While the quintessential pairing of ripe tomatoes and lettuce is certainly enjoyable, a good salad can be so much more. Adding fruits, nuts, and other well-chosen ingredients offers a welcome change. More importantly, incorporating a few more nutritious ingredients is an easy way to serve a more healthful dish.
All fruit provides abundant good nutrients (vitamin C and potassium, in particular) and a laundry list of disease-fighting chemicals in a package that's naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. Blueberries contain polyphenol (a phytochemical linked to heart disease and cancer prevention) compounds called anthocyanins and proanthocyanins that may play a role in preserving memory. Grapes also offer polyphenols.
One-fourth cup of nuts or seeds adds nearly five grams of high-quality protein, as well as generous amounts of vitamin E, fiber, minerals, and arginine, a compound that helps blood vessels to function. Nuts are high in fat, the healthful unsaturated kind.
With plenty of vitamin C, some blood pressure-lowering potassium, and folate, tomatoes also impart the plant chemicals flavonoids (potential cancer fighters) and phytosterols (which may help lower cholesterol).
Onions are plentiful sources of disease-fighting phenols and flavonoids, both potential cancer fighters and weapons against some chronic diseases. The richer its phenolic and flavonoid content, the better an onion's protective effect, according to Rui Hai Liu, MD, PhD, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University.
Fatty fish like salmon or tuna offer omega-3 fats, which help lower the risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association suggests eating at least two three-ounce cooked servings of fish per week.