This gorgeous mix of fall fruits and veggies packs a powerful nutritional punch – baby kale salad with orange, pomegranate and maple tahini dressing.
A month ago I traveled to Charlotte, NC to explore the Dole Nutrition Institute (DNI), where they do all kinds of intensive testing on fruits and veggies, and produce studies that go on to help us understand the power of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals within them.
You know the first thing I was struck by? David Murdoch, the CEO and owner of Dole, is 92 years old, still very active in Dole, and friends, the man moves with greater ease than I do. Want to know what he eats every morning? This smoothie, peels and all:
1 organic banana (with peel), 1/2 pineapple (with core), 1 orange (with skin), 1 tomato, 1 lemon, handful of baby spinach, 1 red bell pepper (whole), 1 stalk celery
His mantra is, “Anything the sun touches is the healthy part of the fruit.” I’m tempted to ask him to be my life coach.
Why eat the peel, right? That was my question, too. Here’s the answer — along with a few more of the interesting nutrition facts I learned:
- Peels, Skins, and Rinds Have More Nutrients than the Flesh. Dole scientists have found that banana peels, for instance, are very nutrient dense, containing 2.3 times the fiber, 2.4 times the beta-carotene and 8.4 times the calcium of regular banana flesh. Read more here.
- Bananas are better than sports drinks for recovery. Bananas deliver the same energy boost, and a much bigger nutrition bang, for a lot less money. Read more here.
- Vegetables Have Protein, too! A bunch of broccoli has 17g of protein.
- Antioxidants Do More than We Thought. The job of healthful plant molecules (antioxidants) may not be only to find and destroy free radicals in the body. New research shows that they might actually work by inducing genetic responses that yes, destroy free radicals, but also benefit health. Read more here.
Going to Dole reinvigorated my commitment to eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible. So often, I find myself in a rut of sticking to my favorites–the same salad ingredients, the normal vegetable roster for dinners, my three or four usual fruits. It’s easy to do. But spending a few days at DNI, talking about their focus on Huetrition — and the importance of eating the rainbow, not because it’s pretty and not because it’s trendy to eat clean and green, but because it’s good for me. It’s good for me in ways I can’t see; It’s good for me in ways I probably won’t recognize, or be grateful for, until I’m old and gray–when health is very clearly not just a choice or a goal, but truly all I have.
The most empowering thing to have happened to me years ago, when I started eating healthfully, was when my mindset shifted from “I have to eat healthy” to “I want to eat healthy.” I turned a years-long sense of dread into desire and motivation. Suddenly, choosing fruits and vegetables didn’t feel like a drag, or a chore; it was easy and nurturing.
When I came home from this trip, I decided to switch up a few of the things I always buy. I reached for Dole’s Power Up Baby Kale and Greens (a blend that’s packed full of potassium, vitamin A, and fiber) rather than my old stand-by: baby spinach. I picked up a pomegranate, chose acorn squash over butternut, white potatoes instead of sweet ones, a few grapefruits, and swapped cashews for pepitas. It’s not that I need to start worrying about getting every vitamin and every micronutrient, but one thing I took away from my Dole trip was “the more, the better.” Even just trying to diversify and vary my weekly fruits and veggies helps to cover lots of nutritional bases–and makes for a pretty satisfying life.
With this savory-sweet fall salad, I tried to pack in a whole lot of nutrition alongside a few of my favorite seasonal ingredients. The great thing about Dole’s kale blend is that it’s hearty and filling, but the leaves are softer and more tender than a whole bowl of mature, hardy kale leaves would be. All the nutrients without the bitterness that sometimes comes with kale. No massaging necessary.
And if you’re not familiar with tahini, it’s ground sesame seeds, and in this dressing, it imparts a toasted, nutty flavor that I like to make a little brighter and sweeter with lemon and a tablespoon of maple syrup. I’d bring this beauty to parties, serve it as a side dish, and add chickpeas, salmon, or chicken for a heartier main course.