Does the thought of another bland salad that leaves you craving a second lunch sound bleak? We’re here to help you build a salad that’s satisfying, tasty and can make you more beautiful from the inside out.Toss these nutrient-dense add-ins with your greens for an extra health and beauty boost—each ingredient is proven to enhance your skin, hair, nails or all three!
Avocado is rich and flavorful, especially when sprinkled with lemon juice and a little sea salt. It contains fiber, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids (good fat) that can keep your skin plump and hydrated by maintaining its lipid layer.
READ MORE: Good Sources of omega-3s
Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Walnuts):
Nuts may be high in (healthy!) fat, but most are also packed with copper, magnesium, zinc and vitamin E, which are all nutrients vital to the health of your skin, hair and nails. Zinc in particular may be linked with decreasing acne. Use them raw or toasted, whole or chopped, but skip nuts that are salted or honey-roasted as these are going to sabotage your salad with lots of sodium and calorie-laden sugar.
These legumes are an easy protein and fiber boost, so adding them to a salad will help keep you full for longer. Sure, you’d probably rather have them deep-fried in a falafel ball, but as is, they’re rich in zinc, copper, folic acid and vitamin B6, which make them great for your hair and skin.
Amazingly, eggs are packed with several beautifying nutrients such as selenium, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, and they’re an excellent source of protein. The easiest way to incorporate eggs into your salad is to hard-boil a couple of them, slice and toss.
MORE: Will Eating Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol?
If the idea of raw broccoli is as unappealing as eating cardboard, blanch the florets in boiling, salted water for two minutes (they should look bright green and still be crisp-tender) and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. This will give the powerhouse vegetable more flavor and less bite, without losing its nutrients, which include calcium, biotin, folic acid and vitamin C. Powerhouse vitamin C is proven to lower the body’s stress levels and reduce skin aging.
Juicy red tomatoes contain lycopene, which acts as an added SPF against skin-damaging UV rays. One study found that eating two and half tablespoons of tomato paste a day for 10 weeks reduced sunburn severity by 40 percent. So while cooked tomatoes found in sauce or paste are technically more beneficial (with more heart-healthy, cancer-fighting and skin-protecting properties), tossing a few raw ones into your salad will help, too.
Lentils are a great vegetarian source of iron and zinc, so load up! Both of these minerals are key for thick, strong hair. Cook a big batch—use as a side dish, and refrigerate some to use in your lunchtime salad. Cook them according to the package. While they’re cooking, gently sauté finely-diced onion in olive oil and then throw in minced garlic after you’ve had the onion sautéing for a few minutes. Season the onion and garlic with salt and pepper, and then add (optional) finely diced carrots and celery. After everything is soft, you can fold in the lentils. Taste again, and re-season with salt and pepper if needed.
MORE: Chia Lentils Recipe
Salad dressing is just as important as the leafy greens and veggies you’re tossing. According to a 2004 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” full-fat dressing (not the fat-free or low-fat versions from the bottle) or one made with heart-healthy avocado can help your body absorb as much as four times the lycopene and approximately two times the beta carotene absorbed by people who ate their vegetables plain or with low-fat dressing.Why? Because vegetables contain lots of nutrients that are fat-soluble, meaning you must eat them with some fat in order for your body to properly absorb the nutrients. Your healthiest choice: Skip the sugar-loaded, creamy pre-made dressings for a splash or two of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.
MORE: How to Make Healthier, Homemade Dressing