Types of Salad - Guide to the healthy and not so healthy ingredients for a salad.
Today the word "salad" can conjure up a thousand images.
These images may include a bowl of wilted lettuce with a few slices of tomato and cucumber thrown on top, or a beautifully designed work-of-art on a plate, full of bright colours, different textures and hidden delights.
Today, a salad can mean a whole host of exciting things, and it doesn't even have to contain lettuce anymore.
Traditional V modern
A classic "green salad" does in fact consist of green leaves. However, nowadays there are more than just a few types of green salad leaves including several kinds of lettuce, endive, rocket, watercress and spinach, to name a few.
Other types of salad, which are more filling and could feature as a meal in itself, include ingredients such as pasta, rice, beans, potato and chickpeas.
A number of different fruits and vegetables are often added, combined with a dressing of some kind.
How healthy is your salad?
Salads are generally thought of healthy but this is not always the case, depending on what ingredients you put into it and also on top of it.
Toppings such as bacon bits and croutons contain unhealthy fats and can add a serious number of calories to the meal.
Additionally, nuts and seeds are a healthier option but also contain a lot of calories. If you are not particularly worried about losing weight, then there is no cause for concern, as nuts are a good source of protein and essential polyunsaturated fats that the body needs.
Furthermore, watch out for ingredients such as cheese, cured meats, and fried chicken for example, as all of these ingredients will load up the calories and they also contain unhealthy saturated fats that if consumed in excess can clog up the arteries with cholesterol and lead to serious heart problems amongst other things.
Dressings and condiments
Many people serve a plain salad on its own with maybe just a sprinkling of salt. This can be slightly boring, so other people tend to add a dressing of some kind or serve their salad with a dollop of mayonnaise or salad cream on the side.
Mayonnaise is highly fattening. Just one tablespoon of mayonnaise contains between 50 - 100 calories and between 5 - 10 g of fat. A better choice would be a low-fat dressing such as lemon juice and vinegar or natural low-fat yoghurt mixed with salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and herbs. Olive oil and cider vinegar is popular in many Mediterranean countries and although the oil is fairly calorific, it protects the heart and rids the body of bad cholesterol.
Get your fruit and veg
Eating a healthy salad every day, either with or before your meal, is an excellent way to ensure that you consume the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Filling up on a salad before your main meal, may also ensure that you become satiated much quicker and are less likely to eat a pudding or too much of a less healthy main course. This will help if you are trying to lose weight.
Raw fruit and vegetables, as contained in a salad, are more nutritious than cooked fruit and vegetables, due to the fact that essential vitamins and minerals have not been lost during the cooking process.
A picture of health
As you know, salad leaves such as lettuce, are low in calories and can contain up to 90% water.
But are you also aware that they contain a number of vital vitamins and minerals that help to keep the body healthy and ward of disease, such as vitamins A and C, calcium, copper, potassium and iron?
Providing that you do not load up your salad with unhealthy meats, cheese or dressings, then eating a fresh and healthy salad every day, with a variety of ingredients, is a great way of protecting your body from disease, keeping your internal organs healthy and giving your outer appearance a healthy glow and shine.
Raw fruit and vegetables contain powerful anti-oxidants (vitamins A and C) that will protect against heart disease and cancer, as well as anti-ageing vitamins and minerals that promote healthy, clear skin, shiny hair and strong nails.
The base of the salad
Not all salads need to consist of a lettuce base, however, lettuce is excellent for poor digestion and constipation and it also helps with circulatory problems such as fluid retention and cellulite - hoorah! It also acts as a basket for the rest of the ingredients.
The good news is that there are several options to choose from rather than be stuck with the same old iceberg lettuce each time. For a healthier option, choose darker green leaves, as they contain up to 50% more beta carotene (converts to vitamin A) than paler greens.
Good choices of green leaves are:
Cos (romaine) lettuce
This lettuce has dark green leaves and contains much more beta carotene than the paler types.
This is a pale, long salad leaf vegetable. It is rich in vitamin B. It has a slightly bitter taste but the leaves are crispy and add a good texture to the salad.
Curly, green leaves with a bitter taste. Inner leaves are milder in flavour.
A round and compact shape with pale green leaves and not much taste. Iceberg is a good source of folate, which is important for pregnant women.
Small leaves, similar to watercress in appearance. Fresh leaves are sweeter in taste.
These are green leaves with a red colour at the tip. It is one of the healthiest salad leaves, as the red leaves contain enormous amounts of flavonoids in comparison to other types of leaves. Flavonoids protect the heart and reduce blood pressure.
This is a red type of chicory that looks like a small cabbage in shape. It is very bitter in flavour and should be mixed with other leaves.
Small, elongated, feathery leaves with a peppery taste - delicious with Parmesan. Rocket is related to cress, watercress and cabbage.
Raw spinach can be added to salads. They have a delicate taste but are very rich in iron, potassium, calcium and vitamins A, B, C and K.
Watercress is rich in minerals and vitamins. The leaves are dark and full of iron and calcium and they are quite strong tasting.
Other salad ingredients
A good salad does not necessarily have to contain 1000 ingredients. Even just three ingredients that go well together can turn out to be delicious and mouth-watering.
Other common ingredients that you can add to your base of salad leaves are:
Cucumber, tomato, radish, carrot, beetroot, peppers, cabbage, sweetcorn, onion, olives, celery and avocado.
Some more unusual ingredients may include:
Raw broccoli or cauliflower, courgette, green beans, peas, apple, gherkin, orange, mango, raisins, grapes, pear, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, alfalfa sprouts, chickpeas, kale, rice, asparagus, leek, bean sprouts, mushrooms, fennel, peach, capers, potatoes.
Protein ingredients may include:
Roast chicken, turkey or beef, salami, pastrami, ham, frankfurter, tuna, sardines, shrimp
, anchovy, cheese, bacon, hard-boiled egg
Don't forget that you can make salads more attractive by preparing vegetables in a variety of ways such as shredding, chopping, dicing and even cutting into shapes.
Be creative when arranging the ingredients on the plate and pretend that you are designing a work-of-art or flower arrangement.
Looking at all of the above ingredients, you should be able to create a number of new and exciting salads to try.
If you need some help or just some fresh ideas, browse through our salad recipe pages, as we have chosen recipes for all occasions and all tastes.
We will soon be adding a page of salad dressing recipes for those of you who are tired of using the same dressing or are fed up with seeing that dollop of mayonnaise on the side of your plate.