9 Myths About Your Salad
Reprinted From a WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine
By Janis Jibrin, R.D.

It's not just the fries! Many diet nightmares can be traced to the seemingly virtuous salad.

Myth #1: It's Just a Salad!
There's nothing "just" about the 490 calories and 41 grams of fat in a Subway BMT salad with ranch dressing. That adds up to even more calories and fat than a Burger King Bacon Cheeseburger (360 calories, 18 grams of fat). At Ruby Tuesday, the Carolina Chicken Salad packs - brace yourself - 1,300 calories and 72 grams of fat (275 fewer calories without dressing).

Myth #2: Fatfree Dressing Is Healthiest.
Not quite. You do save on calories when you take out the fat, but many such dressings are loaded with sugar ó more than 2 teaspoons per serving and offer zero nutrition. Plus, they block your ability to absorb the carotenoid antioxidants in salad greens and tomatoes - important compounds that reduce the risk of heart disease. In one study, people eating fullfat salad dressing absorbed twice the nutrients of those using reduced fat dressing. Fat free dressing allowed for virtually no absorption of these good guys.

Myth #3: Celery Has Negative Calories, so It Will Compensate for the Extra Cheese!
At six calories per stalk, celery is unquestionably a weight-friendly food. But, alas, the body doesn't expend more calories than that to chew and digest it, according to David Baer, Ph.D., a research physiologist at the USDA Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland. "No negativecalorie foods have been discovered yet," he says.

Myth #4: Lettuce Is Lettuce.
Not when it comes to nutrition or flavor: Arugula and watercress are superstars, loaded with cancerfighting compounds. In fact, a chemical in watercress has been shown to deactivate one of the cancercausing toxins in tobacco smoke. Spinach is another hero because of its cache of lutein, thought to protect against cancer and blindness. And baby versions of kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens are less sharp, tough, and bitter than the grownups but are outfitted with the same cancerfighters. Dark leaf, mild-tasting greens, including romaine, red leaf lettuce, and many mesclun mixes, don't have a wealth of phytonutrients but have respectable levels of betacarotene. Light greens, like iceberg and endive, are pretty much all nutrition duds.
Myth #5: Go for the Green.
Colorful, all-vegetable salads offer good-for-you phytonutrients that aren't available in greens. For instance, powerful antioxidants (anthocyanins) in purplish vegetables such as beets and eggplant help reduce heart disease risk and improve brain function. Radishes offer cancer fighting indoles; red tomatoes are the ultimate in lycopene, linked to lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Myth #6: Garbanzo Beans Give Me a Meal's Worth of Protein.
A ladleful (about 1/4 cup) provides roughly 4 grams of protein - not enough, if that's the only protein you're having in that meal. You need .36 grams per pound of body weight per day (so a 154-pound woman needs about 55 grams of protein daily). Get more by using 3/4 cup of beans. That's 11 grams of protein ó plus 1/4 cup of chopped egg (4 grams of protein) or 1/4 cup of shredded cheese (7 grams of protein).

Myth #7: If I Add Bacon, I Might as Well Have Ordered a Burger.
Bacon won't ever win any health prizes; in fact, nutritionists consider it a fat (and not a healthy fat!), as opposed to a meat. But it's not as bad as you might think. One slice, about 1 tablespoon crumbled, has about the same amount of fat as 2 tablespoons of feta or shredded cheese or 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds. Just make sure you keep other fats, such as croutons or creamy dressing, out of your salad.

Myth #8: You Can't Get Food Poisoning from Salad like You Can from Beef or Chicken.
"Lettuce, sprouts, and tomatoes are some of the most common carriers of salmonella, toxic strains of E. coli, and other harmful microbes," says Christopher Braden, M.D., at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. How do they get into your salad? From the manure and contaminated water they're grown in, from a dirty cutting board or knife, or from people touching the vegetables without washing their hands. Not much you can do about it when you're out, but at home, wash veggies under running water.

Myth #9: Organic Salad Is Healthier.
When it comes to nutrients, freshness matters more than an "organic" designation. Every day after they're picked, vegetables lose vitamin B, vitamin C, and other nutrients; heat and light speed the decline. A conventional head of lettuce that was picked yesterday will have retained lots more nutrients than an organic head of lettuce that's a week out of the fields. Of course, there are reasons to choose organic, but a nutrient bonus isn't one of them

Hail Caesar? Don't Let Your Salad Wreck Your Diet
Whatís the first "safe" menu item you think of when youíre trying to !ose weight? If youíre like most people, itís a salad. After all, how can you go wrong with fresh lettuce and crispy vegetables? You canít... as long as thatís all thatís going into your bowl. Unfortunately, some common add-ins can send a saladís fat and calorie count soaring. Think croutons, creamy dressing and cheese. And thereís one well-known greens recipe that has all three of these diet offenders.
Think that Caesar salad is your best bet at the restaurant? You might be taking a gamble.
Choose Chiliís Dinner Caesar with dressing, for example, and youíll get 242 calories and 18 grams of fat (add chicken to rack up 660 calories and 32 grams of fat). So much for playing it safe. A Caesar salad from Au Bon Pain will ring up 360 calories and 11 grams of fat, while Arbyís Caesar salad (with two ounces of dressing) will run you 400 calories and 8 grams of fat. Just a side Caesar at Dennyís has 362 calories, 26 grams of fat and grilled chicken jacks it up to 600 calories and 41 grams of fat. Who knew ordering Boston Marketís Caesar Salad entrťe is like playing dietary Russian roulette, with 670 calories and 57 grams of fat? You also wonít come out on top with Wendyís Grilled Chicken Caesar with one packet Italian Caesar dressing. It has 485 calories and 33 grams of fat.

So, how can you be sure youíre getting a salad thatís worthy of its diet-safe reputation? A few telltale signs will let you know whether your salad deserves its place in the light corner of that menu. Here are some "Salad Smarts" to help you out:

    1. Hold the cheese. If the greens come topped with crumbled blue cheese, feta, Gorgonzola or goat cheese, itís probably a fat minefield. If you must have cheese, a dusting of Parmesan will contribute plenty of flavor and less fat. 2. Dress for success. A creamy dressing alone can take a salad from light and lean to fat-laden. Stick with low-fat and fat-free options or opt for balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon or two of olive oil 3. Beware of add-ins. Pile on all the fresh veggies you want, but watch out for sneaky fat and calorie contributors, like olives, artichoke hearts marinated in oil, croutons, fried noodles, real bacon bits and whole eggs. 4. Keep your eye on the size. A sprinkling of sunflower seeds, a couple of tablespoons of part-skim mozzarella and three ounces of grilled chicken strips are fine, but look out for heaps of those ingredients. Even if theyíre healthy, they can add up to too much.
There are loads of bottled reduced-fat Caesar salad dressings in your supermarket, but you can also mix up a delicious low-fat rendition of your own.

Low-Fat Caesar Dressing
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Whisk together all ingredients. Toss with romaine lettuce and fat-free croutons. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional values per 2 tablspoons of dressing: 50 calories, 3g fat, 8g carbohydrate, 2g protein, 460mg sodium and 1g fiber.

Copyright © 2009 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved