If you’re looking for a light but nutritious meal, a salad can be just the ticket – but be cautious: just because a dish has a base of lettuce doesn’t necessarily make it healthy.
Case in point are many salads offered by fast-food restaurants, which are topped with fried meat and croutons.
You’ll also want to watch out for store-bought salad dressings – especially the low-fat and fat-free varieties. Because the antioxidants and other nutrients contained a salad are mostly fat soluble – meaning they need a source of fat in order to be absorbed by your body(1).
Good sources of fat include good-quality salad dressing – especially olive oil-based dressing – avocado, and of course, eggs!
Eggs: A Healthy Source Of Fat
Eggs are a great source of fat and protein, and in some cases even provide a dose of omega-3 fatty acids. But beyond that, eating eggs with vegetables and leafy greens can improve the absorption of nutrients in those foods.
One recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nurtition looked at the consumption of whole egg along with carotenoid-rich foods like vegetables.
When men added 1.5 to 3 eggs to their salads, their absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin increased by four to five-fold.
Other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and lutein, increased by three to eight-fold compared to the no-egg salad. The researchers noted:
“Co-consuming cooked whole eggs is an effective way to enhance carotenoid absorption from other cartenoid-rich foods such as raw mixed-vegetable salad,” the researchers reported(2).
The key here is to make sure that you are consuming the yolk portion of the eggs. Egg whites alone aren’t enough, as it’s the fat in the yellow part of the egg that’s responsible for the increased nutrient absorption.
The Best Way To Prepare An Egg: Poaching
There are many ways to prepare eggs for consumption, but poaching is one of the healthiest, especially compared to frying.
Antioxidant properties are reduced by about 50% when the eggs are fried or boiled, and reduced even more if they’re microwaved(3).
Additionally, the cholesterol in the yolk oxidizes at high temperatures, especially when it’s mixed with the iron minerals found in the white part of the egg while being cooked. And such oxidation contributes to chronic inflammation in your body.
Plus, poached eggs go especially well on top of salad!
Choosing The Right Eggs
Before you decide how you want to cook your eggs, however, you need to choose the right type of eggs.
Choosing eggs from a quality source is important – free-range or pastured organic eggs have a much higher nutritional value, and are less likely to be contaminated with salmonella and other bacteria(4).
Your best bet is to buy your eggs locally, from a co-op or farmers’ market where sellers have a direct connection to the farms providing the eggs.
Choosing A Salad Dressing
The dressing for your salad is important as well – most store-bought dressings contain large amounts of sugar, particularly the low-fat dressings, so it’s a good idea to make your own.
Simple vinaigrettes can be made by mixing extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar, while thicker dressings can be made with any combination of healthy fats, like yogurt, coconut oil, or kefir.
Kefir is a fermented food, which is not only great for nutrient absorption, but helps nourish the bacteria that live in your gut, encouraging diversity in your microbiome(5).
Building A Perfect Salad
With all of this in mind, you’re well on your way to building the perfect nutritious salad.
A salad with a mix of greens, veggies, protein and fat is a complete meal in and of itself, and can be very satisfying!
Put some thought into the construction of your salad, starting with a mix of greens, adding raw veggies and sprouts, and then topping with a source of fat and protein. The results will be tasty and great for you.[mks_toggle title=”sources” state=”close “]