Who doesn’t dream of an easy shortcut to perfect health? Maybe it’s a magic pill, or a new diet. I pop two gummi-vites every morning under the blissful delusion that I’m insuring my long term well-being. The idea of super foods, or foods that possess unusual health giving properties, is so tempting. Good thing for all of us that they actually do exist. And the list is surprisingly long, too. They may not be magic, but if you eat a variety of them, over time, they can make a real difference. I thought it would be fun to corral a bunch of them into one super healthy, super delicious and colorful salad to start the week, and the year, off in the right direction.
Did you ever make the embarrassing mistake of answering ‘yes!’ when a waiter asks if you’d like Soup or Salad? It’s an oldie but goodie. A Super Salad sounds great, I think we’d all say yes to one. The thing is, if you eat a salad like this a few times a week, you’ll automatically up your health quotient. If you just shop and eat according to the ever growing list of super foods, you can’t go wrong. Even though most super food lists only cover a fraction of true health food heroes, they’re a good place to start.
For a super healthy salad, start with dark leafy greens, the darker the better. I like baby greens because they taste better. Go with dark baby greens like kale and spinach rather than the baby lettuce mixes you see in the supermarket. Those lettuces not only aren’t as healthful, but I hate the way they collapse and wilt at the first drop of dressing. Chop up some fresh tomatoes, that’s a no-brainer. Then choose among the many fresh citrus varieties like Ruby Red grapefruit or clementines. I used Cara Cara oranges because I love that peachy color. I learned many years ago that tomatoes and citrus go surprisingly well together, so don’t hesitate to mix them. If you use heirloom tomatoes you can create beautiful color palettes by mixing and matching the two.
Berries of all kinds are counted as super foods, so go for your favorite, but blueberries seem to appear over and over again, even on short lists. Ditto for nuts, so choose any nut you want, I happen to love pistachios in salads. As for cheese, feta is one of the healthiest, and the strong flavor means you need to use less of it for a big impact. Mozzarella is a good alternative, too, but not as flavorful. The pomegranate seeds are the finishing touch. When I cracked mine open I found that I had a ‘white’ pomegranate, a variety with pale pink or white seeds, how fun! There’s no harm in thinking of this as an art project, either, beautiful food is healthy food so go for pleasing combinations of color and texture. This salad is just one of a zillion iterations of the concept of a nutritional powerhouse salad. I didn’t even get to grains or beans, in this one. I think I need to do a series of these, so stay tuned.
Even the dressing for this salad is stacked for health, with olive oil, more citrus, and chia seeds. Use them like poppy seeds…they’re full of concentrated vitamins, minerals, and omego-3s. They have tons of fiber, and when you mix them with a liquid, aka salad dressing, they will actually thicken it. You could sprinkle them right on top of the salad as well.
There are both long and short lists of super foods, and every one has a slightly different take on the subject…some are focused on weight loss, others on fighting disease, etc. The more you look into it the more you realize that most fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains, vegetable oils and a few outliers like yogurt, tea, dark chocolate and eggs make an appearance on one list or another. Some people like the convenience of a list to keep them inspired, others are suspicious…who decides what is and what isn’t a super food? I think common sense and centuries of human eating patterns give a pretty clear answer. But anyway, it’s January — it’s tradition that we obsess about our health a little.
Do you believe in super foods??