Wondering what to make for a family gathering? Salads are refreshingly versatile. Serve them hot or cold. Make them with greens, grains, vegetables or fruits. Pep them up with colors for holidays. Slather them with dressing or spike them with spice. Add a few superfoods and you've got a nutrition packed star that can shine on the side or dazzle as an entree! Salads can be quick to make, lovely to serve, and the front line defense against illness and aging for you and your family.

Salads don't have to be green yet most traditional salads start there.  Venture beyond the standard leaves to spinach, the vitamin k standout, chard, a cholesterol fighter, and the digestion friend kale, for variety. Most grocers also feature unusual leaves which can supercharge your salad with nutrition.

  • Have you tried arugula? This peppery leaf is in the cruciferous family along with foods such as brussel sprouts or broccoli. If you don't tolerate those vegetables arugula may be a way to bring their cancer fighting benefits into your life. Arugula leaves boast high values of vitamins A, K, and C, calcium, and nitrates. Eat plentifully for protection against osteopoosis, diabetes, and overall wellness.
  • Watercress is a superfood with ancient roots known to support the nutrition of Roman soldiers!  If you like a little spice and tang in your leaves include it in salads for flavor. Enjoy health protection against: bone loss, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes.Get a boost to your collagen, elastin, thyroid, and iron. This one can be hard to find but well worth the hunt. 
  • Purslane is another ancient superleaf. Americans consider it a weed so it's rarely in mainstream grocers but you may find it at farmer's markets, community co-ops or even on the roadside! It's loaded with support in vitamins: E, C, B and A. It's higher in beta carotene than carrots and packs the largest dose of Omega 3  of any green plant. Try it!

A word of warning on greens: if you take coumadin or warfarin or experience cardiovascular disease be cautious about your green salads and refer to your doctor when adding high nitrite greens to your diet.

Greens not good for you? Get connected with fruits as a salad base! In the summer berry salads in yogurt dressing offer antioxidant support and make attractive highly nutritious meals. In the winter consider apple, banana, oranges and walnuts for a simple brain healthy, antioxidant punch. Combine asian pears and persimmons with honey lemon and enjoy a hearty, fibrous micro-nutrient upgrade. Bring the urinary tract protecting cranberry into your life as a dressing or tangy addition to sweeter fruits. Cranberries contain more antioxidant support than any of the summer berries. Toss in papaya to help you digest the fruit and tone your skin! Mix and match seasonal fruits to accent your nutritional needs.

Looking for a salad that's not so sweet? Try vegetable salads. There's always the traditional potato or bean dishes. Vary these classics by using different potatoes or beans or lend an ethnic flair to your bean salad by making it Tex Mex, Asian, or Lebanese. Bring on the brainpower in foods such as beets or broccoli. Boost your immunity with a bright carrot salad. Combine them all by shredding them into a vegetable slaw! Almost any vegetable can hold their own as a salad base and will jack up the nutrition in a green salad.

If you haven't tried a grain based salad you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Grains such as: cous cous, wild rice, quinoa, bulghur, cracked wheat, farro all lend themselves to cold salad. Grain salads derive much of their flavor from ingredients and often welcome help from health stars garlic and ginger. High in protein these salads pair happily with high b vitamin beans or nuts. Dress them up with elegant vegetables or relax with casual earthy tones. Grain salads can easily become a flavorful, well balanced, nourishing meal of choice.

I love being asked to bring a salad because salads are limited only by creativity. Whether their base is greens, grains, vegetables or berries it's easy to mix and match ingredients to meet the needs of any occasion. Salads are also an easy, quick way to support a range of nutrition goals and boost immunity during the winter months. Branch out and explore the world of flavors. Stay fit and vibrant with salads!