What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Salad Every Day
As far as foods go, salad has a superstar reputation: it's practically the poster child for weight loss and healthy eating. Whether you're trying to up your intake of fruits and veggies, want to shed pounds, or simply want a filling meal that'll fuel you while curbing cravings, you can't go wrong with a salad. But what happens to your body when you eat salad every day? We spoke with Gina Keatley, a certified dietitian and nutritionist at Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy in New York City, to find out.
According to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should be eating five servings (or 2 1/2 cups of a mix of vegetables) per day. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that only one in ten American adults actually eat their recommended amount of veggies per day. Sounds pretty bleak, right? But eating a salad every day is an easy peasy way to solve that problem—as long as you're "eating the rainbow" with a diverse array of vegetables.
"Salads are generally low-starch foods that will help you to regulate your blood sugar better," says Keatley. "But not all salads are created equal."
As Keatley points out, some fast food salads can pack more than 2,000 calories—or your entire day's worth.
"Just because there are some greens in it doesn't mean it is going to be appropriate for your goals," she adds.
In other words, salads can be a healthy staple in your diet, but if you're eating them daily, you should be mindful of your ingredients and portion sizes (especially where dressing and fats are concerned).
With all of that in mind, read on to find out what effects that daily salad can have on your body and overall health. And for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
You'll absorb a lot of vitamins.
As long as you're incorporating a wide variety of ingredients (different types of veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, protein sources, etc.) and regularly switching things up, that daily salad can easily be a nutritional powerhouse that supplies many of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Better yet, research has shown that the oil in your salad dressing can actually help your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins found in fruits and vegetables more effectively.
Pro tip: A salad that features spinach or kale, nuts or seeds, and chickpeas, salmon, or tuna will feature all three vitamins that play a crucial role in boosting your immunity and warding off illness: vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.
Get even more healthy tips straight to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter!
You might lose weight as a result of eating fewer unhealthy foods.
One of the reasons why salad is considered a healthy choice when you're aiming to maintain your weight or shed pounds is that it's chock-full of fiber—which is considered The #1 Thing To Eat Every Day To Lose Weight For Good.
A 2004 study found that when people had a small first-course salad before the rest of their meal, they consumed 7% fewer calories, and when they had a large salad beforehand, they consumed 12% fewer calories. So, by always starting your meal with a salad, you may avoid overeating other more calorie-dense foods.
You'll keep your brain young.
Eating a salad a day is a great way to make sure your brain stays in tip-top shape. In fact, a 2017 study found that eating one daily improved the memory of elderly people by as much as 11 years. Even just half a cup of salad was enough to slow the rate of cognitive decline. But keep this in mind: researchers found that those who regularly ate leafy greens, specifically, had the memory function of people significantly younger.
You could experience some heartburn.
Be careful about loading on the vinaigrette—not just because the calories can rack up quickly, but also because according to Keatley, the acid in the vinegar can trigger reflux-related symptoms.
"The more salad you eat, odds are the more dressing you're putting on," she explains. "And too much can lead to heartburn."
It's also worth noting that tomatoes and cheese, both common salad ingredients, are highly acidic and can aggravate acid reflux.
Speaking of dressing, be sure to check out our list of 10 Healthy Salad Dressing Brands to Buy (and 10 to Avoid).
You may feel bloated or gassy—if your portions are large.
Struggling with bloating or other GI issues after devouring your daily salads? It might be time to consider your portion sizes.
"If you're getting some of the heartier greens in your salad, like kale you could be dumping a significant amount of insoluble fiber into your colon which could cause some constipation and become a feeding frenzy for the bacteria down there and cause some gas," says Keatley.
Luckily, there's an easy fix: try just making a smaller salad, at least until your body adjusts.
"You can train your gut just like you train your body," says Keatley. "So, if you're introducing new foods—especially foods with more insoluble fiber than you're used—this can lead to gas, bloating, and cramps."
You'll likely feel more regular.
Speaking of insoluble fiber, Keatley says this type of fiber attracts water as it moves through your digestive tract—thus helping to soften your stools, making them easier to pass. That means your daily salad habit could keep constipation at bay.
"But there is a tipping point at about 70 grams of fiber a day," says Keatley. "At this point, you could be creating intestinal blockages—while this is rare, it shows that more is not always better."
By the way, insoluble fiber doesn't just normalize your bowel movements. According to the Mayo Clinic, high-fiber diets lower your risk of colorectal cancer—potentially because when fiber ferments in your colon, it can have a protective effect.
You may live longer.
According to Harvard Health, while "no single fruit or vegetable" can provide all of the nutrients your body needs, a variety of produce can ward off a host of diseases. That makes the salad a superb choice for living a long, healthy life.
Need proof? A 2016 meta-analysis published in JRSM Cardiovascular Disease determined that eating more leafy green vegetables was associated with a significantly lower risk of heart disease. A 2017 study also suggested that piling on the veggies every day could prevent premature death, eating 10 portions per day was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 13% reduced risk of total cancer.
Now, are you in need of some salad inspiration? Check out our list of 35+ Healthy Salad Recipes for Weight Loss.