As the days get warmer and longer, the desire for lighter and healthier food increases. Salads appear more frequently on my table, the more colorful the better. The health benefits of “eating your colors” go beyond the vibrant look of the plate. The phytochemicals responsible for varying the color of fruits and vegetables also tell us what to expect nutritionally. White vegetables (think cauliflower, garlic, onions and radish) have a wide range of beneficial nutrients, such as anthoxanthins, sulfur, and quercetin. These substances boost the immune system because they are anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory, which helps the body fight infections. Green foods get their color from chlorophyll, a natural blood purifier that supports the liver and kidneys in the elimination of toxins. Yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in Vitamin C, which helps reduce inflammation, prevent allergies, and maintain healthy skin, due to its’ ability to combat free radicals. Orange foods are high in beta-carotene, which our bodies transform into Vitamin A and antioxidants. These nutrients aid in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and infections. Beta-carotene also helps maintain healthy eyes and skin. Red fruits and vegetables are rich in the phytonutrients lycopene and anthocyanin, which benefits the circulatory system by helping build healthy cell walls. This improves blood pressure, organ function, and circulation. Need another good reason to eat more red foods this time of year? They offer sun protection from harmful UV damage. Add tomatoes, watermelon, beets and red bell peppers to your diet to get these benefits. Purple or blue foods, like eggplant, purple cabbage, blueberries and blackberries contain the most antioxidants. They have also been linked to increasing HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, and helping maintain a healthy brain.
This salad uses a wide range of colors in a Thai-inspired flavor profile.
Crunchy, Colorful Salad
1 head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ head purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1 red, yellow or other color bell pepper, chopped into about 1” pieces
1 cucumber, chopped into about 1” pieces
3 scallions, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and shredded
½ Cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 10 ounce bag frozen edamame, cooked according to package directions
¾ Cup neutral oil, such as corn, vegetable or Canola
¼ Cup Sugar
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 bunch cilantro, washed and stems removed
2-3 garlic cloves
Salt & pepper
Combine cabbages, bell pepper, cucumber, scallion, carrots and mint leaves in a large bowl. In a food processor or blender, combine oil, lime juice and zest, cilantro and garlic cloves; process until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Toss cooked edamame with half of dressing, allow to cool. Top the salad with dressed edamame, toss, adding reserved dressing, salt & pepper to taste. This salad is best dressed right before serving.