9 Myths About Your Salad
By Janis Jibrin, R.D.
It's not just the fries. Many diet nightmares can be traced
to the seemingly virtuous salad.
Myth #1: It's Just a Salad!
There's nothing "just" about the 490 calories and 41 grams of fat in
a Subway BMT salad with ranch dressing. That adds up to even more calories and
fat than a Burger King Bacon Cheeseburger (360 calories, 18 grams of fat). At
Ruby Tuesday, the Carolina Chicken Salad packs — brace yourself — 1,300
calories and 72 grams of fat (275 fewer calories without dressing).
Myth #2: Fatfree Dressing Is Healthiest.
Not quite. You do save on calories when you take out the fat, but many such
dressings are loaded with sugar — more than 2 teaspoons per serving — and offer
zero nutrition. Plus, they block your ability to absorb the carotenoid
antioxidants in salad greens and tomatoes — important compounds that reduce the
risk of heart disease. In one study, people eating fullfat salad dressing
absorbed twice the nutrients of those using reducedfat dressing. Fatfree
dressing allowed for virtually no absorption of these good guys.
Myth #3: Celery Has Negative Calories, so It Will Compensate for the Extra Cheese!
At six calories per stalk, celery is unquestionably a weightfriendly food.
But, alas, the body doesn't expend more calories than that to chew and digest
it, according to David Baer, Ph.D., a research physiologist at the USDA
Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland. "No negativecalorie
foods have been discovered yet," he says.
Myth #4: Lettuce Is Lettuce.
Not when it comes to nutrition (or flavor): Arugula and watercress are
superstars, loaded with cancerfighting compounds. In fact, a chemical in
watercress has been shown to deactivate one of the cancercausing toxins in
tobacco smoke. Spinach is another hero because of its cache of lutein, thought
to protect against cancer and blindness. And baby versions of kale, mustard
greens, and turnip greens are less sharp, tough, and bitter than the grownups
but are outfitted with the same cancerfighters. Dark leaf, mildtasting greens,
including romaine, redleaf lettuce, and many mesclun mixes, don't have a wealth
of phytonutrients but have respectable levels of betacarotene. Light greens,
like iceberg and endive, are pretty much all nutrition duds.