Whether you love it or hate it, salad is a staple in the American diet. Most restaurants offer salad as a prelude to the main course, and many fast-casual salad places are popping up serving endless varieties of veggies and build-your-own bowls. Salad can come in many forms, from kale to Caesar to the simple mixed green salad. For some people, salad may be something they actively avoid, but for others, salad is a creative dish with endless variations.
Recipe: Simple Cabbage Salad
If salad makes a daily appearance in your eating plan, you may be wondering if it's "good for you." In this article, we'll discuss what happens to your body when you eat salad every day, tips for building a healthy salad, whether or not salad can help you lose weight, and if you can eat too much salad.
What Happens When You Eat Salad Every Day
Maybe you eat salad every day or you strive to add more leafy greens to your plate. Either way, when you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, a few positive things can happen. Below is a list of the health benefits of eating salad every day.
You might eat more fiber.
The main components of most salads—vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds—are loaded with fiber. "Fiber has been shown to be beneficial for diabetes and heart disease and contribute to bodily functions like bowel regularity and satiety levels," says Patricia Kolesa, M.S., RDN. As a matter of fact, only about 5% of Americans meet their daily fiber needs of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
A 2020 review in Nutrients states that dietary fiber intake is associated with positive metabolic health, colonic health and gut motility as well as reductions in cardiovascular disease and decreased risk of colorectal cancer. In other words, meeting your daily fiber needs encourages big positive outcomes.
You will probably eat more fruits and vegetables.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended 5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Since the base of a salad is usually at least 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens, eating a salad every day can help you meet the daily recommendations. "Eating a salad helps you better stick to the common suggestion to eat the rainbow," says Brittany DeLaurentis, RD.
If you're worried that salads are boring, DeLaurentis says that doesn't have to be the case: "A common misconception is that salads contain vegetables and nothing else, and eating them will leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry." She recommends adding a protein, like cheese, tofu, beans, chicken or a boiled egg, to increase the satiety factor.
You may get more vitamins and minerals in your diet.
Without eating enough fruits and vegetables, some people may not get enough essential vitamins and minerals, which can lead to a deficiency and unwanted side effects. "Green leafy vegetables commonly eaten in salads—like romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula and kale—are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E," says Catherine Karnatz, RD, creator of Nutrition Education RD. "These vitamins may support healthy eyesight, help immune function and protect against certain cancers." In addition, many vitamins double as antioxidants with anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Not to mention, many salads contain essential minerals, like potassium, iron, magnesium and more.
You may have a healthier gut.
"Plant diversity is key when it comes to a healthy gut," says Julie Balsamo, M.S., RDN, a gut health dietitian. "Salads are often also filled with polyphenols, which can promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut." A 2019 review in Nutrients states that when polyphenols from food reach the gut microbes, they modify the microflora and have prebiotic and antimicrobial properties. A healthy gut can impact your entire body from your gastrointestinal tract to your brain, heart and immune system.
Photography / Greg DuPree, Styling / Ruth BlackBurn / Julia Bayless
Tips for Building a Balanced Salad
"Some salads might leave you feeling fatigued or hungry because they are lower in calories with fruits and vegetables alone," says Kolesa. She recommends adding protein and healthy fats to make it a balanced meal that will keep you full.
Our healthy salad formula is a good place to start for creating a well-balanced and hunger-crushing salad. You can make it your own by opting for the ingredients that you enjoy the most. If you're sick of simple mixed greens, try a new leafy vegetable, like escarole or arugula. Buy in-season produce to keep things fresh, and try fruit on your salad for a sweet and savory flavor. Keep the protein options simple, like canned beans or tuna, or use leftovers from the night before. Lastly, top it with a few garnishes, like nuts, croutons or dried cranberries. And don't forget a dressing, like a simple homemade vinaigrette.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you lose weight by eating a salad every day?
"Eating salads on a daily basis as part of an overall healthy lifestyle may support gradual weight loss over time," says Karnatz. "This is because leafy greens are low in calories and high in volume and fiber, which will keep you satisfied for longer," she adds. Although salad may be part of a weight-loss eating plan, eating one bowl of leafy greens per day doesn't guarantee weight loss. A calorie deficit is required for weight loss, so Karnatz recommends scaling back on higher-calorie toppings, like bacon bits, croutons and creamy dressings to keep your calorie intake in check.
Does salad detox your body?
Believe it or not, the body has a built-in filtration system that helps flush toxins (aka harmful chemicals) from the body. It's called the liver, and its main job is to discard dangerous substances, like alcohol, drugs and other harmful substances, from the body. Eating a salad may make you feel better after overdoing it on greasy food or alcohol, mainly due to the nutrients in the salad components, but it doesn't "undo" any of the damage you did to your body.
Can you eat too much salad?
Salad can absolutely be a healthy part of the diet. If you follow the healthy salad formula and ensure the meal has plenty of veggies, protein and healthy fat, then it can be a great breakfast, lunch and dinner option. Be cautious of eating salad that is exclusively greens or vegetables, as it may be too low in calories, healthy fats or protein to sustain you.