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Make The Most Of Your Salad

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A lot of health-conscious people eat a lot of salads. But if you aren’t starting out with a nutrient-rich base, you may as well be eating rabbit food.

The majority of Americans reach for the old standby: iceberg lettuce, which is the least nutritious of the lettuce family. It’s also the least tasty. So what lettuces can help you get the most nutritional value out of your salad?

Start with a mix of these nutrient-rich green leafy foods — some of which are not even in the lettuce family — suggested by the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition:

  • Romaine: If there were a superhero of the lettuce family, it would be romaine, thanks to its negligible calorie count, high dietary fiber content, very high levels of vitamin A and quadruple the amount of vitamin C as iceberg. This crisp lettuce, which originated on the Greek island of Cos, is especially high in vitamin K, supplying 143 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) in just two cups. Romaine also provides about 35 percent RDA each of folic acid and manganese, and a fair sprinkling of chromium and potassium.
  • Raw Spinach: Putting spinach on your plates a great way to add bulk to your salad without adding calories. Just one cup of raw spinach meets 56 percent of RDA for vitamin A, 14 percent for vitamin C, and less than 5 percent each of calcium and iron. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, folate, vitamin E, potassium, vitamins B6 and B12, and trace minerals selenium, copper and zinc.
  • Arugula: A member of the Brassica family, arugula rubs elbows with other cruciferous vegetables — like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage — that contain polyphenol antioxidants to fight free-radicals. It has a much stronger taste than lettuce and works well in a mix with other greens. One cup of chopped arugula contains small but measurable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin A, folate, choline, lutein and vitamin K.If you are looking for more variety, you may consider creating a mix of the more nutritious “greens” listed above with some of the ones listed below, especially if you need to beef up these vitamins in particular:
    • Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene):  Found in arugula, watercress, frisee, Japanese mustard greens, spinach, purslane and iceberg, butter, oak leaf, and romaine.
    • B Vitamins: Found in frisee, arugula, spinach, watercress, tetragon and purslane, as well as in romaine, iceberg, oak leaf and lamb’s lettuce and the in the chicory family, which includes chicory, curly endive, escarole and radicchio.
    • Vitamin C: Found in frisee, arugula, spinach, watercress, purslane, mizuna, tetragon, the chicory family and butter, iceberg, oak leaf, romaine and lamb’s lettuces.
    • Vitamin D: Found in oak leaf lettuce.
    • Vitamin E: Found in oak leaf, butter, iceberg, frisee and arugula.
    • Vitamin K: Found in butter, iceberg, and romaine lettuces, arugula, spinach and mustard greens.

    The fun begins now that you’ve created a nutritious green-leafy base. Throw in some juicy cancer-fighting grape tomatoes, a quarter of an avocado to improve absorption of all the nutrients you’ve gathered together, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and you are ready for some healthy eats.

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