Is it time to give up salad?


You might know that lettuce is mostly water and contains little in the way of nutrition. But did you know that cucumbers, radishes and celery share lettuce’s nutritional futility? Or that we may be wasting precious resources growing the vegetable equivalent of Dasani water bottles?

This Washington Post piece is enlightening, if a tad provocative:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table. When we switch to vegetables that are twice as nutritious — like those collards or tomatoes or green beans — not only do we free up half the acres now growing lettuce, we cut back on the fossil fuels and other resources needed for transport and storage.

Now, I think cucumbers are really refreshing in summer, and I enjoy salads a lot. Greek salads some to mind, because without the lettuce and cucumbers, they are little more than a tomato with onion slices, olives and feta cheese. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good way to fill up on a hot day, or that they might help satisfy a craving without busting the calorie count. A bed of lettuce is a great accompaniment to protein and a substitute for carbs, but I think the article offers a good rule of thumb for avoiding salads that are unhealthy. Yes, there are salads that are packed with more calories and saturated fats than fast food:

Next time you order a salad, engage in a little thought experiment: Picture the salad without the lettuce, cucumber and radish, which are nutritionally and calorically irrelevant. Is it a little pile of croutons and cheese, with a few carrot shavings and lots of ranch dressing?

That’s a useful exercise to keep in your back pocket. What else is going in your salad? I just had one for lunch that, minus the lettuce, was a vehicle for figs, cranberries, blue cheese, avocado oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. That isn’t all that nutritious, now that I think about it. One way to make a salad count is to consider swapping out lettuce greens for spinach, kale, collards or other dark greens that do offer more nutritional benefits. And pack on the nuts and lean proteins that, ultimately, are going to fill you up.

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