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Articles - A Healthy Diet:

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Focus on salads for a healthy diet

This won't be news to you, but salad is a key element in a healthy diet – not just a small extra served up ahead of a "real" meal. The fresh green leaves contain important nutrients but very few calories. They also supply a lot of roughage so that you feel full and stop eating. As long as you don't smother your green leaves in a rich creamy dressing, you'll be eating a good meal with very few calories. Another benefit is that, because salads are generally eaten raw, heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals are hardly damaged. Of course, this will only apply if the salad ingredients are as fresh as possible and the leaves are torn up or chopped only after washing. If you're short of time, a bag of ready-washed leaves can fill the gap. But check that they're not old and wilted – and it's a good idea to give them another wash to be on the safe side.

Which types of lettuce offer a health plus?

Lettuces contain any number of essential, health-promoting substances, but usually in relatively small amounts. After all, a lettuce is 90 to 95% water. Most lettuces contain beta carotene, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, folic acid and vitamin C. Then there are minerals like potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. Salad greens in the chicory family, such as chicorée, endive, frisée and radicchio, have higher nutrient densities. The substances responsible for the bitter taste help to stimulate your metabolism and increase your appetite. If you'd prefer a less bitter taste, try washing the lettuce well before processing it and then remove the stalks and the large ribs in the leaves. Adding half a mashed boiled potato to the dressing helps, as does using a stronger-flavoured olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

May we recommend mixed salads?

Lettuces tend to contain nitrates, some more than others. Some of the nitrate is changed into nitrite in your mouth and can affect how your organs are supplied with oxygen. Iceberg lettuce, endive, lamb's lettuce, butter lettuce and rucola are among the vegetables with a fairly high nitrate content (1000 to 4000 mg/kg fresh product). Iceberg lettuce contains less than butter lettuce. But you don't need to give up on them entirely for this reason. Most of the nitrates are in the stalks, bigger ribs and outer leaves, so if you remove those you'll reduce your nitrate consumption. In addition, you can mix lettuce types with high nitrate content with types with lower nitrate content. In general, organically grown lettuce and lettuces grown in open fields contain less nitrate. Your best choice is a mixed salad containing different sorts of lettuce and other raw vegetables and herbs.

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.aid.de