I like to think of salad as a bowl—or plate—of colorful vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vegetable protein, and who knows how much more.   Not to speak of great, refreshing taste and stimulating texture. Numerous studies have shown that populations with higher intake of vegetables have lower rates of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. And salad as a side dish, starter or main course is a great way to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables you eat.

Here are half a dozen easy rules for making a GREAT salad.

Vary Your Vegetables:  Include cut-up or grated raw vegetables with lightly steamed. Brief cooking of some vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower, enhances color, flavor and bioavailability of many vitamins and minerals. Greens might include velvety soft butter lettuce, pungent arugula, sturdy baby Russian kale, crisp Romaine, or pleasingly bitter Belgian endive or radicchio.

Make It Beautiful:  Whether it’s a tossed salad in a bowl or a beautifully composed salad on a plate, choose a variety of colors, textures and flavors.

Add Some Protein: Even just a couple of ounces of cheese, eggs, beans, seafood, chicken or lean meat will enhance the health benefits of your salad, especially if it is serving as your main dish at lunch or dinner.

Top with Seeds or Nuts:  Just a tablespoon or two of sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts or almonds add valuable omega-3’s and B vitamins.

Enhance with Fresh Herbs: Fresh chives, dill, basil, parsley, and mint are my favorites, but you can experiment with any you have on hand, not just as a garnish, but generously as a flavoring.

Dress It with Style: Spend what you can on the very best extra virgin olive oil, perhaps some toasted walnut oil, and an excellent vinegar, preferably sherry or Banyuls wine vinegar.  Forget about the classic 3:1 ratio, which never works quite right. Go for 2:1, with no mustard or sugar;\. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of walnut oil, if you feel like it, and always include a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. A teaspoon of minced shallot will also add spark.

Photo of vegetables in basket:  purneydesign.com