When you hear the word “salad,” the first thing that comes to mind may be the usual fares of lettuce, cabbage or cucumbers. But the wonderful thing about a salad is you can “play around” with it — a salad can be anything you want it to be, if you just let your imagination wander as you shop your local farmers market or produce aisle. The fun thing about it is you can experiment with different salad ingredients to suit your taste and, if serving it as an appetizer or side dish, to go well with the main dish.
One thing to remember when creating a salad is to keep it light and refreshing. The ingredients should be fresh and chilled — and appropriately crisp and crunchy. That can often be a challenge since many leafy greens can wilt easily — especially in summer when you may be serving them outside — but there are ways to work around this. For example: Add fruit to your salad. Berries and watermelon are two wonderful choices!
Why these fruits are salad superstars
Fruit is a great salad ingredient, since it adds a touch of juicy sweetness to your salad. While it’s fun to shop for in-season fruits during summer, today, many fruits that you once could find only during certain seasons are now available year-round. Although you may have to pay more for them out of season, berries and watermelon are some of the top choices for delicious salad ingredients.
Just remember that in-season, you may get more bang for your buck, as the produce is "fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season," according to Seasonal Food Guide.1 But, in-season or not, berries and watermelon still contain a host of nutrients that can help support your well-being:
- Blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and chokeberries are a great source of fiber, micronutrients and polyphenols like anthocyanins, which are responsible for the bright color of these fruits. These nutrients are found to deliver plenty of heart-healthy benefits. According to a study published in Nutrition Reviews:2
“Human intervention studies using chokeberries, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries (either fresh, or as juice, or freeze-dried), or purified anthocyanin extracts have demonstrated significant improvements in LDL oxidation, lipid peroxidation, total plasma antioxidant capacity, dyslipidemia and glucose metabolism.”
These berries are also linked to neurological benefits — they’ve been found to help boost brain health. According to a study in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, “Intake of these fruits may help to prevent age-related neurodegeneration and resulting changes in cognitive and motor function.”3
- Watermelon may help improve nitric oxide (NO) production, thanks to its L-citrulline content, a precursor of L-arginine, which is the substrate for nitric oxide synthase in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts as an important biological signaling molecule. Not only does it support normal endothelial function, but it also protects your mitochondria.
Another standout nutrient in watermelon is lycopene, which is responsible for its red color. This carotenoid antioxidant has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disorders like stroke and peripheral vascular disease. According to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Pharmacology:4
“Lycopene may improve vascular function and contributes to the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disorders. The main activity profile of lycopene includes antiatherosclerotic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antiplatelet, anti-apoptotic, and protective endothelial effects, the ability to improve the metabolic profile and reduce arterial stiffness.”
Refreshing and scrumptious salad recipe ideas to try
Below are two delicious recipes that make use of these scrumptious fruits — prepare them today!
Berry Salad With Roasted Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette
- 6 cups mixed organic baby greens and spinach
- 6 ounces organic blueberries
- 1 pint organic strawberries, sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
For the vinaigrette
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Juice of one orange
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until fragrant, or about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through. Remove and allow to cool.
- Toss greens, sliced strawberries, blueberries, walnuts and goat cheese in a large bowl.
- In a Mason jar, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients and shake until well combined.
- Store in refrigerator until ready to serve or pour directly over the salad. Shake before pouring.
(Recipe adapted from NeighborFood5)
- 3/4 cup halved, thinly sliced organic red onion
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 1/2 quarts seedless, cubed watermelon
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup pitted black olive halves
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Place onion slices in a small bowl with the lime juice. The acid of the lime will mellow the flavor of the raw onion. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the watermelon cubes, feta, black olives and onions with the lime juice and mint. Drizzle olive oil over it all, then toss to blend. Serve immediately and enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from All Recipes6)
Note: Moderate your fruit consumption
One important reminder about using fruit in recipes is that many varieties contain high amounts of fructose. For example, blueberries have 9.96 grams of total sugars for every 100-gram serving.7 Too many high-fructose fruits, even if they’re served in something as healthy as salad, can affect your blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance. Always enjoy in moderation!
Try this low-fructose fruit, too!
Aside from berries and watermelon, you can also use avocado, which is one of the best low-fructose fruits you can consume. Yep — avocado is a fruit, even though many look at it as a veggie. A 100-gram serving of avocado has only 0.30 grams of sugar.8 While it may not add crunch or juiciness to your salad, avocado can add a delicious creamy texture and boost your salad’s healthy fat content. Here are two refreshing avocado salad ideas you can try — perfect for any time of year!
+ Sources and References