Salads are synonymous with health foods. A colorful combination of fresh greens, vegetables, fruits, fragrant herbs, beans, sprouts, tofu, cheese, rice, pasta, meats, fish or poultry, nuts and seeds — salads can be a perfect accompaniment or a complete meal in itself. Not only does a salad add visual excitement, it also adds flavour, crunch and lends character to the meal. They can be served chilled or warm with sweet, spicy or creamy dressings. The key to a good salad is at least three primary colours and simplicity in flavour.
What makes a salad such an integral part of healthy eating is that you can eat as much of it without worrying about calories. Depending on the other ingredients and the kinds of dressing, content of proteins, fats and carbohydrates vary.
Dressings usually are a clever balance between tangy and sweet. Always choose cold pressed oils like extra-virgin olive or sesame and for a sharper taste mustard can be truly magical.
Creamy dressings can be made lighter with hung curd and low fat mayo, ketchup and mustard. The tang can be provided with natural acids like malt vinegar, rice vinegar or the robust balsamic vinegar, or simply orange juice and lime. Throw in some toasted seeds like sunflower, sesame, flax and nuts to add the crunch.
Low on calories and loaded with fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, salads can help beat the flab without your the need to portion control. They can be treated as free foods, with the exception of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starches which need to be limited.
Salads provide certain vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamins B and C and folic acid, which get destroyed when heated. They also provide special disease fighting plant pigments called phytochemicals, which have antioxidant properties. These chemicals protect us from chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cataract and ageing.
One of the major concerns of salads is their microbiological safety. Make sure that raw vegetables and fruits are thoroughly washed in salted cold water or potassium permanganate solution, if possible. Choose organic produce whenever possible.
If you have a garden, grow as many fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs as you can, organically. Over-ripe or bruised vegetables and fruits can be a source of infection. Make sure that you do not leave cut fruits and vegetables for long durations. In general, avoid eating salads outside the house or in cheap eateries.
With endless varieties and novel combinations right from the good old Russian, coleslaw, tossed green and Caeser to the exotic ones like nicoise, Greek, salads are surely a recipe to good health.