If a colourful diet is a healthy one, it’s easy to see why the right salad ingredients are a potential lifesaver. Sure, Centrum is fine in a pinch, but the best way to get your essential vitamins and antioxidants is straight from the source.
A recent study conducted by the Louisiana State University School of Public Health found that men who eat a salad a day are more likely to get their recommended daily intake of many essential nutrients. What’s more, the study authors note that men who eat more than 60 grams of vegetables a day increase their lifespan by 2 years.
If you do want to start eating salad every day, be sure to add these 12 ingredients. With the wide variety of ingredients, you will never be bored eating healthy.
One cup of spinach gives you 58 micrograms (mcg) of folate. According to a study in the journal Stroke, consuming at least 300 mcg of folate a day reduces your risk of having a stroke by 20 per cent and decreases your risk of developing heart disease by 13 per cent. Other studies have found that folate helps protect against both Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Other nutrients: fibre, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, diabetes, weight gain, hypertension, and depression
You get 294 milligrams (mg) of potassium in just three spears. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, potassium counteracts the effects of sodium by dilating blood vessels and increasing the amount of sodium excreted in your urine, thus lowering blood pressure and protecting against stroke.
Other nutrients: calcium, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and lutein and zeaxanthin
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and weight gain
Red Kidney Beans
A quarter cup of red kidney beans gives you 6,630 disease-fighting antioxidants, plus a full 3 grams of fibre. According to the American Dietetic Association, dietary fibre lowers blood cholesterol levels and helps normalise blood glucose and insulin levels, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Other nutrients: protein and folate
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s
Yellow Bell Peppers
Four strips of yellow bell pepper provide 48 mg of free-radical-fighting vitamin C (free radicals are rogue molecules that can damage cells and lead to cancer). According to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, levels of C-reactive protein—a blood marker for inflammation linked to heart disease—can be decreased by 24 per cent if you consume 500 mg of vitamin C a day. Plus, nutrition researchers from Arizona State University reported that vitamin C can help with weight loss by assisting in fat oxidation, or the body’s ability to burn fat.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, weight gain, and hypertension
Four cubes of Swiss cheese provide 476 mg of calcium and 26 IU of vitamin D. In a 20-year study, British researchers determined that men who consume more than 67 IU of vitamin D and 190 mg of calcium a day have half the risk of stroke of men who consume less. Vitamin D has also been associated with a decrease in the risk of pancreatic, prostate, and testicular cancers. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with higher blood levels of vitamin D had a 17 per cent reduction in total cancer incidence and a 29 per cent reduction in total cancer deaths.
Other nutrients: protein and vitamin B12
Disease-fighting power: osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and stroke
Carrots are one of the richest sources of pro–vitamin A carotenoids, plant compounds that provide colour and function as antioxidants. Just a quarter cup of shredded carrots provides 2,279 mcg of beta-carotene and 4,623 IU of vitamin A. According to a study in the journal Thorax, beta-carotene can slow the age-related decline of lung power. Vitamin A has also been shown to improve vision, bone growth, and cell division; help regulate the immune system, and decrease the risk of lung cancer.
Other nutrients: vitamin C, vitamin K, fibre, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: cancer, osteoporosis, weight gain, and hypertension
EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar
One tablespoon of olive oil delivers 10 grams of monounsaturated fat. Research shows that men with diets high in monounsaturated fat have higher testosterone levels than those who don’t. Antioxidant-rich balsamic vinegar can improve vascular function when ingested with a high-fat food like olive oil, which contributes to a reduction in the risk of heart disease.
Disease-fighting power: Adding olive oil to red, green, orange, or yellow fruits and vegetables increase the amount of heart-saving, cancer-fighting, vision-boosting, immune-repairing, bone-strengthening vitamins such as A, E, and K, as well as carotenoids.
Sunflower Seeds and Flaxseeds
One tablespoon of sunflower seeds provides 8.35 mcg of selenium. Harvard researchers discovered that men with high levels of selenium have a 49 per cent lower incidence of advanced prostate cancer than those with the lowest levels. One tablespoon of flaxseeds will give you 2.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to reduced risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression. They have also been shown to inhibit cancer-cell growth.
Other nutrients: vitamin E and fibre
Disease-fighting power: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression, and diabetes
One tablespoon of almonds provides 2.2 grams of alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E, which reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to a National Institute on Aging study. Another study showed that people who were clinically depressed had lower levels of alpha-tocopherol than their happy peers. Vitamin E also fights free-radical damage.
Other nutrients: monounsaturated fat, protein, and fibre
Disease-fighting power: Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes
Four cherry tomatoes will give you 1,748 mcg of lycopene. A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that increasing dietary lycopene intake to 30 mg reduces oxidative DNA damage to prostate tissues and decreases PSA levels.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, fibre, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension
Chunk Light Tuna
Tuna, one of the best sources of protein, contains no trans fat, and a three-ounce serving of chunk light contains 11 mg of heart-healthy niacin, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and help your body process fat. University of Rochester researchers determined that niacin raises HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lowers triglycerides more than most statins alone.
Other nutrients: protein, selenium, and vitamin B12
Disease-fighting power: heart disease and diabetes
Four leaves of red-leaf lettuce contain 1,213 mcg of antioxidants, 96 mcg of vitamin K (which has been shown to maintain bone mass), and 1,172 mcg of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The National Institutes of Health found that lutein and zeaxanthin can decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration by 43 per cent.
Other nutrients: vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium
Disease-fighting power: osteoporosis, macular degeneration, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and weight gain
By Heather Hurlock & Kurt Wilson