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Eating Salad For Dinner: Yay Or Nay?

Written by Jillian Lai Mei Siew on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • You can eat a salad as dinner in order to aid digestion and sleep while keeping a bigger meal for lunch.
  • Many common salad ingredients such as leafy greens and nuts have nutrients that aid sleep.
  • Some nuts are high in melatonin, which is the primary factor behind a good night's sleep.
  • Adding fruits to a salad also takes care of sweets cravings at night.
  • Olive oil used in salads can help you feel full and it is heart-healthy, too.
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Most people tend to eat a light meal for lunch (at a busy time) and a big dinner (at a more relaxed pace). Salads, popular in almost every culture, are usually seen as a daytime meal or a snack.

But what happens if you switch that habit, and eat salad at night? For those of you who need better sleep than what you're getting now, it's worth seeing if eating a salad before bed can act as a natural sleep aid.

Why does a salad matter?

Well, firstly, they tend to be low-calorie and very nutritious; and secondly, certain ingredients that make a good salad also induce sound sleep.

By eating salad for dinner every night, you can minimize digestion discomfort at night, especially if you normally eat dinner very close to bedtime and also don't have any physical activity between dinnertime and bedtime.

An after-dinner walk would help you digest a big meal, but if you don't like to walk at night, then have a small meal and make it a salad.

Make the right salad

  • When making a salad, pick foods that have a soporific effect and can help improve the quality and amount you sleep. The goal is to ensure that you get the essential vitamins and minerals that you need for a good night's sleep, and that your pre-sleep food and drink are easy to digest.
  • You can also add fruit to your salad, so you won't crave anything sweet after dinner. You'll feel satisfied, yet light. The right ingredients will mean no burps, no acid reflux, no gas or bloating — in short, no side effects of eating salad at night.
  • Another upside is, when you have salad for lunch, you might end up overeating at dinner time, but if you have relatively hearty foods during the day, (for instance, bean and veggie soups with homemade sourdough bread, or rice and beans with steamed broccoli and carrots) and salad for dinner, you can easily digest the foods during the day with all the activity, and also feel energized and focused.
  • If you cook for the family, making salad at night would mean also getting in more veggies for the rest of the family, even if it's only a small bowl for each member. You can always get creative with toppings that will keep even the kids interested.
  • Many vegetables and some fruits that go into your salad have high water content. They hydrate your body. Salads also retain the goodness of vitamins, minerals and some enzymes that are lost while cooking. Some raw vegetables contain important live enzymes that can help the process of digestion. Some fibrous veggies like broccoli and dark leafy greens can help clean your gut and bowels and to flush your system well first thing in the morning.

Salads to help you sleep better

The Superfood Salad

  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are great to eat in the evening because they contain glycine, a mild sedative and nerve and muscle relaxant. Leafy greens are rich in sleep-inducing magnesium as well as calcium, which can help boost melatonin and keep your circadian rhythm on track.
  • Nuts like walnuts, pistachios, and almonds have high melatonin, which controls the sleep/wake cycle of your body. They also increase the blood levels of the hormones that help you to have sound sleep through the night.
  • Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan that promotes sleep. The zinc, copper, and selenium in pumpkin seeds can also affect sleep duration and quality. Honey is a natural sweetener that helps transfer tryptophan to the brain to aid sleep.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1 cup kale, leaves shredded
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 85gm cashews/walnuts /pistachios/ almonds
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated
  • A cup of chopped red and yellow peppers
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 225gm edamame beans, lightly steamed
  • 150gm mixed sprouts
  • 1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled, and cubed
  • 2 tbsp small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 120gm cottage cheese
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate kernels

The Superfood Salad

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Method

  • Blanch the kale by adding it to a saucepan of boiling salted water. Cook for 30 seconds and then drain well in a colander.
  • Toast the pumpkin seeds and cashews in a dry frying pan set over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes, tossing gently, until golden brown. Remove immediately and set aside to cool.
  • Put the warm kale in a bowl with the zucchini, carrots, spring onions, edamame beans, sprouts, and avocado.
  • Stir in the parsley and toasted seeds and cashews.
  • To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Crumble the cheese over it and serve immediately. Top it with ruby-red pomegranate kernels.

Roasted Kale, Pear & Sweet Potato Salad

This warm salad is a jackpot of sleep-friendly nutrients.

  • The kale and seeds provide calcium and magnesium.
  • The sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium and vitamin B6.
  • Cottage cheese is filled with high lean protein and has a good amount of amino acid, which increases the serotonin level in the body.
  • Pears are low in calories and high in water and fiber. Hence, eating them can make you feel full.

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 60gm mixed seeds
  • 300gm kale, ribs and stalks removed, leaves coarsely shredded
  • 60gm chopped walnuts
  • 175gm creamy cottage cheese, crumbled
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 4 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Roasted vegetable salad

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
  • Put the sweet potato in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with the oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes, then sprinkle the seeds over the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Add the kale and stir it gently into the seedy oil. Roast for 8-10 minutes until the sweet potato is tender and the kale is crisp but not browned. Remove from the oven and stir in the walnuts.
  • Divide the roasted vegetable mixture between four serving plates. Crumble the cottage cheese over the top and add the pears. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with parsley, and serve warm.

Tip: Stir some lentils into the salad to make it more substantial.

Fig, Walnut & Leafies Salad

  • Figs are rich in magnesium, which is directly linked to improving the quality and duration of sleep. They are rich in fiber and help you avoid nighttime cravings. They're sweet and satisfy your sweet cravings.
  • Figs also help regulate metabolism and reduce insomnia.
  • Walnuts are a good source of tryptophan, a sleep-enhancing amino acid that helps make serotonin and melatonin.
  • Spinach and arugula leaves used in this salad are high in magnesium, which naturally relaxes the nerves and muscles, calms the body and encourages sleep.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded arugula
  • 6 figs, quartered
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • Sweet mustard dressing
  • Cheddar cheese as per choice

Leafies Salad

Method

  • Toss the spinach, arugula, figs, and walnuts together in a mixing bowl.
  • Top with the sweet mustard dressing and cheddar.
  • Divide the mixture among four bowls and serve.

Avocado-Kelp Salad

  • Not only are avocados a good source of magnesium, which help you relax, but they're also packed with potassium. Boosting your potassium intake can help improve sleep efficiency and reduce nighttime waking.
  • Snacking on kelp, which is a rich source of tryptophan, can help you sleep better.
  • Pumpkin seeds also provide tryptophan, the amino acid that promotes sleep. Research shows that 1 gram of tryptophan daily improves sleep. Pumpkin seeds also contain both magnesium and zinc. Zinc has been shown to increase levels of serotonin in the body. Low serotonin can be a risk factor for insomnia.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped and plated
  • 1/2 cup kelp
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp apple-cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts

Method

  • In a blender or food processor, combine the avocado flesh, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, agave syrup, salt, pepper, and water. Process until completely smooth to make the dressing.
  • In a food processor, process nuts until crumbly.
  • Pour dressing over plated romaine lettuce. Sprinkle with nut crumble and pumpkin seeds. Serve.

Mediterranean Simplicity

  • Red tomatoes have the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Drizzling cherry tomatoes with olive oil gives you a booster dose of melatonin. Olive oil can be a quick, healthy, and natural way of making your body feel full, and it's good for the heart, too.
  • Bell peppers, be it yellow or red, contain good amounts of tryptophan, which helps in the production of melatonin. Cucumbers have been known to aid sleep with their high magnesium content.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups juicy baby or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, radish, and parsley together in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss thoroughly to coat.
  • Divide spinach onto four plates and top with dressed mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then serve.

Conclusion

Hearty, satiating, nutrient-rich, clean and bountiful, these salads can easily be complete meals that promote sleep. Variety is the spice of life, so make sure that you use a variety of greens. Each one of them bears a unique nutrient profile, so enjoy the whole spectrum to reap the full rewards.

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Jillian Lai Mei Siew

As the Product Consultant Manager of Mega BiO-LiFE, Jillian Lai Mei Siew, has the role of providing a productive team spirit among all Product Consultants to equip them with the right health nutritional information. Jillian is a BSc in Nutrition and Community Health, and a MSc in Nutritional Sciences an from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Affiliated to the Professional Affiliation Languages & Dialects Nutrition Society of Malaysia, NSM, Jillian can speak English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien and Malay.

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