Do you feel like salads are boring? When you think of eating healthy, is “eating more vegetables” all that comes to mind. If so, think again! Anti-inflammatory salads are a great way to consume plenty of vegetables, but also pack a nutrient-dense, yet flavorful punch!
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Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
It is estimated that up to 60% of chronic diseases could be prevented by eating a healthy diet. Many people are confused by what exactly a “healthy diet” is. Here at The Mental Wellness Dietitian, we are big fans of a Mediterranean style diet. The Mediterranean diet is plant forward, abundant in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, fatty fish, legumes, nuts & seeds.
In this post, Registered Dietitian Su-Nui Escobar, describes the benefits of moving toward a plant forward diet and outlines a simple guide for transitioning to this style of eating. Escobar states, “plant-forward diets can provide many health benefits, including lowering the risk of obesity, heart disease, certain cancers, high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as type 2 diabetes”.
Anti-inflammatory salads are considered to be good for brain health. Brain healthy foods are shown to improve mood and mental wellness markers, as they are rich in Omega 3, B vitamins and Fiber. These nutrients are linked to improving mood related disorders, cognition, anxiety and symptoms of depression via the Gut Brain Axis.
Learn more about the connection between food and mood in this article, Brain Healthy Foods to Boost Your Mood.
Anti-Inflammatory Salad Ingredients
One of my go-to anti-inflammatory salads is massaged kale salad. You can download and print the recipe here. Now, let’s look at the individual ingredients required to build an anti-inflammatory salad. The options and flavor combinations are limitless!
I always recommend starting with a dark green leafy vegetable. This provides a super nutrient dense pallet for building your perfect anti-inflammatory salad. Green leafy vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, such as vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium, fiber, calcium, folate, iron, and magnesium.
- Mixed Greens
- Swiss Chard
Vegetables notoriously contain many anti-inflammatory, immune-protective substances. This includes, but is not limited to fiber, folate, carotenoids, and flavonoids. These nutrients are excellent for gut health, brain health and protective against many chronic diseases.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Bell Peppers
- Garlic, minced
- Onion, shaved
Fruits and vegetables that are blue, purple, red, and orange get their color from a natural pigmentation called anthocyanin, a flavonoid. Fruits and vegetables that have more vibrant colors are more nutrient dense! If you’ve never had fruit on your salad, here are a few options to try!
- Pomegranate arils
Many of the protein sources listed here are *high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Due to Omega 3’s anti-inflammatory properties, it is shown to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, improve brain health, heart health, and cognitive and neurodegenerative disorders, to name a few.
- Grilled Chicken
- Boiled Egg
This is where you can really get creative with your anti-inflammatory salad! Take caution not to overdo it with portion sizes in this category. You could increase the calories, fat, and carbohydrates in your salad significantly with some of these items.
- Hard Cheese (Parmesan, Manchego)
- Soft Cheese (Fresh Mozzarella, Goat, Feta)
- Flax Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Black beans
- Garbanzo beans
Anti-Inflammatory Salad Dressings
Salad dressings can be tricky. Store-bought options that are “natural” or “light” aren’t necessarily great options. When looking for an anti-inflammatory, healthy option, reading the label is recommended.
Most store-bought salad dressings are made with Omega-6 oils, such as safflower, sunflower, grape, vegetable and soy, which are pro-inflammatory. I like this quick and easy guide to buying healthier store-bought salad dressings by Gray Nutrition.
Anti-Inflammatory Salad Recipe
Now it’s time to make the magic. Using the ingredients listed above, I will share one of my favorite anti-inflammatory salad combinations for you to try. You can also build your own anti-inflammatory salad using the ingredients discussed above! Enjoy!
Salmon Walnut Beet Salad
- 1 Bowl Large
- 1 Cutting Board
- 1 Chef Knife
- 1 Paring Knife
- 1 Sheet Pan
- Parchment Paper
- 2 Bunches Mixed Greens Chopped
- 1/4 Large Onion Thinly Shaved
- 3-4 Small Beets Pickled, Roasted or Steamed
- 1 Medium Bell Pepper Sliced
- 8 Ounces Salmon Cooked, Divided (2 ounces per salad)
- 1/2 Cup Goat Cheese Crumbles Divided
- 1/2 Cup Walnuts Chopped, Divided
- 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil Drizzled
- 1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar Drizzled
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Place salmon, skin side down on a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper
- Sprinkle salmon with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees
- While salmon is cooking, wash, dry, and prepare vegetables
- Place leafy greens in a large bowl and top with salad toppings
- Once salmon is cooked, place over salad
- Drizzle with olive oil & red wine vinegar
The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.
Angela Lago is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She is passionate about researching the connection between gut health and mental wellness. Learn more about Angela’s journey from being depressed, anxious, and sleep deprived to being happy, healthy, and thriving!