We’ve all heard the mantra — An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Fruits and vegetables are good for us and although most of them are wholesome, some are better than others. A dietary researcher at William Paterson University recently set out to evaluate and list the best-of-the-best.
Her study, published last week by the CDC,* named 41 powerhouse fruits and vegetables that contain nutrients strongly associated with reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. It should come as no surprise that the top-ranked vegetables are dark leafy greens, with watercress leading the pack as the most nutrient-dense.
Watercress? Really? It’s not just a garnish in fancy English tea sandwiches?
I decided to take one for the team and try watercress, a vegetable I’d obviously never eaten. Someone cautioned me to not use it exclusively in a salad because it has a rather strong taste.
What an understatement. Watercress is what a hot radish would taste like if it were a leaf. Eaten alone, watercress is not for the faint-of-heart. But when I added it to this salad, adapted from a new healthy dish cookbook I got at Williams-Sonoma, it complimented the flavors of the chicken, tomatoes and feta cheese. In other words, it worked!
I’m going to add a caveat here that undermines my watercress experiment — if you aren’t up to giving watercress a try, spinach will work equally well, albeit with a less dominant “profile” (euphemism for taste). Spinach was ranked #5 on the list so you’ll still be getting the healthy goods.
This is a lovely summer salad anyway, regardless of which greens you prefer. I used a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, which FYI, seemed to me to contain less sodium that the usual supermarket birds.
2 cups shredded roasted chicken
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 European (seedless) cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bunch (5 oz.) watercress, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a large bowl combine the chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, watercress, feta cheese, green onions and olives.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice until blended. Whisk in the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad mixture, mix gently and serve.
WW Points per serving: 9
*A less reader-friendly but more detailed analysis of the study appears in an abstract from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the federal agency charged with the task of protecting the public health through the control and prevention of disease.