The Surprising Health and Beauty Benefits of Salad

I find that adults and children alike will always appreciate and gravitate toward any nutritious item on a buffet table if it looks inviting and tastes good.  Today, so many people understand that we are what we eat, and that if you want to look good, feel good and maintain excellent health, you must eat healthfully.  We excite all our friends and family when something so healthful, tastes great too.

Do you know what I like about salad? I like that you can make it different every time and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to transform it into something really special. And it has many benefits for the largest organ in your body, your skin!

Salad’s Amazing Health Benefits

Eating salad offers amazing health benefits. All the vegetables supply important micronutrients. Eating raw, leafy greens like Boston lettuce, collards, and red leafy lettuce can reduce the risk of diabetes and improve the body’s antioxidant power .1-3 Raw vegetable intake is linked to a lower risk of stroke and cancers.4, 5. Any cruciferous vegetables that you add, such as broccoli, cabbage, or kale,  provide extra protection against heart disease and anti-cancer phytochemicals. 6-8 . Antioxidants from tomatoes  or carrots will help  to block  damage from  free radicals.9, 10 In addition to its health benefits, eating salad offers cheaper, more effective anti-aging benefits than a trip to your cosmetic counter.

The Beauty Benefits of Salad

  1. Antioxidants in vegetables slow down signs of aging, including wrinkles
  2. Veggies high in carotenoids protect against the sun’s UV rays
  3. Leafy greens help improve skin’s appearance and elasticity
  4. Green and yellow veggies are associated with fewer “crow’s feet” 11-14
  5. Raw vegetables have anti-cancer effects and cruciferous greens promote longevity.5, 15

 The Better Salad

I usually make a HUGE salad, share it with family members, and have enough left over for later in the day or the next day. By huge I mean that you should get out the largest bowl you own and fill it with at least five cups of chopped greens – and that is only the beginning. The greens lay the ground work to build the salad upon. In each salad I use a mixture of greens, not just a single type. I add raw, chopped onions, water-sautéed mushrooms, and beans. Sometimes I add some avocado for a healthy fat. Then I chop several types of colorful vegetables to complete the salad. I might use shredded beets or carrots, cucumber, red and yellow peppers, or fennel. Sometimes I add frozen peas (they defrost quite quickly).

A Better Salad Dressing

The salad’s dressing gets most of my attention. The weight-loss benefits of salad are lost if you douse your salad with an oil-based salad dressing. When fats are ingested in the form of oils they are rapidly absorbed by the body and immediately converted into body fat. One tablespoon of olive oil, or any oil, has 120 calories. A quarter cup of oil has 500 calories. Instead I replace the oil with good-for-your-health nuts and seeds by using a high-powered blender. Nuts and seeds are healthy fats that are absorbed by the body over hours and are mostly burned for energy and not stored as fat. The fibers, sterols and stanols in nuts and seeds bind some of the fat in your digestive tract, limiting the amount of fat absorbed by the body. Because of this unique trait, adding nuts and seeds to your diet promotes weight loss, even though they are relatively high in calories.16 Nuts and seeds are also associated with reduced risk from heart disease and enhanced lifespan in general. 17-19 For more on building tantalizing, unique salads download my infographic featuring a few inspirational recipes.


  1. Carter P, Gray LJ, Troughton J, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2010, 341:c4229.

  2. Garg M, Garg C, Mukherjee PK, Suresh B. Antioxidant potential of Lactuca sativa. Anc Sci Life 2004, 24:6-10.

  3. Serafini M, Bugianesi R, Salucci M, et al. Effect of acute ingestion of fresh and stored lettuce (Lactuca sativa) on plasma total antioxidant capacity and antioxidant levels in human subjects. Br J Nutr 2002, 88:615-623.

  4. Oude Griep LM, Verschuren WM, Kromhout D, et al. Raw and processed fruit and vegetable consumption and 10-year stroke incidence in a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011, 65:791-799.

  5. Link LB, Potter JD. Raw versus cooked vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004, 13:1422-1435.

  6. Higdon J, Delage B, Williams D, Dashwood R. Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacol Res 2007, 55:224-236.

  7. Zakkar M, Van der Heiden K, Luong le A, et al. Activation of Nrf2 in endothelial cells protects arteries from exhibiting a proinflammatory state. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2009, 29:1851-1857.

  8. Lockheart MS, Steffen LM, Rebnord HM, et al. Dietary patterns, food groups and myocardial infarction: a case-control study. Br J Nutr 2007, 98:380-387.

  9. Stahl W, Sies H. beta-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr 2012, 96:1179S-1184S.

  10. Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo. Br J Dermatol 2010.

  11. Purba MB, Kouris-Blazos A, Wattanapenpaiboon N, et al. Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference? J Am Coll Nutr 2001, 20:71-80.

  12. Cosgrove MC, Franco OH, Granger SP, et al. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr 2007, 86:1225-1231.

  13. Terao J, Minami Y, Bando N. Singlet molecular oxygen-quenching activity of carotenoids: relevance to protection of the skin from photoaging. J Clin Biochem Nutr 2011, 48:57-62.

  14. Nagata C, Nakamura K, Wada K, et al. Association of dietary fat, vegetables and antioxidant micronutrients with skin ageing in Japanese women. Br J Nutr 2010, 103:1493-1498.

  15. Zhang X, Shu XO, Xiang YB, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Am J Clin Nutr 2011, 94:240-246.

  16. Mattes RD, Dreher ML. Nuts and healthy body weight maintenance mechanisms. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2010, 19:137-141.

  17. Kris-Etherton PM, Hu FB, Ros E, Sabate J. The role of tree nuts and peanuts in the prevention of coronary heart disease: multiple potential mechanisms. J Nutr 2008, 138:1746S-1751S.

  18. Fraser GE, Shavlik DJ. Ten years of life: Is it a matter of choice? Arch Intern Med 2001, 161:1645-1652.

  19. Guasch-Ferre M, Bullo M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Med 2013, 11:164.

6/9/2020 7:00:00 AM
Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is a family physician, New York Times best-selling author and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease through nutritional and natural methods. Dr. Fuhrman is an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing, and has appeared on hundreds of radio a...
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It's not necessarily true that fats are immediately stored as fat. Some fat is a necessary part of the diet, in order to assimilate fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins E and A. Your body also stores extra carbohydrates as fat: that's what insulin is for. Even extra protein can be broken down by the body; the nitrogen is thrown away via the kidneys (hard on the kidneys) and the other carbons in the proteins can be stored as fat.
That's why it's a good idea not to overeat - defined as taking in more food, fat, grains, or protein, than you burn off in energy.
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