When Michael Pollan’s latest book came out last January, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, he was everywhere with the book’s core message, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” After hearing it on NPR and reading it in the New York Times and every other magazine sold in the check-out aisle at Whole Foods, I decided to try an experiment: to eat a salad every day.
I didn’t know what to expect or what would happen, but I knew a salad-a-day would be good for me. The fiber would leave me full and regular, the carbohydrates would keep me fueled, and the wealth of nutrients that come from a good salad would serve as a multivitamin on a plate. The salad that my wife and I prepare is based on spinach with a liberal helping of red and yellow pepper slices, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and feta cheese. And we make it over and over and over again.
Three months into this experiment, I can’t tell you if I’m fitter or healthier (I definitely haven’t lost weight), but I have noticed that I’m acutely aware of the days I don’t eat a salad. It’s like there’s a mental letdown from not eating those nutrients and fiber. I have a little less zip in my stride and focus toward the end of the day. On days that I do eat that salad, I can tell I’m enjoying a placebo effect—I know that I’m in good shape nutrition-wise. Even better, if I have that salad for lunch, it influences my food choices for the rest of the day and evening. I make better decisions about what to eat because I don’t want to ruin the good nutrition streak started by that noontime salad.
The positive influence of that salad may have an even greater effect on my health than the salad alone. And that's a good thing. Try it yourself and tell me what happens.
Grant Davis has spent the last decade writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.