By Kaori Kay Cheslock, RHNC
When we see the beautiful sunshine coming through the window in the morning – we know we’ve entered an exciting time of the year. And on these glorious sunny days, it’s just too good to stay indoors.
The warmth calls us to step out on the balcony or in our backyard, or to lay out a blanket to sunbathe. The arrival of bright days is also the perfect time to enjoy a fresh summer salad. So refreshing and full of nutrients, salad – with some exciting ingredients – makes for a near perfect meal addition.
Having plentiful vitamins and minerals in our diet is important to support good health all year long, but it is especially crucial to make sure that we load up in the heat of summer. The heat from the sun can cause important minerals to be lost (via sweat) from our body. To combat this fluid loss overall, drinking more water and eating high water content foods is important to rehydrate our body. And focusing on colourful produce each day provides added vitamins and minerals for us to thrive so we can enjoy each day to the fullest.
A bounty of fresh produce is also available now, so let’s take advantage!
Incorporating local seasonal vegetables and fruits is not only delicious, it’s good for the economy (roadside produce markets, anyone?!) as well as our pocket book (in season food is very often less expensive, as it’s available in high quantities). That’s supply and demand working in our favour right there.
Accordingly, we’d like to feature several great berries, spinach, and some nutritious and flavourful fat sources for today’s recipe. First, let’s take a closer look at a few of the key nutrition highlights of some of the ingredients we used.
Blueberries are low in calories and have very high nutrient density (nutrition per calorie). The majority (85%) of this tasty little fruit is water (quite hydrating!), and a cup of blueberries is only 84 calories. Blueberries are high in fibre and have an appreciable amount of the key nutrients you need (vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese being highlights).
Blueberries are also renowned for being high in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals. As a refresher, free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage your cells and lead to aging and diseases, such as cancer.
Strawberries mainly consist of water (91%) and a cup of strawberries are 49 calories. As they are very high in water, their carb content is also very low; not only that, out of total carbs, fibre takes up around 26% (!). As you likely know, dietary fibre is important to feed the friendly bacteria in our gut and support digestive health. A high fibre diet is also useful for weight control and can help prevent certain conditions and diseases.
Strawberries are also known to have high amounts of vitamin C, and they are a great source of antioxidant which benefits our immune system and skin (healthy glow anyone?). To round out strawberries highlights, it is important to note that they are high in manganese, folate, and potassium as well.
A cup of raspberries contain more than 50% of the minimum daily target for vitamin C. These red seed filled gems also contain manganese and vitamin K that are important to support bone health. Small amounts of other nutrients (such as vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium) are also present in this low calorie berry.
Raspberries are very low in sugar, while being high in antioxidants. They also contain a notable amount of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds to support our health. As oxidative stress is a causative factor in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, raspberries have a role to play in supporting brain health. The flavonoids in all berries help improve coordination, memory, and mood as well.
Spinach is high in calcium, with a cup of spinach containing 250 mg of this mineral. It is also high in magnesium (which is important for metabolism, maintains blood pressure, and supports heart health). This leafy green is a great source of (non-heme) iron – do note that it is recommended to consume non-heme (plant based) iron with vitamin C for the best absorption.
Spinach provides a great deal of antioxidants and regular consumption has been linked to reduced inflammation. Additionally, spinach is a source of naturally occurring nitrates (nitrates are compounds that open up blood vessels to improve blood flow and reduce the stress on the heart).
Lastly, spinach is a great source of lutein (a specific antioxidant). Lutein has been shown to reduce the risk of age related macular degeneration (AMD). Your health will benefit notably from choosing this dark leafy green often.
Goat cheese (like most all cheese and dairy products) is high in calcium, which is essential for teeth and bone health. Accordingly, a routinely adequate calcium consumption is crucial for preventing osteoporosis and other diseases.
Aside from calcium, goat cheese contains a lot of important vitamins and minerals, such as copper and riboflavin. Copper helps produce red blood cells that carry oxygen in the body and aids iron absorption. Riboflavin has a lot of important roles in the body, a key one being to produce and maintain new cells. Goat cheese is also high in selenium and antioxidants in general.
Goat cheese is rich in several types of healthy fats and contains high quality, easily digestible protein. We recommend goat cheese because, while the fat in goat cheese is high, it’s not as high as the cheese made from cow’s milk. It also imparts a unique and delicious flavour.
Goat cheese is also high in these vitamins and minerals;
Most notably, pecans are packed with antioxidants which carry so many health promoting properties. The antioxidant vitamin E, for example, helps prevent cell damage and may enhance the body’s immune process.
Pecans are a great source of healthy fat, primarily mono and polyunsaturated fat. These unsaturated fats help reduce the risk of cardiac diseases and type II Diabetes. Monounsaturated fatty acids have also been linked to reducing inflammation and mental function decline.
To add to the list of benefits of this tasty nut, pecans are also rich in several nutrients, such as fibre, copper, thiamine, and zinc.
Now that we learned how much positive effects these foods can provide, we are confident that this recipe for fresh summer salad will get a little extra attention this season!
Macros per Serving (1/4 of total recipe)
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 8 g
Carbohydrates: 19 g
Sugar: 9 g
Fibre: 6 g
Fresh & Nutritious Summer Salad
- In a dressing bottle or glass jar, combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt & pepper. Shake it well.
- In a large bowl, combine all the berries, spinach, and red onion. Toss to combine.
- Add crumbled goat cheese and pecans.
- Drizzle the dressing over when ready to enjoy (1/4 total dressing per salad serving).