Eating a high-fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation.
Not only that, says Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, eating more fiber can help you feel fuller, eat less, and ultimately lose weight.
2. Powerful Antioxidants
If you eat green salads often, you’ll likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene,) especially if your salad includes some raw vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.
A recent study from the National Cancer Institute suggests that people whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables may have a lower risk of developing cancers of the head and neck — even those who smoke and drink heavily. Foods found to be particularly protective include beans and peas, string beans, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, nectarines, peaches, plums, pears, and strawberries.
3. Weight Control
If losing weight is your goal, you may want to start your meals with a green salad. Studies have shown that eating a low-calorie first course, like a green salad of 150 calories or less, enhances satiety (feelings of fullness) and reduces the total number of calories eaten during the meal.
Rolls, lead researcher of the study, suggests that “bigger is better” as long as the salad is bigger in volume, not in calories – which means more veggies and less dressing and other fatty add-ons.
4. Get Smart Fats
Eating a little good fat (like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocado and nuts) with your vegetables appears to help your body absorb protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark green vegetables.
A recent study from Ohio State University measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed by the body after people ate a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach, with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eaters absorbed eight times more alpha-carotene and more than 13 times more beta-carotene (both of which are thought to help protect against cancer and heart disease) than the group eating salads without avocado.
If you dress your salad with a little olive oil, there may even be some additional years in it for you. Italian research on people aged 60 and older has suggested that a diet that includes plenty of olive oil and raw vegetables is linked to reduced mortality.