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If you love salads then you’re gonna love this gut-healthy recipe roundup!
A part of The Mindful Gut™ Approach is to build kitchen confidence and we’re going to be build some confidence creating a gut-healthy salad.
Think of this post as a guide on how to create a gut-healthy salad versus hard and fast rules. You can aim for one or more of these factors when making your salad.
Here are the 6 things you want to look for:
- Add a prebiotic food
- Vary up your greens
- Aim for 3 different plants
- The more color the better
- Add or pair with a protein
- Try a low FODMAP salad
Add a prebiotic food
Salads are a great way to get in some prebiotic foods.
A prebiotic food is going to elevate your salad to another level because it can have a big impact on your gut. Prebiotic foods have been researched to look at benefits for your heart, blood sugar, and the gut-brain connection.
Some examples of prebiotic foods are garlic, onions, oats, and dandelion greens.
To feed your gut bacteria
Prebiotic foods are usually (not always) specific types of fibers that your gut loves too much on. Your gut bacteria use prebiotics as food and that encourages a healthy gut microbiome which in turn can provide health benefits for your body.
When your gut bacteria munch away on prebiotic foods they can produce something called short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids can help with your gut barrier and possible immunity. (I did an interview with Well + Good talking about this and you can read it here.)
One prebiotic food that does especially well in salads is asparagus.
This recipe by Carrots and Cookies uses asparagus, strawberries, walnuts, and feta as its salad ingredients. You’re going to top the salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
This recipe by The Sound of Cooking® uses one of my fave ways to switch up textures and that’s by making ribbons of the asparagus. The salad is especially crunchy with sugar snap peas!
Vary up your greens
This may be one of the easiest things we can do for a salad is to swap out the green you are using. The thing about greens is that they can get old in the fridge fast so here are two tips.
The first tip is after washing your greens you can wrap them in a paper towel and store them in a plastic bag. You can prick the plastic bag a couple of times to help the greens breath.
The second tip is just to make sure that your green is dry because one time I made a salad once and I didn’t dry my lettuce so my dressing slid off. It was a bad salad day for me, lol.
For different flavors and nutrients
Probably the most popular salad greens tend to be romaine lettuce and spinach. Both of these work beautifully for salads that are pretty nutritious and have a pretty neutral flavor which means it will go well with many different ingredients.
Each different leafy green will have its own best source of nutrients but in general, greens are full of nutrients. Leafy greens can be a source of nutrients like Vitamin K, fiber, Vitamin A, magnesium, and folate.
So the next time you make a salad try to swap out it for a green that you don’t usually use.
Kale doesn’t just have to be for smoothies! This recipe from Live Best uses kale as its main green and combines it with quinoa for a warm salad.
Arugula is a peppery green that adds a bit of a bite to your salad made by Christina Laboni. Pair this with quinoa and feta and you got an easy salad that also has protein.
Aim for three different plants
This is one of the easier tips you can do with your salad because salads are basically a big bowl of plants. So you’re probably already doing this which means you’ve been building a gut-healthy salad without a second thought.
Any plant can count here so that means your leafy green counts, any grains you add, the herbs and spices, and toppings like onions, tomatoes, and carrots all count.
This helps your gut microbiome
Your gut microbiome loves plants because your gut microbiome can use the fiber as fuel but it’s more than that. The American Gut Project found that people who ate a wide variety of plants, more than 30 different plants a week, had a more diverse gut microbiome.
Think of salads as an easy way to explore new vegetables. Add a small amount of a plant you’ve never tried before in a salad that you already know you like. This is an easy way to get used to new flavors without having to go full force.
This salad from Street Smart Nutrition has an awesome mixture of textures. You’re going to get a good crunch with the pecans and pomegranate arils then you get creamy with the sweet potato and avocado. That’s four different plants already.
The Healthy Epicurean has you covered with this plant plentiful salad. I also like this salad uses fennel because that’s a flavor that can be new to people. It has a bit of a licorice taste to it.
The more color the better
Eat the rainbow! The more color your salad has the better. Color is a good indicator to see if you got a wide variety of plants and nutrients on your plate.
Plus, let’s be real. Colorful salads are so pretty that you’re going to want to eat them!
Color means antioxidants
Color also means there are going to be a variety of antioxidants in your meal. Different colors have different types of antioxidants so that is why you want to eat the rainbow.
Purple, red, and blue foods are particularly powerful when it comes to being an antioxidant.
Even white food and brown foods, which often get a bad rap, have antioxidants.
This lentil salad with sunflower seeds from Jackie Silver Nutrition is gorgeous and has red and purple foods. On top of that, you also have yellow, green, and brown. Lots of color and yum!
This salad uses grains by Bucket List Tummy uses couscous which is rich in selenium, a nutrient that is also an antioxidant. Then you also have green, yellow, and red in the salad.
Add or pair with a protein
Protein is one of the three macronutrients aka macros. Protein is so important to the body. In fact, protein is kind of like those recipes where you throw everything in but the kitchen sink.
Protein helps you stay full
Salads do pack in the plants but they don’t always pack the protein. Protein is a nutrient that you want to have at each of your meals. Out of all your macros, protein is the one that keeps you full. This has benefits for your hunger hormones and your blood sugar.
You can either pair your salad with a protein or you can have protein built into your salad. Either of these works. If you want to dig deeper into how to build a gut-healthy plate scroll down this post where I talk about juicing for your gut health.
This salad from Nourished by Nic uses chickpeas as its main ingredient which means it’s packed with plant protein. Bonus points for efficiency because it only take 15 minutes to make.
Lentils, a plant protein, complement the spinach in this recipe by Healthy Seasonal Recipes. If you have leftover lentils throw them in a soup or even make a veggie burger.
Try a low fodmap salad
If you are going currently eating low FODMAP there are different salads you can enjoy. You will want to be mindful of the ingredients, their amount, and the amount of the salad you eat.
Low FODMAP may be better tolerated
If you’ve never heard of FODMAP it is referring to foods that may be high in a specific type of carbohydrate that can sometimes irritate people’s gut. These carbs may contribute to bloating because they may pull water into your digestive system or make you a bit gassy as the carbs get fermented in the gut.
Keep in mind that low FODMAP should not be a lifelong diet.
Spinach and strawberries are a match made in heaven. This recipe from Whole-istic Living blends the spinach and strawberries with cucumber and pecans for some crunch.
A spring roll bowl is good any time of the year. This recipe from Gut Health & Nutrition uses a low FODMAP peanut sauce as the dressing.
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.