It’s Miami Book Fair week. To begin enjoying our wonderful festival I picked up The Taste of Tomorrow by Josh Schonwald (Harper Collins, $29.95). I anticipated a list and review of food trends but instead found an exploration of the next big thing in salad, meat and fish. Schonwald is a food enthusiast and researcher. He introduces food visionaries who will be bringing greener and healthier offerings to the table. Meat from a test tube and land-locked fish farms are not science fiction. Schonwald makes all this sound palatable and reasonable.
The Taste of Tomorrow begins with an innovation that slowly moved onto the plate and is now ubiquitous: bagged spring mix salad greens. Prior to 1990 we were an iceberg lettuce nation. Farming and marketing pioneers worked out how to grow, bag and distribute the more delicate greens. Their innovation is our nutritional gain. Compared to iceberg lettuce, spring mixes of spinach, romaine, kale, arugula, frisee, red oak, green leaf and mizuna are better sources of calcium, potassium, vitamin C, folate, vitamin K, beta carotene and lutein and zeazanthin. That is a lot of nutrition packed into about 30 to 50 calories.
A bit of a healthy fat, such as olive oil or avocado, releases the carotenoids and makes it easier for the body to absorb these beneficial nutrients. Adding vitamin C rich tomatoes, bell peppers or mandarin oranges to dark greens unleashes the iron and enhances the flavor. These are examples of food synergy.
Another salad benefit comes from researcher Barbara Rolls. She has shown that a 100-calorie salad before a meal takes the edge off hunger and leads to a both a lower calorie meal and greater feelings of satiety. New healthy greens will continue to be identified since, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “a weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.