Imagine that we are living in an alternate reality, where we have the liberty to exercise regularly and stay healthy while eating whatever we want, without giving two cents about the number of calories and the ratio of micro and macro nutrients. Isn’t it a dream come true for all of us?
Unfortunately this reality is truly alternate and we aren’t going to live and breathe it, at least in our human forms, which is why we exercise and eat mindfully.
Beginners often look at controlled eating as a compromise, and let’s be honest, we have all been there. Irrespective of what level of fitness and healthy living you are at, the first few weeks or months aren’t that pleasant. It takes substantial results and time to start enjoying the process.
Despite the unpleasant beginnings, there is one lifesaver that is one of the first items we associate with healthy eating. Salads. They make the dieting process a whole lot easier for many at the beginning, however there are a few that aren’t a big fan of it. Here is how today’s lunch hour conversation went at our office -
“Ankita: Hey Suraj, want to grab salad for lunch?”
“Suraj: Salad, are you crazy! That won’t fill me up. And who wants to eat the same boring tasteless half kilo of cucumber again.”
“A: Come on man, salads doesn’t mean only cucumber. Salad can be pretty tasty too. Have you had a chicken pineapple feta cheese salad yet?”
“S: Not yet, but I could give it a shot.”
Well, we definitely made that conversation up, but the truth is that salads are still the most undercovered and “underrecipeed” meals in our country. A lot of us don’t even realize that a salad meal can be prepared with any of our favourite vegetables and fruits and can be mixed with a variety of flavors and textures. It also ticks all the boxes of a balanced diet, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micronutrients.
We are going through a coming of age journey towards salad as a nation. Kids of the 80s and 90s, and everyone before that recall eating the typical Indian salad plate with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes as an add on to the main meal. However, those who grew up during and after the Internet revolution, gained exposure to recipes from across the world, and are now eating a wider variety of green/red/yellow/pink salads. Some have even started replacing their main meal with salads.
While salads are recommended by everyone and they are considered a healthy food form, not everything known about salads is correct. Today, you and I together are going to take a ride to understand more about salads. We are going to beat down some myths and look at the benefits, and in the end, take a call whether to eat or skip it.
Myth #1 - All salad meals are low in calories.
Fact - When it comes to calories, a salad with a range of sauces and dressings will amount to thrice the calories present in your meal. Why? These sauces contain large amounts of sugar and fat. So, opting for a low-fat version of your favourite sauces and going easy on the quantity of salad dressing is the key.
Additionally, tofu, low-fat paneer, beans or skinless chicken are some ingredients that will help make your salad filling, substantial and tasty, when included in salads, and they will also prevent muscle loss, hair loss, fatigue and tiredness.
Myth #2 - All salad dressings are unhealthy.
Fact - Salad dressings contain fat but what counts is the source of the fat. Besides, fats are essential for the absorption of Vitamin A, D, E and K.
A good option is to dress your salad with oils that contain good fats like olive oil, avocado or sometimes hemp with lemon juice, little pepper, garlic paste and oregano. Adding around 1-2 tablespoons of the mentioned oils above is sufficient to give it an aromatic flavour.
Myth #3 - Eating salads is enough to lose weight.
Fact - Salads help you to lose weight because of their high fibre content. However it does not occur by just eating salads alone. A properly balanced meal is always important.
Yes, eating salads alone will lead to weight loss but not the right kind. The weight one loses via extreme dietary changes is more likely to come back, sometimes higher than before!
Therefore, a balanced diet combined with exercise is the key.Always remember that rule of 80% diet and 20% exercise. Though this may vary for every individual, the truth still lies in the common quote at the gym which says, “Abs are made in the kitchen”.
Myth #4 - Salads are made up of only leafy greens.
Fact - Salads are often mistaken by people to be just lettuce and other leafy greens when, in fact, they are a combination of cooked and uncooked vegetables, nuts, beans and grains.
A smart trick is to add different-coloured food ingredients to salads like carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, beetroot and corn which makes it tastier. A colour palette is visually appealing and also provides a variety of nutrients that are essential for the body.
Myth #5 - Salads are suitable for everyone.
Fact - Salads are mostly uncooked veggies which may not be suitable for people suffering from gastrointestinal issues. It is better for them to switch to an alternative after consulting a nutritionist or cook other healthier items.
Food can never be boiled down to a ‘one size fits all’ approach which is why it is necessary to understand what works for you and what does not.
Now that we have debunked the myths, let's take a look at how salads benefit everyone.
#1 Salads are for everyone irrespective of size.
Salads are synonymous with the word weight loss but it is only a part of the whole package. They are also known to help reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases and cholesterol.
As suggested by The American Heart Association Eating Plan, total dietary fibre intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food. So irrespective of being fat or thin, fibre should be a part of everyone’s diet.
#2 Salad are high in antioxidants
They contain a good amount of antioxidants like Vitamin C, E, folic acid, lycopene, alpha & beta carotene. Antioxidants protect your body from harmful substances like free radicals thus leaving glowing skin.
Preparing for a wedding? Including salads and vegetable juices in your diet will help you get into picture-perfect shape when combined with exercise.
#3 Salads provide satisfaction
If you are someone who likes eating big meals or gets hungry easily then salads are the right choice. Being full of fibre, they help in feeling full for longer - commonly known as satiety. Thus, there is an urge to eat less later on which helps us to eat food in moderation and avoid binging on snacks unnecessarily.
#4 Salads contain good fats
The old proverb goes as follows: Prevention is always better than cure. This applies to salads too. Eating a small amount of good fat from olive oil, avocado and nuts everyday with vegetables is good for the body.
It helps absorb protective phytochemicals like lycopene from tomatoes, lutein from dark green vegetables. This helps in reducing bad fats in your body by adding an additional year in one’s life. Yes, fats are differentiated as good and bad and the latter can be obtained via healthy means that help in weight loss too.
Well, that is a lot of dressing, i.e. information on salads for you to digest. Now, it is up to you to decide. So, what will you do, eat or skip?
- Salad and satiety: Energy density and portion size of a first-course salad affect energy intake at lunch. Barbara J.Rolls PhD, Liane S.Roe MPH, RD, Jennifer S.Meengs, RD