With mercury levels start soaring, this might be the right time to think about adding more greens to your diet, and salads are the best way to do it.
The very word salad conjures up a colourful array of images, of vegetables, fruits and what not, mixed and dressed with the choicest of exotic oils. Though salad has become a common dish on our dining tables, people associate it with many concepts.
Some say it’s a mish-mash borrowed from the west, others call it the diabetics’ best food and fitness freaks call it their slimming mantra. Anyway, salads is here to stay. With dietitians and doctors vouching for its health benefits and giving a clarion call to have salads at all times, the greens and beans and sprouts are the in-thing today. Add fruits, leaves, nuts and meat to these vegetables and you get a bowl-full of health mixture and a medicinal combo too.
With the mercury threatening to shoot up alarmingly, it would be in the best interests of folks to avoid junk food and turn instead to salads which can keep the body cool at all times.
Origin of the word 'salad'
One could trace the origins of the word to the French “salade”. It could also be pegged with the Latin “salata”. Somehow or the other, the word got associated with the root “sal”, meaning salt. The word salad gained currency in 14th century England when the word was used for the first time in that language.
A brief history
History has a record of ancient Greeks and Romans enjoying lavish helpings of salads. The habit then spread out to Europe. Old English manuscripts also have records of people dining on salads. There are also jottings on the different types of oil used in salad dressings. The health platter has become so popular that top hotels have salad bars today.
When to have salad
It’s an any-time, all-time food. But it’s an ideal dinner-time serving. Having a bowl of salad every day at dinner is a habit worth cultivating. Not to be satiated by the same mix every day, it’s ideal to keep changing the salad items. Salads help keep the body hydrated all day round.
Variety is the spice of salads. You can have a mix of everything. Eggs, meat, sprouts and nuts can be mixed with a bit of fruits thrown in to give it an exotic taste. Yoghurt, curds, mayonnaise, salads oils and vinegar can jack up the flavour and taste of salads.
Salads can be marked separately for special or different occasions. It all depends on time salads are served.
Appetizer salad: This is served well before the main course.
Side salad: This is served along with the main course. It’s given the status of a side dish.
Main course salad: This is also known as the dinner salad, rich in protein content. It’s a mix of chicken, beef, cheese and seafood.
Sweet salad: These are dessert salads. They are a mix of cheese, cream and multiple fruits.
Salads can also be differentiated based on their particular contents. Thus we have green salads and garden salads with the main contents being lettuce, cucumber and spinach.
Vegetable salads are the most popular varieties with tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, big onions and all possible vegetables going into its making.
These salads are bound in by mayonnaise. Pasta salad, chicken salad and egg salad are some common examples. Though these salads are rich in taste, they are neither high in nutrients nor good heath substitutes as the processed ingredients in them make these salads less inviting.
The health benefits
Salads are after all a combination of all sorts of nutrients. The good side of salads is their ability to kill hunger pangs in a healthy way without making a dent in one’s pocket too. They can be whipped up easily too. Salads being rich in fibre, water and other nutrients are ideal health foods. It’s the best health substitute for diabetics and those with high BP. Salads help the obese trim down and maintain their weight as they are not calorie-heavy. Perhaps the best feature of salads is the goodness of raw, uncooked vegetables which are rich in nutrients, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
However much you eat, salads never pack on the fat. On the contrary, they prevent fat accumulation and keep sugar levels under control. The fibre content in salads is a big constipation buster. Salads are best for the elderly as they maintain strict control over calories. A cup of salad contains only about 50 gm of energy.
Salads are again the best bet for lifestyle diseases, especially in the Kerala context where most people are afflicted by sedentary habits and very little exercise. Health experts have sounded the alarm and citizens are being warned to turn to salads for healthy sustenance.
There are a few things which salad eaters need to pay heed to. Since fruits and vegetables, especially the leafy varieties are sprayed with dangerous levels of pesticides, it’s vital that they be washed thoroughly in running water. They are then to be soaked in water mixed with turmeric, salt or vinegar and set aside for an hour or more. They are to be cleaned once again before use. Look out for price drops and go in for vegetables that are easily and lavishly available. Opt for seasonal fruits as well.
Details courtesy of:
Dr B Padmakumar, Prof and Head of the Dept of Medicine,
Govt Medical College, Kollam