Summer is when you make friends with your salad bowl. As the mercury soars, you’ll find yourself craving for that big bowl of chilled leaves dressed up in a spicy-sour dressing even more. But are all salads really healthy and good for you? How to do make them less boring? Which leaves should you eat and which ones to avoid? Are raw veggies really a good addition to your diet? There are too many questions that come up when one thinks of salad (if you think of salad at all, that is). We try to debunk some myths with the help of experts.
Myth 1: All salads are diet-friendly
Just because it has veggies it in, does not mean it’s healthy. “Sometimes salads are loaded with highly processed cheeses, [or] dressed with packaged mayonnaise and processed mustard that has preservatives and emulsifiers, and can be far from healthy,” says Vanika Choudhary, founder of Sequel. She also insists on checking the quality of oil used in the dressing, and how are the vegetables are washed.
Myth 2: Salads are always boring
This is far from true. With the right ingredient combination, a good summer salad can taste better than a restaurant meal. What’s not to like about a honey roasted pumpkin salad, served with baked beetroot and a sprightly citrusy olive oil dressing? Look up the right references—from salad guru Yotam Ottolenghi’s creations to Jamie Oliver’s bright toss-ups that taste better an average biryani. “What makes a salad interesting is the right balance of flavour, vibrant colours and different textures,” adds Choudhary.
Myth 3: All raw veggies are good for you
“Inorganic raw veggies that are grown using pesticides are obviously not as safe or nutrient-rich as organic raw veggies,” says Choudhary. Raw food is definitely more bioavailable (easy for the body to extract nutrients out of), but people suffering from GI issues may not be able to digest them so well. Therefore, before assuming that something is good for you because it’s raw, you need to ensure that it works for your body type. Besides, there are several warm, cooked salad options to pick from as well.
Myth 4: Lettuce is the best green for your salad
Understanding the nutrition content of your leaves is important. “There are different kinds of lettuce—while iceberg is low in calories, it’s not very high in nutrient profile. Butter head lettuce, on the other hand, is a great source of iron, copper and potassium, but it’s hardly used,” says Choudhary. There are also other nutrient-rich greens that can be used in salads, ranging from radicchio to kale, baby kale, wild arugula, baby spinach, Swiss chard, water cress—so why not experiment with them?
Myth 5: You can’t mix fruit and veggies
It’s a common misconception that putting fruit in a salad is a big no-no. In fact, thinly sliced green apples or bits of pineapple can go a long way in adding taste and texture to your salad. But don’t overcomplicate things by adding too many fruits, unless it’s a fruit salad (of course).
Myth 6: Salad is equal to weight loss
“Salads with croutons, cheese, nuts and avocado are healthy, but also calorific,” explains Khushbu Thadani, nutritionist and life coach, K Weigh. According to Thadani, there is no magic meal to weight loss, and simply eating salad is definitely not getting you anywhere. Healthy weight loss is a combination of workout and ideal diet plans, so make sure to include both in your regimen.
Myth 7: It’s okay to skip lunch and just eat salad
Eating leaves is not going to be good enough to keep you sustained, feels Thadani. She says, “It totally depends on what you are putting in [the salad].” A good one should provide you with all your nutrients, such as protein (chicken, egg, tofu), complex carbs (sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa) and leaves—only then is it okay to eat salad for lunch.
Myth 8: If it has an avocado, it’s good for me
“While avocado is a great source mono-unsaturated fatty acid, it’s also high in calories,” says Thadani. She informs us that if weight loss is your goal, portion control is crucial when it comes to avocado. Besides, most people are unaware that the local avocado is always a better option to the international one that has probably taken weeks to get to you, thereby being nutritionally inferior.
Myth 9: It’s not healthy if it doesn’t have greens
A salad is not just leaves. Warm salads or salads that are a combination of cooked and uncooked veggies make for much more interesting food choices. There is diversity of texture and flavour when you pack in your salad with nuts, grains, baked veggies and so on. “Make sure your salad has at least three kinds of veggies. Easy rule is one of each colour, an orange carrot, green broccoli and red tomato,” says Thadani.
Myth 10: Salad dressings are good for you
“Again, not all,” says Thadani. Salad dressings that are made of virgin oils or yoghurts are relatively better for you than cream or mayo-based ones. And store-bought dressings may be laced with preservatives that won’t add to your nutrient intake as well. “Be careful about how much you are adding. One to two tbsp for a salad bowl is good and homemade is always better,” she concludes.