Salads are a great way to introduce a variety of superfoods and other tasty, healthy foods into your diet. If you’re trying to avoid gluten or animal products, or you just want a healthier alternative to sandwiches for lunch, superfoods will fill you up and give you a boost.
So, what goes into a superfood salad? Well, that’s entirely up to you! The great thing about all these ingredients is that you can mix them together and make your own creations, or add one or two to a dish you already enjoy. We’ve also included a few suggestions at the end of this article. To give you a better idea of what’s available, let’s take a look at salad-worthy superfoods and other healthy treats.
It’s time to leave behind the iceberg lettuce and look for something a little more nourishing. First up is watercress, a deliciously peppery leafy vegetable with 15 essential vitamins and minerals. It also contains more vitamin C than oranges and more calcium than milk. Rocket is high in vitamins A and C, and spinach is high in iron and fibre. All three are very low in calories and add a delicious crunch to your salad.
It’s really easy to make your own sprouts at home, and there are loads of different varieties to choose from. As well as being tasty in stir-fries, sprouted seeds are delicious raw, and leaving them uncooked means you get the benefit of all the healthy, digestion-aiding enzymes they contain. They’re high in vitamins and iron, and some even have anti-inflammatory properties.
Buckwheat is particularly high in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and co-enzyme Q-10, while fenugreek is great for detoxes and sinusitis, and contains iron and phosphorus. Mung beans are rich in vitamin C, iron and potassium. Sprouted sunflower seeds are in a league of their own – they contain B-complex vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus and potassium. You can even sprout calcium-rich sesame seeds. Unlike buckwheat and mung beans, which are 50 and 80 calories per serving respectively, sprouted sunflower and sesame seeds contain around 180 calories per 25g 25g.
Another essential part of a superfood salad is a portion of healthy veg. Most of these can be eaten cooked or raw, but eating them raw gives you extra benefits, as nutrients like vitamin C are destroyed by heat. You can also use salads as a way to use up extra oven roasted vegetables, as sweet potato, red peppers and roasted onions add a little extra flavour, and a healthy dose of fibre.
Beetroot is a superfood salad staple, providing you with vitamins B1, B2 and C, plus minerals, silicone and beta-carotene. It’s great for your circulation, and including it in a detox salad will help soothe your liver. Turnips can be grated raw – they’re packed with vitamins A and C, as well as calcium for healthy bones. It’s particularly good for sufferers of asthma, sinus and bronchial problems, and it also has detoxing effects. Radishes contain calcium, iron and vitamin C, and the leaves are nutritious too. The star of the bunch has to be kohl-rabi, which contains Omega 3 and 6, several B vitamins, lots of vitamin C, choline and a range of minerals.
All four of these superfoods are super low calorie, ranging from just 16 calories per 100g for radishes, to 43 calories per 100g for beetroot. Kohl-rabi and turnips both contain around 25 calories per 100g.
Pulses for protein
Protein is the part of a meal that really keeps you going, and protein-based superfoods are great for vegetarians and vegans who want a little more variety in their diet, as well as anyone trying to cut down on red meat. All of these pulses have the added benefit of being high in fibre.
Lentils come in all sorts of varieties, and are generally rich in vitamin B and iron. Crunchy chickpeas are high in vitamin B6, folate, minerals and Omega 3 and 6, making them particularly good for expecting mums and anyone trying to lose weight. Butter beans contain a range of B-complex vitamins, many of which are co-enzymes in the metabolism of carbohydrate, protein and fat. They also contain a wide range of minerals, including manganese, calcium, magnesium, molybdenum, iron and copper.
Butter beans and lentils are lower calorie, at around 115 calories per 100g, while chick peas contain around three times as many calories, so portion accordingly.
Add some nuts
Adding nuts and seeds to your salad will give it some extra bite, and there are plenty of tasty ones to choose from. They’re full of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and just a handful can really boost your diet. They do represent the most calorific portion of a superfood salad, so it’s a good idea to weigh them carefully if you’re watching the calories.
Almonds are rich in vitamins E and B, as well as cholate and Omega 3 and 6, and levels of these vital nutrients increase if you soak them before eating. They’re also a great addition to a detox diet. Walnuts are high in Omega 3,6 and 9, plus iron, calcium, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins and folate. Peanuts are rich in unsaturated oils for an extra energy boost, and contain antioxidants like p-coumaric acid. Calorie-wise these are not so great, at around 550-650 calories per 100g, but just a small handful will give you a great boost and should keep hunger at bay.
And some seeds!
Chia seeds are rich in Omega oils, quinoa is a great gluten-free grain alternative that’s low in starch and high in protein, and pumpkin seeds are full of manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. You can also add un-sprouted sunflower and sesame seeds. Quinoa is around 368 calories per 100g, while pumpkin and chia seeds are around 450 calories per 100g.
Putting them all together
Once you know what to choose from, it’s easy to put together a healthy, nutritious salad that will keep you going and boost your body. You can also tailor your salad to your nutritional needs, using sprouting seeds to replace out-of-season summer vegetables or adding nuts and chick peas to replace protein-rich foods that are also high in saturated fat. We’ve put together a few food groups to help you tailor your salads to your needs.
Superfoods for dieting
If you want a salad that fill you up for as little of your daily allowance as possible, the good news is you can eat as much watercress as you like! Chickpeas will provide protein and fibre without adding too many calories, and buckwheat sprouts will give you a vitamin boost. Radishes are the best of the vegetable group, and if you want to avoid fatty, oily dressings, simply sprinkle some freshly squeezed lemon juice over your salad. Don’t forget the black pepper – it contains a substance called piperine which blocks the formation of new fat cells.
Super detox foods
Detoxing makes you feel amazing, and it doesn’t have to be a chore. Leafy vegetables like kohl-rabi and crunchy fenugreek sprouts both have cleansing properties, and you can add avocado slices for a little more substance and detoxify your liver too. Dress with a simple mix of olive oil, cider vinegar, salt and black pepper, and top with crushed almonds. Cider vinegar is great for detoxing, as it’s full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. It also balances your body’s pH levels and helps maintain a healthy gut.
Salads for pregnancy
Eating well when you’re expecting is so important, and there are lots of foods that really support your body when your feet are disappearing from view. Chickpeas, beans and walnuts are naturally high in folate, which is essential for healthy development, as are leafy vegetables like kohl-rabi. Eggs are surprisingly good for pregnancy, giving you 12 minerals and vitamins and some good-quality protein. Roasted sweet potato adds extra taste, as well as giving you fibre, vitamin A and even more folate.
Skin and hair boosters
All the superfoods mentioned above have beauty benefits, but if you really want to treat your skin and hair, some of them are especially good. Walnuts and almonds give you a vitamin E and Omega oil boost, and chia seeds boost collagen and elastin production for smoother, firmer skin. Antioxidant-rich greens like kale and kohl-rabi will help protect you from the effects of harmful UV light, as will avocados, which also contain vitamin E and essential fats. You can also get your anti-oxidants from tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene. Radishes are high in silica, sulphur and vitamin C, which stimulate your circulation and make your skin stronger. You can also roast them with a little turmeric, which soothes inflammation and helps your skin absorb nutrients.
These are just a few suggestions, but you can enjoy your favourite superfoods in any combination you like. Try making your own seed and nut mix to sprinkle on salads, or add one or two items to recipes you already love!