Salads have been synonymous with health in the past. Salads featured fresh vegetables and were eaten as a side dish all over the world. However, salads have been long redefined from just vegetable dishes to much more and from just side dishes to main dishes. These days, salads do not need to have a single vegetable to be classified as a salad and the ingredients can involve many food groups including seeds and nuts, legumes, roots and tubers. You can easily find recipes for vegetable salads, fruit salads, main meal salads like pasta salad and chicken salads to mention a few.
Salads have sometimes been the go-to meals for those who want to embark on weight loss or improve their nutrition and health. However are they always healthy? No. Here are some ways that your salads may not be healthy:
- High sodium content
Some ingredients in salads such as cheese, bread, dressings or cream contain very high content of sodium (salt is about 40% sodium). Sodium is a necessary mineral for the body. In fact, it is so important in maintaining the body’s electrolyte balance. However, high sodium consumption may place people at a higher risk of hypertension which is linked to cardiovascular diseases as well as a higher risk of stomach cancer. Studies have shown that reducing salt in diets also reduces blood pressure. The DASH diet which is a clinically recognized diet to reduce hypertension promotes consumption of fruits and vegetables which are typically low in sodium but rich in other minerals and vitamins that are beneficial to the body. So, while ingredients such as cheese and bread are delicious in salads, you might need to reduce the quantity especially if you have been asked by your physician to reduce your salt intake and go for healthier and less salty salad dressing options.
- Harmful microorganisms
Fruits and vegetables which usually feature in salads are easily prone to contamination by microorganisms. These microorganisms, especially harmful ones, have been the cause of food poisons in populations all over the world. Because salads often contain raw foods and are eaten at room temperature, it is important to ensure food safety is a priority. Hygiene is important when preparing fruits and vegetables especially because they would not go through the heat process that can eliminate some microorganisms.
- Poor nutrient diversity
If salads are going to be a major meal for you or are replacing your standard meals, then it is important that the salads should meet your nutrient needs. A salad containing just lettuce, tomatoes and onions with salad dressing is not enough to replace your standard meals. A nice plate of main meal salad should contain enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat according to your body’s requirement while having an appreciable quantity of vitamins and minerals. Also, the more diversified your salads are, the more nutrients are available for your body to use. For instance, your protein can be legumes such as beans; chicken, cashew or pea nuts and eggs while vegetables can be cucumber, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, and spinach. If you are preparing salads or ordering from a restaurant, keep diversity in mind.
- Eaten Pesticide-laden fruits and Vegetables
It is not news that the major style of farming in Nigeria is not the organic way. Many farmers use chemical pesticides and herbicides to drive away pests and kill off weeds that threaten their crops, fruits and vegetables inclusive. These chemicals are often sprayed directly on the crops and they contaminate them. Since vegetables and fruits and salads are eaten raw, the possibility of consuming these chemicals is high and is dangerous to the body. One way to reduce the risk of this happening is to thoroughly wash the vegetables before using them. The hope, however, is that Nigeria would move on to safer pesticides and herbicides like the organic farmers have done.