What happens to your body when you eat salad every day
As far as groceries go salad has a superstar reputation and is practically the poster child for weight loss and healthy eating. Whether you’re trying to get more fruit and veg, shedding a few pounds, or just looking for a filling meal curb your cravings, you can never go wrong with a salad. But what happens to your body when you eat a salad every day? We spoke to Gina Keatleya registered dietitian and nutritionist at Keatley Medical Nutritional Therapy in New York City to find out.
After the stream Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, Adults should eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that only one in ten American adults actually eats the recommended amount vegetables daily. Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? Luckily, eating a salad every day is an easy way to solve this problem — as long as you “eat the rainbow” with a diverse selection of veggies.
Eating the rainbow is a term for eating a variety of fruits and vegetables to get as many different health benefits as possible. According to a report published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, different types of products offer their unique nutritional composition, energy and bioactive ingredients. For example, they note that dark berries, green cruciferous vegetables, and citrus fruits may have a greater impact on preventing chronic disease than other types. So that’s not to say that some fruits and vegetables are inherently bad, but that it’s important to eat a variety so you can get as many beneficial nutrients as possible. And one way to get several products in one dish is a salad.
“Salads, in general, are low-starch foods that help you better regulate your blood sugar,” says Keatley. “But not all salads are created equal.” As Keatley points out, some fast-food salads can do this pack more than 2,000 calories– which is worth the whole day.
“Just because there’s a few shades of green in it doesn’t mean it’s suitable for your goals,” she adds. In other words, salads can be a healthy staple in your diet, but if you’re eating them daily, be mindful of your ingredients and portion sizes (especially where dressings and fats).
With that in mind, read on to find out what happens to your body and overall health when you eat salad every day. And for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list 5 ways to eat more plants can save your life in 2023.
They absorb a lot of vitamins.
As long as you use a wide variety of ingredients (different types of veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, protein sources, etc.) and change things up regularly, this everyday salad can easily be a nutrient powerhouse, providing many of the vitamins and minerals that your body requires.
Even better, research has shown that the oil in your salad dressing can help your body absorb fat-soluble micronutrients from fruits and vegetables more effectively. These nutrients include alpha and beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin A.
Pro tip: You can assemble a salad that contains helpful immune-boosting vitamins. For example, spinach, Kaleand Salmon contain vitamin C and lots of nuts and seeds – like almonds and sunflower seeds—contain vitamin E, both of which are vitamins who have been found to help keep yours immune system healthy.
You could lose weight by eating fewer unhealthy foods.
One of the reasons lettuce is considered a healthy choice when you’re aiming to maintain your weight or shed pounds is that they’re usually full of them dietary fiber– which is considered to be helpful in weight loss. According to a study by The Journal of NutritionA high-fiber diet helped adults who were considered overweight or obese lose weight.
The benefits of fiber in weight loss are many. For one, it can help slow down the rate of digestion and get your fill much longer than foods high in refined carbohydrates or added sugars. This can help curb cravings and prevent you from overindulging in high-calorie snacking. Another way it may help with your weight loss goals is by promoting a healthier gut microbiome, which it has been linked to greater weight loss.
When it comes to specifically eating a salad, a Study 2004 found that people consumed 7% fewer calories when they ate a small first-course salad before the rest of their meal, and when they ate a large salad beforehand, they consumed 12% fewer calories. So by always starting your meal with a salad, you can avoid overeating other higher-calorie foods.
You keep your brain young.
Aiming to eat salad every day is a great way to ensure your brain stays in tip-top shape. In fact, a Study 2018 found that eating one of these every day improved memory by up to 11 years in older people. Just half a cup of lettuce was enough to slow down cognitive decline.
But remember: Researchers found that those who ate purposefully Leafy vegetables had the memory function of significantly younger people. So grab some kale, spinach or kale and put together your ideal salad creation for better brain health.
You could possibly get some heartburn.
Be careful when loading up the vinaigrette — not only because the calories can spike quickly, but also because the acidity in the vinegar can trigger reflux symptoms, according to Keatley.
“The more lettuce you eat, the more likely you are to use more dressing, and too much can lead to heartburn,” explains Keatley.
It’s also worth noting that tomatoes and cheese, both common salad ingredients, are and can be very acidic make acid reflux worse. If you’re prone to acid reflux, try a salad dressing with less vinegar and opt for gentler toppings like nuts, seeds, fruit, or lentils.
TIED TOGETHER: The 5 best fruits and vegetables for weight loss
You may feel bloated or bloated — if your portions are large.
Fight with gas or other GI issues after eating your daily salads? It might be time to consider your portion sizes.
“If you get some of the heartier greens like kale in your salad, you could be dumping a significant amount of insoluble fiber into your colon, which could lead to constipation and become a feeding frenzy for the bacteria down there, which could lead to some gas.” says Keatley.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix: try just making a smaller salad, at least until your body gets used to it.
“You can train your gut just like you can train your muscles,” says Keatley.
So when introducing your body to new foods that contain more fiber than your body is used to, you might want to start slowly. That means that even if you eventually want to eat salad every day, you might have to start with just a few times a week.
You will likely feel more regular.
Speaking of insoluble fiber, Keatley says this type of fiber attracts water as it moves through your digestive tract — helping soften your stool and make it easier to pass. This means once you’ve given your body time to adjust to this fiber intake, your daily salad habit can help keep constipation at bay.
“But there’s a tipping point at around 70 grams of fiber per day,” says Keatley. “At that point, you could be causing intestinal blockages — while this is rare, it goes to show that more isn’t always better.”
Incidentally, insoluble fiber not only normalizes your bowel movements. According to Mayo Clinica high-fiber diet lowers the risk of colon cancer because when fiber ferments in your colon, it has been shown to have a protective effect.
You can live longer.
After Harvard HealthWhile “no single fruit or vegetable” can provide all the nutrients your body needs, a variety of products can ward off a variety of diseases. This makes lettuce an excellent choice for a long, healthy life.
Need proof? A 2016 meta-analysis published in JRSM cardiovascular disease found that eating more green leafy vegetables was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease. Additionally a Study 2017 also suggested that piling on vegetables every day could prevent premature death. They found that eating 10 servings per day was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 13% reduced risk of all-cause cancer was connected. Reason enough to eat a salad every day if you ask us.
A previous version of this story was published on March 16, 2021. It has been updated to include additional copying and proofreading, additional research, and updated contextual links.
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