Phytonutrient Loaded Salad with Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette

by Amylee Amos MS, RDN

This seems like a simple salad recipe. Actually, it is a simple salad recipe. There’s nothing fancy or strikingly unique about it. But eating a salad like this on a day to day basis will do wonders for your health. I’ve named it the phytonutrient loaded salad because it includes basically all of the colors of the rainbow in vegetable form. Why is that important? Well it certainly makes it beautiful to look at, and we do eat with our eyes first, but that’s not the reason. The reason is that each color of fruit and vegetable contains different phytonutrients- tiny compounds that help us stay well and fight disease.

We need all of the different phytonutrients, so we need to eat all of the different colors. That may seem obvious, but the average American only eats about 3 different varieties of plants. Only 3! And our early human ancestors were living off of approximately 800 different plant species (1)! So we evolved to get the phytonutrients from hundreds of fruits and vegetables, and now we get 3. I wish that was worst part. The worst part is what those three plants species are: white potato, iceberg lettuce, and tomato (2).  Think about that. That’s a burger with a slice of tomato, a wilty piece of lettuce and a big side of greasy fries. Even worse, the tomato intake may be the result of high fructose corn syrup laden tomato ketchup. Those are our top sources of phytonutrients. And we wonder why chronic disease is commonplace!

Our diet was meant to be colorful and rich in dense sources of nutrition like vegetables and fruits. But many of us, even those of us who are a step or two ahead of the standard American burger and fries diet, are not getting adequate vegetable intake and/or we are missing the variety of vegetables we need.

This salad recipe can serve as a great guide. You need to get lots of dark green leafy vegetables in your diet every day, and you should also sprinkle in some vegetables of each other color. This recipe has a lot of greens: kale, romaine, arugula. We get red pigment phytonutrients from the tomato; orange pigment phytonutrients from the carrot, yellow pigment phytonutrients from the yellow bell pepper; more green phytonutrients from the cucumber and avocado, and some blue/purple pigment phytonutrients from the red onion. You’re also getting tons of the other vitamins and minerals with this combination. Feels free to switch up which vegetables you add to continue to broaden your variety!

What makes the salad really delicious is the dressing. This vinaigrette is tangy and garlicky and creamy. It makes the salad drool-worthy and will keep you coming back for more. Phytonutrients have never tasted so good!

This recipe can serve 2-4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of kale, chopped
  • 1 head romaine, chopped
  • 2 cups packed arugula
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Add all of the dressing ingredients into a small bowl and whisk well. Set aside.
  2. Put all salad ingredients into a large bowl.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing.
  4. Serve immediately.

References:

  1. Heber, David, and Susan Bowerman. What Color Is Your Diet?: the 7 Colors of Health. Regan Books, 2002.
  2. Slavin, J. L., & Lloyd, B. (2012). Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables. Advances in Nutrition, 3(4), 506–516.