Okay, okay: I know the title is a buzz…phrase, and I hesitated to use it. However, I think it taps into an important question of salads that often gets overlooked: “What makes greens so super?”
In fact, I think that when most people think of salads—especially in restaurants and fast food drive-thrus—I imagine that the greens they picture are not so super. It baffles me how many people accept a side salad with a base that may be a spring mix in a nicer setting, but sometimes sinks to the cheapest green: iceberg lettuce.
Now, that’s not to say that iceberg lettuce doesn’t have nutritional benefits, I wouldn’t exactly consider it “super.” But perhaps that’s why some greens are able to hold that position since ‘super’ means ‘over’… as in “ranked over lame lettuce varieties” or “I’m over the common practice of ordering a salad and receiving this:
So what’s a better green to use? Well though kale may be the typical go-to super green, even that can be exploited for aesthetic appeal so much so that people wonder if its even edible. But aside from vegetable injustice, I’d like to emphasize some of the categories I focus on when deciding what greens to use:
1) Vitamins and Minerals — Nutrients are important to me in my greens. I mean, I’m not sure how many or which nutrients ought to elevate greens to the category of “super,” but when I read articles touting the benefits of spinach for its nutritional profile, I have to scoff at why this constitutes a surprising revelation. Whether striving for the iron that supposedly made Popeye so strong (or did it?), less popular vitamins like A or K, #GoingGreens is a great way to improve your body’s nutritional content. In fact,spinach is a better multivitamin source than a pill. So if you have to pick a green from the garden of supermarket choices, why not maximize the nutritional content? It really shouldn’t be surprising. Some nutrients even supplement each other. And science shows that even when eating the most super of foods, your body needs as much as it can get.
2) Fiber — Because I am always personally looking to add fiber to my diet, I try to add at least one kind of green substance known for its fiber. My go-tos are usually broccoli slaw or shredded Brussels sprouts, but even spinach has some fiber content that is preferable to foods that are simply “fortified” or”enriched” (or worse: “refined”). These foods are lacking in the “super” we should all have access to. But beyond the way that fiber is consumed, it’s better to know what changes in consumption can increase both the amount and benefit of those superpowers. Even if there’s particular vitamin you’re striving for in your diet, it’s can be a good start to increase your dietary fiber—just don’t overdo it.
3) Flavor — Just like nutrients, flavors can stack and amplify each other. Even though iceberg lettuce may not have an overwhelming flavor of its own, it does dull the flavor of everything else. This was perhaps well exemplified in my realization that arugula pairs well with roast beef, but also hamburger, steak, and other beef-flavored things. And even if you buy a pre-mixed salad blend, it’s good to note the different flavor elements in the bag. You don’t even have to think of it in a complex way, but if you approach a type of green with a tongue towards balance, your taste buds will be happier if you meet the spiciness of arugula with sweetness of strawberries and nuttiness of walnuts… or something like that.
So again, I hope I’ve inspired you to think of new approaches to this amorphous “salad” idea that isn’t always taken seriously. And if you’d like to contribute your own ideas to making #SuperGreens even more super (maybe, supper?), don’t hesitate to comment and join me in #Saladarity
If you’re fine with a cheap snack, check out this one endorsed by the Food Network: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dave-lieberman/hearts-of-iceberg-lettuce-with-ranch-dressing-recipe-1916423
To join team iceberg in its fight for nutritional equity: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/iceberg-lettuce#uses
Despite having a lame salad game (and no website), the bar from my hometown has great camaraderie (and other good specials): https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+UpTown+Bar+%26+Cafefirstname.lastname@example.org,-84.9148858,17z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x88227648c532e2e9:0xdb84e950ca9caabc!2sThe+UpTown+Bar+%26+Cafe!8m2!3d43.2629988!4d-84.9146416!3m4!1s0x88227648c532e2e9:0xdb84e950ca9caabc!8m2!3d43.2629988!4d-84.9146416?hl=en
To read about the food injustice that kale and cabbage suffer: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/ornamental-kale-edible-90103.html
For support how good spinach is, even for men: https://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/best-worst-foods-man-can-eat
To become sadly disheartened about the mythic powers of Popeye: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2354580/Popeyes-legendary-love-spinach-actually-misplaced-decimal-point.html
To read about food pairings that increase nutritional benefit as well as flavor: https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/meal-ideas/10-powerful-healthy-food-pairings
To dig into a dense scientific study about nutrient absorption: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/nutrients-they-are-team-players
To add more fiber to your diet: https://greatist.com/health/surprising-high-fiber-foods
To self-educate about dietary fiber: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Dietary_Fiber.pdf
To read about having too much fiber: https://draxe.com/too-much-fiber/
For a simple arugula salad recipe (or at least one to start with): http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/248929/arugula-strawberry-salad/