What’s for lunch? It’s a question you may ask yourself (or someone else) virtually every day, and one that gives you an opportunity to fuel your body with vital nutrients it needs to thrive.
I was surprised at the results of a national survey by GrubHub Seamless, which analyzed what working Americans are eating for lunch during their workdays. The top three entrees ordered were salads, with Greek salad topping the list.1
This is a step above your typical fast-food burger and fries, but even most restaurant salads could be significantly improved. And so I want to share my favorite lunch recipe with you.
It’s a salad of sorts but with one crucial difference. I trade regular lettuce for sunflower seed sprouts and other greens. That forms the base of my salad, and then I top it with fresh herbs, additional vegetables, pastured butter, anchovies, sardines and sometimes wild-caught Alaskan salmon or black cod.
Keep in mind the recipe that follows can be tweaked to suit your tastes. I encourage you to add additional vegetables according to season (or what you have available from your garden). You can also experiment with different fresh herbs and alternate the types of fish included.
For the "dressing," I prefer to use raw, organic pastured butter but you can also use high-quality olive oil and/or coconut oil for their healthy fats. For flavor, you can add in apple cider vinegar, mustard, Himalayan salt and pepper, garlic or any other spices you enjoy.
Dr. Mercola's Lunch Recipe
- Freshly cut sunflower seed sprouts, chopped (4-8 ounces)
- Freshly cut oregano leaves, chopped (2-4 ounces)
- Freshly cut rosemary, leaves stripped (a few sprigs)
- Fermented vegetables (1/2 cup)
- 1/2-inch turmeric root, chopped
- 1 habanero pepper, finely chopped (optional)
- Fennel stalks, finely chopped (2-4 ounces)
- 1 med. organic avocado
- Raw organic pastured butter (a few teaspoons)
- Fresh Tulsi (Holy Basil) leaves. Optional and can use a few ounces.
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup red onions, raw or sautéed in butter, chopped
- 1 tin of anchovies, drained (2 ounces) or 1 tin of sardines (3 ounces)
- 6 ounces canned wild Alaskan salmon or frozen wild Alaskan salmon or black cod, lightly sautéed in butter
- Add all ingredients to a medium-sized bowl, stir to combine and enjoy!
Why Sprouts Make the Ideal Base for Your Salad
Sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition available, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes that help protect against free radical damage. So while lettuce is good, sprouts are even better.
Fresh broccoli sprouts, for instance, are far more potent than whole broccoli, allowing you to eat far less in terms of quantity. Three-day old broccoli sprouts consistently contain anywhere from 10 to 100 times the amount of glucoraphanin — a chemoprotective compound — found in mature broccoli.2
The compound glucoraphanin also appears to have a protective effect against toxic pollutants by improving your body's ability to eliminate or excrete them. Glucoraphanin has also been shown to protect against cancer.
Sprouts are far less expensive (90 percent or greater) if made at home rather than purchased, and the risk of contamination is much lower, so I strongly recommend growing your own sprouts. Try broccoli sprouts, watercress sprouts and sunflower sprouts, for starters.
When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week, and a pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts. Sunflower sprouts will give you the most volume for your effort and, in my opinion, have the best taste.
In one 10x10 tray, you can harvest between 1 and 2 pounds of sunflower sprouts. You can store them in the fridge for about a week, but it’s even better to use them fresh, just after cutting.
What Else Makes My Lunch Recipe so Good for You?
Herbs are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other phytochemicals with health-boosting properties. Oregano, for instance, contains rosmarinic acid, which is a strong antioxidant that may support immune system health.
Oregano also has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, with 42 times the antioxidant punch of apples. Oregano also contains beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), a substance that inhibits inflammation, and has potential anti-viral and anti-fungal and anti-microbial effects.
Like oregano, the herb rosemary also has multiple benefits, including a potential beneficial effect on cognitive function and chronic diseases like cancer. Of course, oregano and rosemary also add intense flavor to my "salad."
You can also use fresh Tulsi leaves (holy basil). It is very easy to grow and readily propagates almost like a weed.
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene (pre-vitamin A), vitamin K1, vitamin C and calcium. I generally recommend eating carrots in moderation because they contain more sugar than any other vegetable aside from beets.
However, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, the nutrients in carrots may provide you with protection against heart disease and stroke while helping you to build strong bones and a healthy nervous system.
In particular, carrots are associated with a 32 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease3 and a lower risk of heart attacks in women.4 Antioxidants in carrots, including beta-carotene, may also play a role in cancer prevention.
Research has shown that smokers who eat carrots more than once a week have a lower risk of lung cancer,5 while a beta-carotene-rich diet may also protect against prostate cancer.6
To maintain a healthy gut, fermented foods are a necessity. Just one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented vegetables, which you can learn to make at home, eaten regularly can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health.
Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora. In addition to helping break down and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from your body, beneficial gut bacteria perform a number of surprising functions, including:
- Mineral absorption, and producing nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2 (vitamin K2 and vitamin D are necessary for integrating calcium into your bones and keeping it out of your arteries, thereby reducing your risk for coronary artery disease and stroke)
- Preventing obesity and diabetes, and regulating dietary fat absorption
- Lowering your risk for cancer
- Improving your mood and mental health
- Preventing acne
Turmeric, the yellow-pigmented "curry spice" often used in Indian cuisine, contains curcumin, the polyphenol identified as its primary active component and which exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, which include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.7
Chili peppers like habaneros are one of the main sources of capsaicin, which is linked to a lower risk of chronic disease, weight loss and more. Capsaicin has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.
Studies have also shown capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body.8 Peppers are optional in the recipe; only include them if you enjoy spicy foods.
Pastured Organic Raw Butter
Butter, when made with milk from grass-fed cows, is an excellent source of healthy fat. It’s rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight.
Butter is also a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E and K2), which are often lacking in modern diets. Butter is rich in important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper and selenium (a powerful antioxidant).
One Swedish study also found that fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil.9 The scientists' main explanation is that about 20 percent of butterfat consists of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are used right away for quick energy and therefore don't contribute to fat levels in your blood.
Therefore, a significant portion of the butter you consume is used immediately for energy. The very best-quality butter is raw (unpasteurized) from grass-fed cows, preferably certified organic. (One option is to make your own butter from raw grass-fed milk.)
Onions have a wealth of beneficial properties; they’re anti-allergic, anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant,10 all rolled into one. Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Onions have a particularly high concentration, with more polyphenols than garlic, leeks, tomatoes, carrots and red bell pepper.11
In particular, onions are especially rich in polyphenol flavonoids called quercetin. Quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release — making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.”
Onions contain numerous anti-cancer compounds, including quercetin, which has been shown to decrease cancer tumor initiation as well as inhibit the proliferation of cultured ovarian, breast and colon cancer cells.12
People who eat more onions, as well as other allium vegetables, have a lower risk of many types of cancer, including:13
- Prostate and breast
- Ovarian and endometrial
- Colorectal and gastric
- Esophageal and laryngeal
- Renal cell
Wild-Caught Seafood (Alaskan Salmon, Sardines, Anchovies and Black Cod)
Salmon provides omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can benefit many aspects of your health, from your cardiovascular system to mental and behavioral health to your digestive health. It may even help prevent premature death.
Research suggests eating oily fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent.14 Salmon also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been hailed as one of the most powerful antioxidants ever discovered due to its ability to quench multiple types of free radicals simultaneously.
Findings have shown that it is stronger than other carotenoid antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene Astaxanthin also exhibits beneficial properties that make it useful for heart, eye and brain health, as well as for alleviating chronic pain.
The key to eating fish these days is to choose fish that are high in healthy omega-3 fats and low in hazardous contaminants. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon (not farmed) fits this description, and is one of the few types of fish I still recommend eating.
Sardines are another option and are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.15
They also contain a wealth of other nutrients, from vitamin B12 and selenium to protein, calcium and choline, making them one of the best dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s. Anchovies are another beneficial source of animal-based omega-3s, similar to sardines.
For a treat, you may also enjoy black cod (also known as Alaskan sablefish or butterfish). It provides more omega-3s than any other white fish, and even more omega-3s than most varieties of wild salmon.
Once you have all the ingredients on hand, you’ll find that making this lunch salad is incredibly easy and just as fast as driving to a local fast-food joint. But unlike fast food, this salad will nourish your body perhaps better than any other meal you’ve tried. If you want to give it a run for its money, try out my breakfast recipe next.
+ Sources and References