Spring is the time of year when salads become more than a side dish. With or without lean meats, eggs, or low-fat cheese, all the lovely spring produce available at this time of year only have to be cut up and tossed together in a bowl with a dressing.

Health experts recommend eating a minimum of 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Start the day with a glass of orange juice and sliced fruit on your whole-grain cereal, and you'll already have two down. At lunch, eat a salad (on the side or as a main dish), or add green, leafy lettuce and a few slices of tomato to your sandwich. Eat an apple or other fruit for dessert, and you'll have reached number five. For dinner, add a cooked vegetable, a small green salad and a piece of fruit and you'll have hit number eight. To reach 10 servings, snack between meals on fruit or raw vegetables with salsa or low fat dressing.

A salad of broccoli, tomatoes and watercress is a nutritional gold mine. And to make life easier, you can now buy cut and pre-washed broccoli and other vegetables ready to toss in your salad. In addition to being high in fiber, vitamins A and C, folate and potassium, broccoli also contains sulphorophane, a cancer-fighting substance. Research indicates that broccoli and other members of the cruciferous vegetable family including cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower can help ward off cancer.

Iceberg lettuce has been called "crunchy water" by scientists who have analyzed its nutritional value. A little iceberg lettuce can add some "crunch" to sandwiches and burgers, but far better for salads are dark, leafy greens which are rich in one of the most effective cancer-prevention substances, sulphorophane. Watercress, spinach, chard, collards and arugula give great taste as well as great nutritional punch. Then, add other vegetables for color as well as health benefits carrots, red, orange or yellow bell pepper, red cabbage and tomatoes.

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Cherry tomatoes offer great color contrast in your leafy green salad, with a minimum of preparation time. Tomatoes are red because they contain a high amount of a health-protecting phytochemical called lycopene, which has strong anti-cancer properties. Like oranges and peppers, tomatoes also contain plenty of vitamin C.

Broccoli, Cherry Tomato and Watercress Salad

Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, stems removed
  • 1 bunch watercress, long stems trimmed, coarsely chopped and cut in half
  • 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

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  • Cook broccoli in a steamer or in a microwave oven (covered with a wet paper towel), until tender but still crisp.
  • In a large bowl, mix together broccoli, tomatoes and watercress. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper. Drizzle over vegetables and toss to blend. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
30 calories,
2 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
3 g. carbohydrate,
1 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
12 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Vegetable, 1/2 Fat


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