I’m not generally a fan of U.S. federal government committee recommendations on what we should eat. They’ve led us astray before. For what it’s worth, the USDA and National Cancer Institute have put together a Healthy Eating Index. Salad-eaters score higher on the Index, which they say is better for you. I do believe the best salads are better than the crap most Americans eat.
From the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
Consuming salad is one strategy with the potential to harmonize diets more closely with national dietary guidance. However, it is not known whether nutrient intake and diet quality differ between people who consume vegetable-based salad and those who do not.
The objective of this study was to compare nutrient intake and diet quality between salad reporters and nonreporters.
This study is a cross-sectional analysis of 1 day of dietary intake data collected via 24-hour recall.
Adults 20 years and older (n=9,678) in What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014 were included. Respondents who ate salad on the intake day were considered salad reporters.
Main outcome measures
This study estimated nutrient intake from all foods and beverages (excluding supplements) and evaluated diet quality using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2015.
Nutrient intake and HEI scores were compared between salad reporters and nonreporters using paired t tests with regression adjustment for confounding variables. Results were considered significant at P<0.001.
On the intake day, 23% of adults consumed salad. Energy, protein, and carbohydrate intakes did not differ between salad reporters and nonreporters. Salad reporters had higher intakes than nonreporters of dietary fiber, total fat, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins A, B-6, C, E, K, folate, choline, magnesium, potassium, and sodium (P<0.001). Total HEI 2015 scores were significantly higher for reporters (56 of a possible 100 points) than nonreporters (50 points) P<0.001. Reporters also had significantly higher scores for eight of 13 HEI components: total vegetables, greens and beans, whole fruits, total protein foods, seafood and plant proteins, fatty acids, refined grains, and added sugars (P<0.001).
Incorporating vegetable-based salad into one’s diet may be one effective way to increase nutrient intake and improve overall diet quality. Regardless of salad reporting status, HEI scores show that diets of US adults need improvement.
Source: Consuming Vegetable-Based Salad Is Associated with Higher Nutrient Intakes and Diet Quality among US Adults, What We Eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014 – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Steve Parker, M.D.