For some people, eating salad is an experience best left for dieters and vegetarians.
But salads have come a long way from your typical diner mix of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot, cucumber slices, onions and a paltry slice of tomato—topped, of course, with a trans-fat-filled dollop of “house dressing“.
Salads now come in a huge variety of textures and flavors. Anything goes, from beans to seeds, or even warm ingredients.
The best salads, however, are the ones that not only look and taste great but also include a wide variety of functional foods. With practically everything linked to cancer and other diseases of one sort or another, eating properly is no longer an option—it’s a requirement for staying healthy.
Here’s a great recipe for a powerhouse salad for anyone who’s on the go.
Anti Cancer Salad With Spinach and Avocado
Here are the star ingredients of this recipe and how they work to improve your health!
Despite most children’s natural aversion to this superfood, on average, every American still consumes nearly two pounds of spinach per year (1). In the 60s, Popeye did his best to promote this vitamin-rich food, flaunting his enormous muscles that were a result of pounding back infinite amounts of spinach.
Apart from essentially next to no calories (7 calories in 1 cup uncooked and 41 calories in 1 cup cooked spinach), this superfood is jam-packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and anti-oxidants. It’s obviously low in fat and cholesterol, but it is also rich in niacin and zinc. And although you may not automatically associate spinach with protein, it has a fair amount, as well as a decent amount of fiber.
In fact, spinach ranks as one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. It is an excellent source of folate and vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as thiamin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese (cooked spinach actually provides higher amounts of vitamin A and iron than raw spinach) (2).
In fact, there are more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.
One 2008 study published in Lipids, shows the nutrients in spinach counter DNA destruction and inhibit cancer cell and tumor growth (3). Another 2007 study shows the flavonoid kaempferol in spinach (and also some cabbages), lowers the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 40 percent (4). Other studies show eating spinach lowers the risk of prostate cancer and even reduces the risk of breast cancer by 44 percent (5).
Of special interest is a 2004 study published in Nutrition Journal, which concludes the carotenoids in spinach (and other leafy greens) offer “…at least a 60–70 percent decrease in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, and even a 40–50 percent decrease in lung cancer, along with similar reductions in cancers at other sites.” (6)
And fighting cancer is not the only benefit this mighty vegetable offers. The same flavonoids in spinach that help prevent cancer are potent antioxidants that slow the effects of aging, especially on your brain. Animal studies also show these antioxidants can even significantly improve learning capacity and motor skills (7).
A large cohort study, The Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP), published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), shows that eating 2.8 servings of green leafy, yellow, and cruciferous vegetables every day can slow cognitive decline by as much as 40 percent (8).
Spinach is also high in lutein, a carotenoid that is key in fighting eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts (9). This superfood also helps to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetics, lower blood pressure, improve bone health, and lower the risk of developing asthma among other things (10).
While many conventional sources used to claim avocados contain too much fat, the reality is that there is no better or healthier fat than avocados.
While this fruit’s, or more technically, single-seeded berry’s, reputation as a high-fat food is actually true, (1 cup has 22 grams of fat, which accounts for 82 percent of its total calories), studies show eating avocados can lower your risk of heart disease, improve your LDL cholesterol levels, and lower your levels of oxidative stress.
In general, avocados are a nutrient and phytochemical dense food rich in dietary fiber, potassium magnesium, vitamins A, C, E, and K1, as well as folate, vitamin B 6, niacin, pantothenic acid (B₅), riboflavin (B2), choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, and phytosterols. Avocado oil is essentially 71 percent monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), 13 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and 16 percent saturated fatty acids (SFA) (11).
This ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat is not necessarily favorable (there is about ¼ gram of omega-3s in 1 serving of avocado and 2.5 grams of omega-6s, making it a 10:1 ration in favor of omega-6s) but studies repeatedly show the high levels of monounsaturated fat, (similar to that found in olives) in particular, oleic acid, are key to its heart-healthy benefits (12).
Avocados also contain high levels of phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol, which provide important anti-inflammatory benefits, including the avocado’s renowned cardiovascular benefits, as well as a number of anti-cancer properties (13,14, 15, 16, 17). One study shows avocados are even effective against hard-to-treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML)(18).
Other proven health benefits derived from eating avocados include preventing atherosclerosis (19), regulating cholesterol levels (20, 21, 22), preventing and treating high blood pressure (23, 24), preventing and treating osteoarthritis (25, 26), treating psoriasis (27), significantly increasing soluble collagen content in skin (28), treating scleroderma (29), and even improving wound healing (30).
According to the USDA, pecans are actually the most antioxidant-rich of all of the tree nuts and they rate in the top 20 of the best antioxidant foods (31). A key antioxidant in pecans is vitamin E, which studies show promotes neurological and cell protection against such things as coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and of course, cancer. Just a handful of pecans daily may also help lower your bad cholesterol levels and stimulate weight loss with their high oleic acid content (32).
Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, which are key to this fruit’s many health benefits, which also include powerful antiviral and antitumor properties. In fact, pomegranates have three times as many antioxidants as both wine or green tea. Studies show the antioxidant tannins and flavonoids in pomegranates “selectively inhibit the growth of breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer cells in culture.” Studies further show eating pomegranates can inhibit the growth of lung, skin, colon and prostate tumors (33, 34).
This delicious fruit is also an amazing source of vitamins A, C and E (also key antioxidants) as well as folic acid. Other benefits include improving cardiovascular health, maintaining healthy blood circulation and regulating cholesterol levels, treating digestive disorders, dental conditions, osteoarthritis, anemia, and diabetes (35, 36, 37, 38).
Now, imagine a salad containing each of these functional foods! It is one of the most powerful anti-cancer salads you can eat.
Super Anti-Cancer Spinach and Avocado Salad
Prep time: 5 minutes
- 1 ½ cups organic spinach leaves
- ½ sliced avocado
- 1/3 cup organic cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup organic blackberries
- 1/3 cup raw pecans
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1 Tbsp. avocado oil
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (ACV)
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl.
- Mix all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until well combined.
- Drizzle the dressing on the salad and then toss until everything is coated,
- Serve and enjoy!