June 23, 2010 in Dinner
This week I’m visiting my family on the east coast, where it’s literally inching its way up to 100 degrees outside! So, it’s pretty much impossible to run or do any physical activity outside (besides tan maybe ). To keep up my workouts, I am resorting to using the exercise equipment in the basement… which is not ideal. But, I gotta do what I gotta do to stay fit, right?
The good news is that I get to eat a lot of salad when I’m home. My family eats a huge plate of salad as a main course before (a much smaller) dinner, which is a great habit that I adopted when I got married. As Sherif mentioned in his post on salad a few weeks ago, not all salads are created equal. Conventionally grown lettuce (which has a lot of pesticides) mixed with a bunch of processed croûtons and heavy salad dressing doesn’t qualify as healthy eating in my book. Salad should be made of up organic vegetables that are tasty and colorful… (and one should definitely skip the artifical dressing and opt for a homemade one instead!)
Health-conscious people and groups talk about eating organic, local, and in season. I think it’s important to also talk about the importance of eating in color. Did you know that eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is a guaranteed way to give your body all the different vitamins and minerals that it needs? I can hear some of you thinking out loud: “But what does color have to do with vitamins?” Or some others (who may not know much about healthy foods) could be saying: “Does that mean that candy or flavored beverages with added “vitamins” can give the same effect?” The short answer is no, of course not.
Now, here’s the long answer. The natural plant pigments that give color to fruits and vegetables are indicative of the different vitamins that are contained within:
- Red fruits and veggies – such as red apples, tomatoes, beets, red cabbage, cherries, red potatoes, watermelon, etc – contain the pigment called lycopene, which has been found to help reduce the risk of a few different types of cancer, and especially prostate cancer (NDSU).
- Yellow fruits and veggies - such as sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, persimmons, squash, etc – contain the pigmant called carotenoids, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body – an essential vitamin for healthy eyes and normal mucous membranes. “Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function” (NDSU).
- White fruits and veggies - garlic, ginger, potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, turnips, etc – contain the pigmant anthoxanthin. Some contain the chemical allicin which lowers cholesterol and blood pressure (NDSU).
- Green fruits and veggies are colored with the pigmant chlorophyll. Some greens, such as spinach, green peppers, peas and cucumbers also contain lutein, which also keeps eyes healthy. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower help protect against cancer (NDSU).
- Blue/Purple fruits and veggies - such as eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, plums, etc – are colored by the natural pigment called anthocyanin, which contains powerful antioxidants that protect against cell damage (NDSU).
Here’s an example of a colorful salad we had a couple of times in the past few weeks:Beet Red Salad on a Bed of Green
The vibrant color of the beets in this salad definitely catches the eye! Beets have amazing cancer-fighting properties, protect against heart disease and reduce inflammation (WH Foods). This purple-crimson color is one of my favorites in the world of raw foods…
This salad is made up of kale, avocados, spinach, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, and raw (not candied) pecans. Dressing consists of extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, black pepper, and crumbles of grass-fed goat cheese:
We made this salad for a couple who came over for dinner a few weeks ago, and they loved it!
Another interesting salad we recently put together: “Colored” Greens
Did you get the play on words? There is such a thing as collard greens though, which is a family of green vegetables that includes swiss chard, cabbage, and broccoli. In terms of nutritional value, “collards are good sources of vitamin C (only when eaten raw, because heat destroys vitamin C) and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties, such as diindolylmethane and sulforaphane” (Wikipedia).
This salad is made up of swiss chard, red dandelion, roma tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mint, green onions and pecans. Dressing was again a simple extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice combo. The fresh mint is always fantastic, but the red dandelion was a bit bitter for my taste. It was my first time trying the swiss chard, and it tasted great!
Have you ever thought about food in terms of color? What interesting salad combinations have you tried putting together?