Toss colour into a salad : Colourful antioxidant salad

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Do not be put off by the name "antioxidant salad" - to eat lots of antioxidants, you just need your salad bowl to be filled with colourful fruit and vegetables.

The colours are a clear clue to the health benefits you are getting, but it is something that we do not pay enough attention to.

 

While I eat greens a lot, I do not think much about adding colour to the plate, though I like a pretty plate. I am, however, conscientious about eating greens, so much so that a friend who stayed with me for a month once asked me: "Do you ever eat a meal without vegetables?"

Well, never. The vegetables can be part of the main dish or served separately, cooked or raw, but they are there every day.

I even serve a salad as a main course at least once a week - but I confess that is also partly because it beats having to cook.

I have decided to make my salads as colourful as possible. This is done by simply adding red and blue fruit, such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, to a salad, together with greens, such as spinach, rocket and lettuce.

The amount of each to add depends on your aesthetics: You need a backdrop of green on which your fruit would nestle.

Do you like a more colourful plate? Add more fruit. More subdued? More leaves and less fruit.

You can also use squashes, such as pumpkin and butternut, which add a splash of orange, but they call for cooking, so on this lazy day, I decided against it.

On the other hand, avocado, which is full of healthy fat, does not require cooking. You simply cut it and turn it out using that nifty device, an avocado slicer. Or, you can spoon it out.

But you do have to know how to tell when it is ripe, for cutting an unripe fruit basically means throwing it away; you cannot soften an avocado by cooking it.

To test for ripeness, press its skin, which should be dark, and if it gives slightly, it is ripe. You can also judge from the stem end - if the stem pulls off easily, leaving a dark pit, it should be ripe.

The bowl should look quite colourful at the end of all this; but yes, throw in a handful of nuts. I merely refresh the odd nuts found at the bottom of a packet by toasting them lightly in the oven for both crunch and protein. It also means less waste in the kitchen, another of my mantras.

This salad contains plenty of good stuff: The colours are a dead giveaway.

Red fruit and vegetables, such as raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, red cabbage, strawberries and beets, are likely to be rich in antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins.

Most orange and yellow fruit and vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A that not only improves night vision, but also helps to keep skin, teeth and bones healthy.

And blue and purple fruit and vegetables contain anthocyanins, natural plant pigments that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Then there is the goodness found in green leafy vegetables. I used spinach, which contains fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to fight off potential killers such as heart disease and cancer.

As for the avocado, well, it is dubbed one of the healthiest fruit around. Packed with vitamin K, fibre, potassium, folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, avocados can help lower your cholesterol and help regulate blood pressure.

So, it is a healthy salad, but will it taste good?

Well, I loved every bit of it, especially dressed with a honey mustard dressing that is sweet, piquant and rich all at once.

It is something that is nutritious and still satisfies your stomach, palate and even your eyes. What more can you ask for?

RECIPE

Colourful antioxidant salad

(Serves four)

INGREDIENTS

Dressing:

1/2 cup light olive oil

2 tbs Dijon mustard

Juice from ½ a lemon

3 tbs honey

½ tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad:

1 packet of baby spinach leaves

1 cup each of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries

1 avocado, peeled and spooned out

Leftover nuts, walnuts and pistachios, lightly warmed in the oven

METHOD

Make the dressing by placing all the ingredients for the dressing into a jar, closing it and then vigorously shaking it, so that it emulsifies.

(I sometimes double the amounts to make some to store in the fridge, so that I have homemade salad dressing on hand.)

Wash and dry the salad leaves in a salad spinner. Place the leaves in a glass bowl. Top with a scattering of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Place the avocado to balance the colourful fruit.

Top with the roasted nuts. Just before serving, drizzle the mixture with dressing and toss well.

 
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