An easy, healthy, summer salad
An easy, gorgeous, summery lunch (if we ever see a proper summer in the UK!) this toasted pecan and peach salad is ultra-easy to make and tastes fantastic as a standalone weekday lunch or as a supporting act to a main course.
Peaches are a stone fruit (packed with beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A) and potassium, but they only taste great when they’re in season and ripe – in autumn and winter we substitute plums or pears in the salad.
We don’t overdo cheese in our diets, but when we do eat it, we like it to be flavourful, ideally organic, and great quality. I’ve recently discovered that I have a less than 30% conversion ability of beta-carotene to retinol (Vitamin A) which means for me – it’s crucial to either supplement retinol, or eat foods regularly that contain it – such as liver, eggs and cheese. Whereas many of us can fulfil our Vitamin A requirements from the plant sources of Vitamin A in the form of carotenes, it’s harder for me – so topping up my plant sources (i.e. carotenes in salad leaves) with some animal sources is important if I want to maintain a good Vitamin A status (for more information on nutrigenomic testing please contact us or visit our clinic page).
For this recipe we use sheep’s cheese such as halloumi or saganaki that can be sliced and quickly dry fried or grilled (they’re also perfect on the barbecue). Fewer people have issues with sheeps or goats cheese as compared to cow’s milk cheese – but check the back of your packet as cheaper supermarket options sometimes cheekily mix in some cow’s milk too (it keeps the cost down for them). In our experience, many people who are lactose intolerant avoid all dairy foods, sometimes unnecessarily. Hard cheeses (as well as natural, live yogurt) are generally very low in lactose, so if you’re lactose intolerant you may find that small amounts of hard cheese can be tolerated – such as cheese in a salad, or parmesan over pasta. However, if you’re unable to tolerate cheese at all, are avoiding dairy on a short-term basis or simply prefer not to eat it, we find toasted pumpkin seeds work really well as a healthy substitute.
Pecans are one of my favourite nuts and are one of the least bitter nuts – so kids generally love them. They’re particularly rich in the mineral manganese, an often-forgotten immune supportive nutrient. They also have a high monounsaturated fat content, so together with the olive oil dressing, add healthy fat to the salad, which in turn helps us to use the beta-carotene found in the salad leaves. Studies increasingly show that adding fat to salads – be it in the form of dressings, avocado, nuts, seeds or even eggs really boosts our absorption of this ultra-important antioxidant. And the vinegar in the dressing also plays a role – giving a short-term boost to our stomach acid levels, helping to support digestion; dressings on salads are often taken for granted but actually add significant nutritional value.
You can use any mixed salad leaves (read here for more information on the ‘best’ summer salad leaves to use), but we like to include spinach for its high carotene levels and rocket and watercress for their detoxifying properties. Plus many of the supermarkets stock bags of these exact, pre-mixed leaves (the easier, the better….).
For an super-healthy immune supportive boost, use manuka honey in the dressing.
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