I developed this antioxidant-rich lunch salad recipe as course work for The Nutrition Institute, part of the module 'Vitamins'. I keep on being amazed on how well one can eat while ticking all the nutritional boxes. While there's science behind the composition of this salad, you don't need to worry about that. Simply enjoy eating it, as it's absolutely scrumptious, and just trust that it's amazing for your body as well.
Vitamins allow your body to grow and develop.
The importance of vitamins
Vitamins are compounds that our bodies need to function properly. Because we can’t make most of them, we have to get them from our diets. There are 13 vitamins altogether and they are classed as micronutrients because we only need them in small quantities. One exception is vitamin D, which we make through the action of sunlight on our skin (more on that later). We can also make vitamin B3, known as niacin, from an amino acid called tryptophan – though we still need to get that from food such as nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, meat, fish, oats, beans, lentils and eggs.
Vitamins allow your body to grow and develop. They also play important roles in bodily functions such as metabolism, immunity and digestion. There are 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and B vitamins such as riboflavin and folate. Without these vitamins our bodies wouldn’t be able to perform vital tasks such as converting food into energy, building and maintaining bones, teeth, muscle, skin, blood and hair, and keeping our brain, eyes, nervous and immune systems in good working order. Some vitamins work together with other nutrients: vitamin C helps us to absorb iron from plant foods, while vitamin D helps us absorb calcium. And the vitamins A, C and E all have an antioxidant effect, which means they help protect our cells from damage by free-radicals.
Free radicals and anti-oxidants
Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that have the potential to harm cells. They are created when an atom or molecule either gains or loses an electron. Free radicals are formed naturally in the body and play an important role in many normal cellular processes. At high concentrations, however, free radicals can be hazardous to the body and damage all major components of cells, including DNA, proteins, and cell membranes. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.
Antioxidants are chemicals that interact with and neutralise free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage. Antioxidants can be considered ‘free radical scavengers’. The body makes some of the antioxidants that it uses to neutralise free radicals. However, the body relies on external sources to obtain the rest of the antioxidants it needs. These antioxidants are commonly called dietary antioxidants. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are rich sources of dietary antioxidants. Some dietary antioxidants are also available as dietary supplements. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E (alpha-tocopherol). Therefore, it is important to ensure adequate vitamin intake.
Nutrient synergy: producing a health benefit that's far greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Sometimes two or more really is better than one. I am sure we can all think of examples of pairs that are more amazing or more effective together than when they are apart. The same is true when it comes to certain nutrients.
In the world of nutrition this is called nutrient synergy. Specific nutrients work in concert to produce a health benefit that's far greater than the sum of the individual parts. Whether it's because they enhance each other's absorption or because they have more potent physiological effects when they join forces, pairing nutrients that have a synergistic effect can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and other medical conditions. The right combinations of nutrients can lead to optimisation for health benefits for our bodies while at the same time producing fabulous and tasty meal combinations.
In nature, you'll often find these synergistic nutrients together in whole-foods. In other words, nature often does the work for you. However in these times of excess and imbalanced diets, you could tip the scale in the wrong direction. It's important to consider these important nutrients and create dishes that are rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants for optimal health benefits. The easiest way is to just to let it happen naturally by eating a wide range of whole-foods every day.
I have created this easy healthy anti-oxidant rich salad. Let me highlight some of the powerful synergistic relationships you'll find in this recipe.
Vitamin C (and to a lesser extend A) increases the absorption of iron.
You don't absorb 100 percent of the iron in food, especially non-heme iron from plant foods. Vitamin C acts as a catalyst to help our bodies absorb iron better from food. This is important because iron is an essential component of haemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to every cell in your body. Without enough iron and oxygen, you're likely to feel tired, a bit foggy and your immune system may be down.
The apple and cranberry in this recipe help absorb the iron of the spinach. The goat cheese and spinach contain high levels of vitamin A.
Vitamin E increases the absorption of vitamin A.
The nuts and seeds in this recipe, as well as the olive oil are rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body's immune system, but also stimulates the uptake of vitamin A.
Vitamin C increases the absorption and retention of selenium.
Selenium is an essential component of various enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins, that help to make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections. These proteins are also involved in reproduction and the metabolism of thyroid hormones.
The combination of the vitamin C rich ingredients in this salad (the fruit, vinegar and vegetables) help with the selenium uptake within the sourdough bread, a good source of selenium.
Vitamin K (&D) increase the absorption of calcium.
Calcium is a mineral most often associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions.
The spinach and olive oil in this salad (rich in vitamin K) help with the absorption of calcium. The goat cheese and maple sirup is rich in calcium.
Vitamin B6 increases the absorption of magnesium.
Magnesium is important for many processes in the body. It is needed for muscles and nerves to work properly, to keep blood sugar and blood pressure at the right level, and to make protein, bone, and DNA.
You'll find both vitamin B6 as magnesium in abundance in the spinach. The maple sirup and seeds are high in magnesium.
Three powerhouse antioxidant ingredients in the spotlight
I have used maple syrup in the salad dressing because it is is not only high in antioxidants, but also rich in nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. It helps prevent oxidative damage, caused by free radicals, believed to be among the mechanisms behind aging and many diseases. The apple cider vinegar in the dressing helps with digestion.
Spinach is a nutritious, leafy green. This vegetable has been shown to benefit health in several ways. Spinach contains lots of antioxidants and as such may decrease oxidative stress, improve eye health, and help prevent heart disease and cancer.
Many people consider cranberries to be a superfood due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. In fact, research has linked the nutrients in cranberries to a lower risk of urinary tract infection (UTI), the prevention of certain types of cancer, improved immune function, and decreased blood pressure.
For the salad:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 package fresh baby spinach
2 large apples, thinly sliced
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided
75 gr good quality semi-soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions
good quality multigrain sourdough bread
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon minced shallot (from 1 small shallot)
Step 1: Prepare the dressing
Mix together vinegar, mustard, syrup, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl; slowly whisk in olive oil until completely blended.
Step 2: Assemble your salad
Toss together spinach, apples, dried cranberries, walnuts, spring onion and dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle with goat cheese and mixed seeds. Serve with sourdough bread.
My husband was very impressed with this delicious Apple-Cranberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, and even more so when I explained how it would benefit his body. This is a very simple salad, that you literally throw together in 10 mins (or however long it takes for you to chop things up). It was served with love.
Eating well doesn't have to be difficult! Have you tried this recipe? Show me and tag me on Instagram!
Are you interested in studying nutrition as well? Check out The Nutrition Institute. Use this link and receive a discount.