day, your body may be under-nourished. Did you know that we need about 4,700 mg per day of Potassium to run the body for someone who is 200 lbs. Take for instance a banana; one banana is 300 mg. You’d have to eat a lot of bananas to even begin to reach that 4,700 mg per day nutritional need within your body and the sugar (converted from the carbs in banana) would be a problem as well. The power house to help you feel your best? Salad!
You need approximately 7-10 cups of salad per day to fuel the cells in your body. And the heavier you are, the more greens you need per day to nourish your body. The good news is that salad is easy for your body to digest. One for lunch and one for dinner and you’ve nourished your body for the day.
Keep in mind as well that not only the quantity of how much salad you eat matters, but it also depends on the quality of the vegetable. Ice berg lettuce, for example, will not have as much nutritional value compared to something high-density like:
• Kale – Kale is packed full of vitamins A, C, and K. While slightly higher in calories than other greens, kale also provides a dose of vitamins B6-B1-B2-B3, manganese, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, and potassium, making for a nutrient-packed salad. It also contains 3x times more lutein and zeaxanthin than spinach.
• Spinach – Spinach is packed with vitamin A and a great source of vitamins C and K, iron, and fiber. It also contains more folic acid than most salad greens, which helps convert the food you eat into energy and produces healthy red blood cells. Recent research also suggest compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. A recently published long-term study at Lund University in Sweden found that having a drink containing thylakoids before breakfast could significantly reduce cravings and promote weight loss. On average, the women who took the spinach extract lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group over the course of three months.
• Swiss Chard – Swiss Chard, a relative of the beet family, tastes similar to spinach. It is higher in sodium count than other salad greens (with 77 grams per cup), but it’s loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, and also provides some iron and calcium. Consider combining chard with a few other greens to make your own mix. Recent research has shown that these powerhouse leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins–anti-inflammatory compounds that could offer protection from type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of East Anglia analyzed questionnaires and blood samples of about 2,000 people and found that those with the highest dietary intakes of anthocyanins had lower insulin resistance and better blood glucose regulation.
• Watercress – It’s more nutrient-rich than romaine and leaf lettuce, containing almost all of the daily recommended intake for vitamins A and K, and half the daily recommendation for Vitamin C, in a 2.5 cup serving. Gram for gram this mild-tasting and flowery-looking green contains four times more beta carotene than an apple, and a whopping 238 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin K per 100 grams—two compounds that keep skin dewy and youthful. The beauty food is also the richest dietary source of PEITC (phenylethyl isothiocyanate), which research suggests can fight cancer. Results from an eight-week trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsuggest daily supplementation of 85 grams of raw watercress (that’s about two cups) could reduce DMA damage linked to cancer by 17 percent. Exposure to heat may inactivate PEITC, so it’s best to enjoy watercress raw in salads, cold-pressed juices, and sandwiches.
• Parsley – Parsley is a quiet superfood, so packed with nutrients that even that one sprig can go a long way toward meeting your daily requirement for vitamin K. Moreover, research suggests the summer-y aroma and flavor of chopped parsley may help control your appetite.
• Romaine Lettuce – Romaine is rich in vitamins A and K, but it isn’t quite a mineral powerhouse. Be sure to mix it with some spinach or kale to pack in more antioxidants, or opt for a pre-mixed blend. packs high levels of folic acid, a water-soluble form of Vitamin B that’s proven to boost male fertility. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found supplemental folic acid to significantly increase sperm counts. Folate also plays a role in battling depression — something women suffering with PCOS may be familiar.
• Red and Green Leaf Lettuce – It has a mild taste, making it a good choice for getting vitamins A and K into the diet of children and picky eaters.
• Butter/Bib/Boston Lettuce – Butter lettuce is low in sodium, a good source of vitamin A, and has small amounts of iron and calcium.
• Arugula – It’s a tasty choice with some vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Mix arugula with more nutrient-dense options to pump up the flavor and the antioxidant power of your salad.
• Chicory/Radicchio – A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consume 650 mg a day of polyphenols have a 30 percent chance at living longer than those who consume less than that. A cup of chicory leaves clocks in at about 235 mg (double that of spinach!), so consider adding a little leafy red into your leafy greens.
• Beet Greens – Only 1 cup of the bitter green serves up nearly 5 grams of fiber—that’s more than you’ll find in a bowl of Quaker oats! Researchers at the University of Leeds found that risk of cardiovascular disease was significantly lower for every 7 grams of fiber consumed.
• Chinese Cabbage – Rich sources of highly-available calcium and iron, cruciferous vegetables like the cabbage have the powerful ability to “turn off” inflammation markers thought to promote heart disease. In a study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables (about 1.5 cups per day) had 13 percent less inflammation than those who ate the least.
Your goal is to get in the habit of eating salad, because of it’s nutrients for your body just to function. When at the grocery store, look for something like a Spring Salad Mix which is composed of several different plants; Arugula Romain, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Red Mustard, Beet Greens Let your goal be to consume 7-10 cups of salad a day at first and use whatever dressing helps you to begin that habit. Once you are more accustomed to eating your daily salads, work on lowering the sugar in your dressings. It is recommended to have 1 gram of sugar per tablespoon or less. Making your own would be even better.
Tip: If you purchase salad in a plastic container at the grocery store, after you’ve taken out a serving, fluff the leaves and add a couple sheets of dry unused paper towels to absorb extra moisture before putting the lid on and returning to the refrigerator and your salad will last longer.
Avoid Ice-berg lettuce (not very nutrient dense), and toppings like croutons, dairy high in lactose, dried cranberries or raisins, as well as anything with sugar or any nut topping coated in sugar.
Instead, focus on putting these types of things on your salad:
• Did you know that 1 tsp of Sprouts is equal to 50 tsp of broccoli with phytonutrients?! Add sprouts!
• If you add fat to your salad, you will pull more nutrition out of the salad. Use Bacon Bits, Feta, Olives, Olive Oil, nuts and seeds.
• Add protein like a hard-boiled egg or try 1/4 cup of cold cooked quinoa that is rich in protein as a topping as well. Hummus on the side is also a nice mix in to add moisture to the salad without adding extra dressing.
• A light topping of a beneficial fruit to fight inflammation in the body like: pomegranate, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
• Other vegetables like: sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, cooked beets, radishes, chopped broccoli, cut carrots, diced celery, cucumber slices, diced onions, soybeans, avocado, and peas.
Check out what Dr. Eric Berg has to share about salad portions and what type of greens to eat: