Summer is the season of salads, and never has there been a better summer than this one to enjoy them. With the many days of consecutive sunshine and warmth we have recently been experiencing, what better way to cool yourself down than by eating a delicious, healthy, crisp, cold salad packed full of all the good stuff. Don’t make the mistake of associating limp lettuce leaves and one or two tomatoes as a salad. This may like to masquerade as a salad, but compared to the many other colorful salad ingredients available there are far more exciting and delicious additions that can be eaten instead.
So if your salads need a bit of excitement, colour or creativity adding to them, which will also have the added benefit of boosting your health, by packing in the nutrients too, then read on to find out the top salad ingredients that should be in your salad bowl this summer.
Hold the lettuce
Lettuce is usually synonymous with salads, but it doesn’t have to be! This may come as a shock to many who rely heavily on lettuce to create the base of all their salads, but let’s face it, lettuce can be a bit boring. It may be low in calories, but lettuce itself does not offer too much nutritional value, especially if we are talking iceberg lettuce. Instead of making lettuce the main ‘green base’ of your salad, why not use spinach, rocket leaves or giant watercress, all of which are packed full of Vitamin C, Magnesium, Vitamin A and E, as well as a host of B vitamins too, so definitely a more preferable choice than just lettuce.
As an addition or instead of this, you could also make the base of your salads out of chopped fresh herbs, which can really make a salad and the taste buds come alive due to the wonderful flavours they provide. A mixture of parsley, coriander, basil and mint are great choices. Not only are herbs packed full of nutrients, but they also offer a variety of health benefits too. For example, basil leaves contain a natural compound called eugenol, which has been shown to aid digestion, has a strong anti-inflammatory action as well as having a positive effect on the nervous system with some evidence showing it could possibly help alleviate mild depression and anxiety. Coriander also contains many medicinal compounds that have been shown to have many health boosting properties including, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, helping aid digestion and reducing diarrhoea symptoms. Coriander also contains Citronellol, which has antiseptic properties and has been found to be useful in the treatment of mouth ulcers. You certainly don’t get any of those benefits from lettuce!
Don’t forget the Veg
When making salads, it is easy just to stick with using the classic salad vegetables and forget about all the other vegetables available that can just as easily be added to a salad. Remember that salad does not always have to be all cold either and you could add some ingredients that have been heated such as roasted vegetables. This is a great way of adding more nutrients and taste into a salad and if you didn’t want to use them whilst warm, you can still roast the vegetables and then leave to go cold in the fridge and add to your salad the following day. Roasted red onions, courgettes, aubergines and peppers all add both great colour and taste to a salad.
Aubergines are very rich in antioxidants, specifically one called nasunin, found in the aubergine skin. Nasunin has been shown to be specifically beneficial for brain health as it has been shown to help protect the fats found in brain cell membranes. Red onions contain a potent bioflavonoid called Queretin, which not only is a powerful antioxidant but it also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties too. You may just want a mint to eat afterwards!
Another good way of adding courgette to a salad is to just grate it and eat it raw. Full of Vitamin C and a high source of Potassium, which is helpful for correct muscle contraction and the nervous system, it’s another way of getting green into a salad without lettuce!
The Power of Pulses
Never underestimate the power of pulses, which can so easily be added to all types of salads, and you hardly know they are even there. This is as simple as buying a tin of mixed pulses, draining them and throwing them into your salad bowl. What could be easier than that! The four most common pulses are beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas, all of which can be eaten warm or cold (once they have been cooked properly). Adding pulses to salads helps to make the salad far more filling than would otherwise be the case, so unlike some salads that can leave you feeling hungry again within an hour of eating, if you add pulses to it will keep you full for much longer. This is because they are a high source of fibre and a complex carbohydrate, which both keep you fuller for longer as they are more slowly digested.
Pulses are also a rich source of the nutrients iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, folate and potassium and are an especially great choice for vegans and vegetarians as iron can often be lacking in these diets.
Cheese, glorious cheese
A salad really needs a bit of protein and although this can be achieved through the addition of pulses, lentils or meat, you can’t beat cheese for both taste and high protein status. Delamere Dairy Greek goat cheese lends itself perfectly to be crumbled on top of salads and goes deliciously well with beetroot. Or if Greek cheese doesn’t suit your pallet, the milder Delamere Dairy goats’ cheese log, either plain or infused with honey, which can easily be tossed in your salad to add a bit of light creaminess to the crunch of all that veg. New for 2018 Delamere Dairy has launched its goats’ cheese pearls which can be sprinkled into salads which are quick and convenient, and most importantly, tasty!
Nuts and seeds
I realise we are not birds, but nuts and seeds can be enjoyed by humans too, and should be, as they offer so many health benefits. Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and pine nuts are the best seed options to sprinkle in a salad, and the nuts almonds and pistachios give salad an additional crunch, but also offer a good creamy texture that not all nuts offer. Like pulses they are a great source of fibre and protein so will help to keep you fuller for longer too. Like all nuts, pistachios contain healthy omega 3-fatty acids needed for, amongst other things, healthy brain function, healthy aging and offers excellent anti-inflammatory properties so can be very useful for people with skin conditions such as eczema or other inflammatory disorders.
A sweet note
For those that have a bit of a sweet tooth, there are many ingredients that can offer a sweet hit to a salad and just a small handful of fresh or dried fruit can go a long way in a salad. Pomegranates are a high source of polyphenols and have been proven to help reduce muscle soreness and also offer an anti-inflammatory affect. Surprisingly they also have antibacterial and antimicrobial effects too, so can be helpful in the fight against yeast infections such as candida. Sprinkling some pomegranate seeds over your salad is therefore a good option to create a sweet juicy flavour with your salad. Dried apricots and sultanas and fresh apples or grapes chopped into small pieces are also great additions to mix into a salad and also go very well with the Delamere Dairy goats’ cheese mentioned above. Or you can even add a hint of sweetness with the cheese itself by crumbling over some of the Delamere Dairy honey goats’ cheese log or pearls. Delicious!
There is no excuse why your summer diet cannot be packed with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that you can easily combine to make some delicious and filling salads. All the research tells us the extensive health benefits of eating at least five fruit and veg a day and ideally it should be even more! During the summer, this can be more easily done as so many fruits and vegetables are in season so are naturally tastier. See what colourful salads you can concoct using some of the ideas above and even better get the children involved too. We would love to see your colourful creations on Facebook too, so send us a photo and make our mouths water.