Five Super Salad Additions
As a plant powered athlete, people assume I live off salad. I often get asked ‘do you not get hungry?’ and ‘where do you get your calcium and protein?’ In actual fact I could quite happily live off salads. Not the boring, limp lettuce, dried out additions served up as an accompaniment to a meal, but as a meal in itself! The trick is to keep it interesting, to add lots of variety in terms of colour and flavour, which in turn naturally adds a ton of nutritional benefits.
Here are five of my favourite salad additions. Try adding them individually to make your plate of leaves much more exciting, or combined for a super, super, super, super, SUPER salad!!
Fresh figs are delicious. Traditionally used as a natural sweetener, they have a light, syrupy flavour, with slightly crunchy, edible seeds inside their soft flesh. I love adding them to desserts but they’re equally tasty in salads and add a beautiful, vibrant colour. Figs are high in calcium, they nourish and tone the intestines and they contain pre-biotics, which help support the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut, improving digestive wellness.
These middle eastern beauties have a delicious, nutlike taste and a crunchy yet buttery texture. I love adding them to stews and soups and using them to make fresh hummus. They work equally well in salads to create healthy, filling meals. Besides being an excellent vegan and gluten-free source of protein and fibre, chickpeas contain exceptional levels of iron, vitamin B-6 and magnesium. They’re perfect for stabilising the flow of food through our digestive tract, preventing food from breaking down too quickly or too slowly.
The peppery taste of watercress and it’s high nutritional content, makes it one of my favourite leaves to use in recipes. Higher in iron than spinach, with more calcium than a glass of milk, it’s a brilliant addition to salads. Watercress contains very high levels of dietary nitrate. High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance. Aside from it’s awesome nitrate content, watercress also contains large amounts of vitamin K which helps calcium absorption and in turn strengthens bones.
The demand for quinoa has risen sharply in recent years as its popularity amongst health conscious foodies has increased. Grown in South America for thousands of years, Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’ is a great wheat-free alternative to starchy grains. Quinoa is among the least allergenic of all the grains. Like buckwheat, it has an excellent amino acid profile, as it contains all nine essential amino acids making it a complete-protein source. Naturally high in dietary fibre, quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, which makes it a good low-GI option.
5. Sprouted beans
Nuts, seeds, grains, and beans are nutritional powerhouses. Though sometimes the natural agents that protect them from early germination can wreak havoc in our digestive systems. Soaking and sprouting replicates germination, which activates and multiplies nutrients and promotes the growth of vital digestive enzymes. By sprouting your grains and legumes, you are essentially starting the process of making a live plant, which in turn helps them become a more alkaline forming food. Sprouting is very easy, but if you don’t have the time to fill jars with beans and water, most of the larger supermarkets now sell prepackaged sprouted beans in the salad aisle. Sprinkling them into salads adds a lovely, crunchy texture and a ton of nutrients.
These ingredients work perfectly added to salads individually or combined to create one awesome super salad!
You can use dried chickpeas, quinoa and sprout the beans yourself, but if you’re looking for convenience, sometimes tins and packets make life much easier! Check out these simple solutions below, available at most larger UK supermarkets …
Tinned Chickpeas ~ check they’re in water only
Mixed Beans ~ these save you sprouting them yourself
Quinoa ~ ready to eat