We need to eat more fruits and veggies
Most people in the U.S. do not eat the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables despite their well-known health benefits. There are numerous reasons why people fall short in eating enough fruits and veggies. Countless studies cite busy schedules, lack of knowledge, costs, and taste preferences as common barriers to eating fruits and vegetables. I can understand the impact of a lack of finances—food insecurity is a real issue. However, taste preferences, time limitations, and knowledge are surmountable obstacles. Simple salads, like this Strawberry Spinach Salad with Chia Seed Vinaigrette, are the perfect tool for overcoming these barriers. If there were such a thing as “gateway dish” for veggies and fruit, a salad with fruit would be that dish.
Salads with fruit are great way to combine servings of fruits and veggies
I make a lot of salads with different vegetable and fruit combinations, but it’s odd that I love the mix of spinach and strawberries. I didn’t eat many strawberries as a child since my mother had an allergy to them and I absolutely hated spinach. Anytime my mom made spinach; I felt like I was an enemy combatant in Guantanamo Bay and she was trying to “spinach board” me for not cleaning my room. Gratefully, I have grown to appreciate both spinach and strawberries since they are extremely healthy.
What are a few of the health benefits of spinach?
Spinach is low in calories, and each serving (about a handful) meets 9% of your daily fiber needs. Spinach has substantially more magnesium, potassium, and iron than cabbage and broccoli (1). Like most green leafy veggies, spinach is packed with health-promoting phytochemicals. A recent review article by Joseph Roberts in Food and Function highlighted a multitude of the benefits of eating spinach. These benefits ranged from increasing antioxidant levels to fighting cancer.
I summarized some of the key points from the review in the infographic below (1). Another excellent article examined the anti-Alzheimer properties of spinach (2). Since I played football as a kid and teenager, Alzheimer’s is ‘on my mind.’ I try to eat a healthy diet to decrease the likelihood of it being ‘in my mind.’
Before eating spinach, make sure you rinse it off well or buy organic because it can be high in pesticide residue. Check out the environmental working group’s list of foods high in pesticides.
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What about the health benefits of strawberries?
Like spinach, strawberries are extremely healthy. Recent studies suggest they offer some protection against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases (3). Their other health benefits are too vast to cover in one post, so I summarized some of the most important points from a relatively recent and exhaustive review article in the infographic below (4).
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What’s up with the chia seed vinaigrette?
The combination of the spinach and strawberries is ridiculously healthy, but it is devoid a protein. I added almonds to the recipe to give some extra protein, but I felt I needed to step it up a notch. There are countless recipes for poppy seed vinaigrette. I thought adding chia seeds would be a good way to change it up and add some extra plant-based protein. Chia seeds are an ancient grain extremely high in protein and fiber. They are also high in omega 3 fatty acids (5). They are similar to flax seeds, but they don’t go rancid as quickly as flax seeds. Chia seeds are also great additions to oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt bowls, and veggie burgers.
Check out the recipe
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- Functional properties of spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) phytochemicals and bioactives. Roberts JL, Moreau R. Food Funct. 2016 Aug 10;7(8):3337-53. doi: 10.1039/c6fo00051g. Epub 2016 Jun 29.
- Jiraungkoorskul W. Review of Neuro-nutrition Used as Anti-Alzheimer Plant, Spinach,
- Subash S, Essa MM, Al-Adawi S, Memon MA, Manivasagam T, Akbar M. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regeneration Research. 2014;9(16):1557-1566. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.139483.
- Strawberry As a Functional Food: An Evidence-Based Review. Arpita Basu, Angel Nguyen, Nancy M. Betts & Timothy J. Lyons. Critical Reviews in Food Science and NutritionVol. 54 , Iss. 6,2014
- Ullah R, Nadeem M, Khalique A, et al. Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica L.): a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology
I am a physician and trained chef. I specialize in gastroenterology and nutrition. Currently I work as the Associate Director of Adult Nutrition at the University of Chicago.