As the world’s population grows, we’re trying to eat and farm more efficiently, and with that, lots of ‘good’ foods have been found to be problematic. Almonds, for their water use. Corn, for the monoculture. Beef, for its greenhouse gases.
There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it. It occupies limited crop space, requires fossil fuels to be shipped and refrigerated around the world, and adds nothing but some crunch to the plate.
It’s salad, and here are three main reasons why we need to rethink it.
Salad is ridiculously low in nutrition. The main problem is the main veggie in salads – lettuce, that leafy-green waste of resources.
Researcher Charles Benbrook and colleague Donald Davis developed a nutrient quality index — a way to rate foods based on how much of 27 nutrients they contain.
Four of the five lowest-ranking vegetables (by serving size) are salad ingredients: cucumbers, radishes, iceberg lettuce and celery. All of these veggies have one thing in common, which is they’re almost all water. A head of iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian (1-liter size: 96 percent water, 4 percent bottle) and is only marginally more nutritious.
Salad fools dieters into making bad choices. They’re cleverly disguised as nutritious, but let’s say you remove the lettuce, cucumber and radish, which are nutritionally and calorically irrelevant anyway. You’re probably left with a pile of croutons, cheese, and dressing.
Once the word ‘salad’ enters the picture, it’s immediately accepted as something that’ll benefit you. Nutritional content and portion sizes are discarded, major factors in healthy eating.
Salad has negative repercussions in our food supply. Lettuce has a few unenviable #1 spots in food rankings. It’s the top source of food waste, vegetable division, becoming more than 1 billion pounds of uneaten salad every year. It’s also the chief culprit for foodborne illnesses. And as mentioned earlier, it takes up obscene amounts of crop acreage, which could be used for better, higher value vegetables.
Maybe Homer Simpson was onto something: you don’t win friends with salad.