NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Eat A Salad in May!

Eat A Salad in May!

 

            May is National Salad Month!  In case that designation snuck by you, let’s take a nutritional tour of salads and see what they have to offer.

            Salads composed from even a few ingredients make a nutrient-rich meal. The greens alone have calcium, iron, potassium and B vitamins. Many salad basics, including tomatoes, sweet peppers and the greens, are chock-full of antioxidants. Eating salad almost every day may be one of the healthiest eating habits you can adopt.

            Eating enough fiber earlier in life lowers the risk of developing heart disease later in life, according to researchers at Northwestern University. Vegetables in salads are good sources of insoluble fiber, which keeps your digestive tract healthy. If you add nuts, seeds or beans to the salad, you’ll get a boost of soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and keeps blood sugar balanced. Men should consume 38 grams and women 25 grams of fiber in their daily diet. One cup of iceberg lettuce with one-half carrot and one-quarter of a red pepper provides 7 percent of men’s and 10 percent of women’s daily fiber intake.

            Many salad ingredients contain vitamin C and vitamin A in the form of antioxidant carotenoids. In addition to 7 milligrams of vitamin C, 1 cup of spinach has 93 percent and green leaf lettuce has 88 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Add half of a medium-sized carrot and you'll gain more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin A. Vegetables that have a better mix of both antioxidants include sweet red peppers, tomatoes and broccoli. Sweet red peppers are an especially good choice. One-half cup provides 77 percent of the daily intake of vitamin A and 158 percent of vitamin C.

            If you frequently eat green salads, you will likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E, folic acid, lycopene and beta-carotene. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

            Consuming protein regularly is essential as your body can not store protein.  Leafy greens make the perfect platform for ingredients that turn a salad into a rich source of protein. Choose low-fat cheese and lean meat such as chicken or turkey, but watch the portion sizes so the calories don't add up. You can count on an average of 20 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving of meat or poultry. One-half cup of beans or a 1-ounce serving of nuts or seeds adds about 5 to 10 grams of protein. If your salad is going to be your main course, make it a balanced meal with the addition of some lean protein. Good quality protein sources for serving with your greens include tofu, eggs, tuna, salmon, prawns (or shrimp), nuts and seeds, lean chicken and turkey, as well as low-fat cheeses, cottage cheese and yogurt.

            One tablespoon of vegetable oil has about 120 calories, but as long as you watch the serving size, salad dressings have nutritional benefits. Your body needs some dietary fat to properly absorb vitamins A, E and K, so vegetable oil helps you get the most nutrients from your salad. One tablespoon of vegetable oil has about 14 grams of fat, but it has little saturated fat and no cholesterol. Instead, vegetable oil provides healthy unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol. If you use canola, olive, soybean, flaxseed or walnut oil, you'll also gain omega-3 fatty acids

 

Chicken & White Bean Salad

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  • Ingredients for homemade vinaigrette or use purchased:
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons fresh orange juice, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup white-wine vinegar or red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
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  • Ingredients for salad
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained

  • 2½ cups diced cooked chicken breast
  • 2 cups diced zucchini and/or summer squash (about 2 small)
  • 1½ cups diced celery
  • ¼ cup finely diced feta cheese or use your favorite firm cheeese
  • ⅓ cup chopped, well-drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • ¼  chopped fresh basil, plus whole basil leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste (optional)
  • 4 cups torn escarole, romaine lettuce or other assorted greens

 

For vinaigrette: Peel the garlic and smash with the side of a chef's knife. Using a fork, mash the garlic with ¼ teaspoon salt in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in 5 tablespoons oil. Add 6 tablespoons orange juice, vinegar and mustard; whisk until well blended. Taste and whisk in up to 4 tablespoons more juice to mellow the flavor; season with more salt, if desired. Set aside at room temperature.

 

For salad: Combine beans, chicken, zucchini, celery, cheese and sun-dried tomatoes (if using) in a large bowl until well blended. Add chopped basil (if using) and ¾ cup vinaigrette; toss until combined. Taste and season with salt and/or pepper, if desired. Toss the remaining vinaigrette with greens in a medium bowl. Serve the salad on the greens

 

            With the hot summer weather arriving quickly, a cool crisp salad can be the basis for a light and refreshing meal.

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