To make the healthiest salad, swap our greens
“Aiming for 30 different plants in your diet per week has been shown to be the optimal amount for a healthy gut microbiome,” says Kirsten Jackson, RD, Gut Health Consultant Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. When she was working at the American Gut Project, she explains, researchers studied more than 11,000 people from around the world and looked at the intersection between diet and lifestyle and the health of a person’s gut microbiome. What they discovered through their analysis of all the data was that there was one clear indicator of a healthy gut microbiome, and that was the diversity of plants in their diet. “Using different leaves in your salads is an easy way to do it.”
In short, each plant and each type of salad contains a unique combination of fiber, antioxidants, and prebiotics that feed the microbes that live in the digestive tract. “These microbes are just as alive as you and me,” Will Bulsiewicz, MD, gastroenterologist and New York Times bestselling author of fed fiber and The fiber-fed cookbook previously said Good+Good. “It’s easy to dismiss them, because neither you nor I can see them. But they need to eat and they have their own unique dietary preferences,” he says. The wider the range of plants you include in your diet, the more you get more and different types of fiber and polyphenols, which means you’re providing more food for the various species of microbes, helping to empower them to work hard and better support your digestive system.
The wider the range of plants you include in your diet, the more and different types of fiber and polyphenols you’ll get. This means you’re providing more food for the various species of microbes, helping train them to work hard and better support your digestive system.
The good news is that, according to Jackson, there is no one type of green that is better than another: The key to making the healthiest salad recipe is to focus on the diversity of ingredients instead of focusing on whatever leafy greens are present. fashionable at the moment. For example, while spinach and kale tend to be top “superfoods,” romaine lettuce actually provides 40% of your daily vitamin K needs, 25% of your daily vitamin A needs, and 15 % of your daily folate needs. Even better, you can mix several different lettuces in your salad bowl to create a truly nutritious lunch or side dish (we love a gut-boosting combination of arugula and sauerkraut).
An exciting way to explore new greens for yourself is to see what’s fresh at your local farmer’s market, concession stand, or food co-op. You’ll often get the most nutrient bang for your buck with foods that are in season and have traveled the shortest distance to reach your plate. We also encourage thinking outside the box when using beet and radish greens in a salad to avoid food waste while upping the nutritional ante of your salad. Plus, sprouts will bring some serious health benefits to your Cobb, Nicoise, or Waldorf salad and can probably be found at your neighborhood farmer’s market or grocery store.
Now, there’s no need to choke on a salad to try another new type of lettuce. But, as the CDC advises, it can take up to 10 tries for a young child to like a food—this can be the same with trying vegetables as an adult, especially bitter picks like radicchio or Swiss chard. If you’re happy with your current line of salad greens, there’s always the option of adding a new vegetable, fruit, nut, seed, or grain to your bowl to help you reach that gut-friendly goal of 30 plants per week. The healthiest salad, got it. Happy crunching!