Now that the sun is shining, and the days are getting warmer, salads have become popular again! Snack lunches and main meals can easily centre on fresh salad. Experiment with different vegetables to create interesting textures and a variety of tastes. Try:
I also love adding roasted vegetables to a crisp lettuce base, such as roasted tomatoes, chunks of soft-baked butternut squash, slithers of roasted red pepper or slices of pan-roasted red onion. The idea of adding steamed vegetables to a salad also adds variety. An original salad with this idea is a salad nicoise, using cooked french beans as a salad base. I like adding steamed green beans and tossing with finely sliced onion and tomato for tasty, light salad variation.
The possibilities of ways to use vegetables in salads is endless, but there are a couple of things you can do to increase the nutrient value of your vegetables.
A study from Purdue University in 2012 showed that adding monounsaturated oil, such as olive oil, might increase the absorption of nutrients from the vegetables. Olive Oil Times writes:
Previous research has showed that carotenoids, such as beta-carotene were more bioavailable, in other words were more easily absorbed by the body, when fat was present in the salad. Carotenoids are pigments that are responsible for the bright colours of fruit and vegetables and are associated with a variety of health benefits such as protection from cancer and heart disease and promotion of eye health.
For this study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers gave 29 participants salad with either a saturated fat dressing, a monounsaturated fat dressing or a polyunsaturated fat dressing. Each salad was served with 3 grams, 8 grams or 20 grams of fat from dressing. The participants had their blood tested for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids, compounds such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
While all fats promoted absorption of the carotenoids, the salad dressing that contained the monounsaturated fat (the main type of fatty acids in olive oil) promoted the equivalent carotenoid absorption at 3 grams of fat as it did 20 grams. In other words it required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit. This makes monounsaturated fat such as olive oil, a great choice for those watching their fat or calorie intake.
Wayne Campbell, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition Science at Purdue University, then went on to conduct a study to assess the effects of egg consumption on carotenoid absorption from a raw mixed-vegetable salad. Sixteen healthy young men ate three versions of the salad — one with no egg, one with 1.5 scrambled whole eggs, and another with 3 scrambled whole eggs. Those who ate the highest egg amount with the salad of tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, and romaine lettuce, increased absorption of carotenoids 3-9 times!
Try keeping some organic, free-range eggs pre boiled in the fridge, ready to finely chop and add into a salad. Or go mediterranean, and have an egg salad for breakfast!
Adding an extra virgin olive oil dressing can increase flavour to a salad. Look out for a good quality organic extra virgin olive oil. Use it either on its own or blend with some lemon or lime juice. Try adding some finely grated lime zest, a shake of chives or a pinch of ground mustard. Experiment, and create your own salad dressing recipe!