The salad is the main dish – and the dressing is crucial
By Dr. Joel Fuhrman
For years, I have advised my patients and readers to make salad
the main dish – here’s why:
Eating large salads is an effective weight loss strategy. Raw
leafy greens contain less than 100 calories per pound, so you can
eat huge quantities of these healthful foods with almost no
caloric impact. Leafy greens and other raw vegetables are bulky
and rich in fiber, which promotes satiety and blunts
appetite. For those that desire to lose large amounts of
weight, eating a large salad at the start of lunch and dinner is
extremely helpful. It has been shown in scientific studies that
women who started their lunch with salads consumed fewer calories
from the rest of the meal; plus, larger salads had greater
calorie-reducing effects.1, 2
Salads provide powerful health benefits – especially with the
High intake of salad, leafy greens, or raw vegetables has been
linked to reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and
several cancers.3-8 Cruciferous leafy greens often used in salads
such as kale, arugula and cabbage are rich in anti-cancer and
cardioprotective compounds.9, 10 Lettuces are rich in antioxidant
phytochemicals such as carotenoids and quercetin; eating lettuce
has been shown to increase blood antioxidant capacity.11, 12
There is an important issue to note here: the maximal benefits of
leafy greens can only be realized if their phytochemicals are
efficiently absorbed. Beneficial fat-soluble phytochemicals
– like carotenoids – can only be effectively absorbed in the
presence of fats. 13, 14 This means that using a fat-free
dressing severely limits the health benefits you obtain from your
However, I don’t recommend adding oil to salads in order to absorb
the carotenoids; oils are calorie-dense, nutrient-depleted
processed foods. Adding hundreds of empty calories to one’s
salad counteracts the negative caloric effect of the raw
vegetables, promoting weight gain; excess weight increases the
risk of heart disease and cancer. 15-17 This is why I recommend
nut-based and/or seed-based salad dressings. Nuts and seeds are
high in fat, but they are extremely healthful foods. You get
healthy fats to absorb carotenoids, plus all the additional health
benefits that come along with eating nuts and seeds regularly,
like lower cholesterol, enhanced endothelial function and
reduced risk of heart disease. Plus nuts and seeds provide
additional satiating power to salads, which contributes to
maintaining a healthy weight. Many studies have now confirmed that
eating nuts and seeds, contrary to popular belief, does not
promote weight gain.18, 19 Blending nuts, seeds, fruit, vinegar,
herbs and spices into a salad dressing not only makes your salad
taste great, but increases its nutritional value.
Not everyone has the time to make their own nut-based dressings all the time, and it is certainly helpful to keep some healthy dressing on hand for busy evenings and quick meals. There are simply no readily available salad dressings on grocery store shelves that are healthful enough; most are loaded with oil, salt, and/or sugar. So I designed a line of salad dressings made from natural whole foods and nothing more – healthy fats from raw nuts and seeds and great flavor from vinegars, fruit, herbs and spices.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
1. Roe LS, Meengs JS, Rolls BJ: Salad and satiety. The effect of timing of salad consumption on meal energy intake. Appetite 2012;58:242-248.
2. Rolls BJ, Roe LS, Meengs JS: Salad and satiety: energy density and portion size of a first-course salad affect energy intake at lunch. J Am Diet Assoc 2004;104:1570-1576.
3. Lockheart MS, Steffen LM, Rebnord HM, et al: Dietary patterns, food groups and myocardial infarction: a case-control study. Br J Nutr 2007;98:380-387.
4. Oude Griep LM, Verschuren WM, Kromhout D, et al: Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011;65:791-799.
5. Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, et al: Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2010;341:c4229.
6. WCRF/AICR Expert Report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.: World Cancer Research Fund; 2007.
7. Bessaoud F, Daures JP, Gerber M: Dietary factors and breast cancer risk: a case control study among a population in Southern France. Nutr Cancer 2008;60:177-187.
8. Link LB, Potter JD: Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13:1422-1435.
9. Higdon J, Delage B, Williams D, et al: Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res 2007;55:224-236.
10. Zakkar M, Van der Heiden K, Luong le A, et al: Activation of Nrf2 in endothelial cells protects arteries from exhibiting a proinflammatory state. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2009;29:1851-1857.
11. Garg M, Garg C, Mukherjee PK, et al: Antioxidant potential of Lactuca sativa. Anc Sci Life 2004;24:6-10.
12. Serafini M, Bugianesi R, Salucci M, et al: Effect of acute ingestion of fresh and stored lettuce (Lactuca sativa) on plasma total antioxidant capacity and antioxidant levels in human subjects. Br J Nutr 2002;88:615-623.
13. Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al: Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:396-403.
14. Goltz SR, Campbell WW, Chitchumroonchokchai C, et al: Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans. Molecular nutrition & food research 2012;56:866-877.
15. Coutinho T, Goel K, Correa de Sa D, et al: Central obesity and survival in subjects with coronary artery disease: a systematic review of the literature and collaborative analysis with individual subject data. J Am Coll Cardiol 2011;57:1877-1886.
16. Cornier MA, Marshall JA, Hill JO, et al: Prevention of overweight/obesity as a strategy to optimize cardiovascular health. Circulation 2011;124:840-850.
17. American Institute for Cancer Research. New Estimate: Excess Body Fat Alone Causes over 100,000 Cancers in US Each Year [http://www.aicr.org/site/News2/153571380?abbr=pr_&page=NewsArticle&id=17333&news_iv_ctrl=1102]
18. Mattes RD, Dreher ML: Nuts and healthy body weight maintenance mechanisms. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010;19:137-141.
19. Flores-Mateo G, Rojas-Rueda D, Basora J, et al: Nut intake and adiposity: meta-analysis of clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2013.