Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Whether you eat an Auto Immune Protocol diet, Paleo diet or Whole 30 diet, this Rainbow Broccoli Apple Salad fits the bill. It is dairy free and egg free as well!
Now let’s talk about the rainbow of vegetables and other ingredients in this nutritious salad.
First, we have broccoli. Broccoli is in the brassica family along with cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Each cup of raw broccoli has 2.6 grams of protein, 2.4 grams of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, some vitamin A and folate. It is recommended to get broccoli as fresh as you can (think your backyard garden or a farmer’s market) because the vitamin C starts to degrade as soon as it is picked. Cooking makes vitamin C degrade even further but steaming seems to do the least amount of damage. I do enjoy some roasted broccoli, though. Hmm…maybe roasted broccoli in this salad would be even better?
Besides vitamin C, broccoli contains many other powerful antioxidants like glucoraphanin, which is converted to sulforaphane during digestion. Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce oxidative stress and chronic disease states. Broccoli also contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye health. Broccoli has other bioactive compounds that have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation and improve gut health.
Apples! Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. There are so many different types of apples for everyone’s taste. I discovered something interesting about apples that I never considered before. To maintain a consistent fruit (like a Fuji, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp), a branch from that variety must be grafted to a strong root of another type of tree. If you grow an apple tree from seed, it will not stay true to the variety of apple it came from. It will grow another type of wild apple. I found that fascinating! Many of our apples, today, have been cultivated to increase the sugar content. If you are looking for a variety with the least amount of sugar, try Granny Smith (a nice tart green apple), Gala, or heirloom varieties (look to local farmers and farmer’s markets). Apples are one of the best sources of quercetin, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk for heart disease, cancer, can degenerative brain disorders (like Alzheimer’s disease). Apples contain pectin, an insoluble fiber that can help to reduce cholesterol, improve gut health, and lower triglycerides. Pectin may also help lower blood sugar and improve acid reflux. Eating the skin on the apple is best because that is where most of the nutrients are but be careful where your fruit comes from. Apples may have a lot of pesticides (which is mostly on the skin). If you cannot get organically or regeneratively grown apples, wash them well before eating.
Let’s look at red onions. Onions and the rest of the allium family have sulfur compounds that act as a natural blood thinner, to reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Onions also contain antioxidants like quercetin, which helps to reduce systemic inflammation. Polyphenols in onions fight free radicals and boost the immune system. Onions are a good source of fiber and prebiotics and may help to regulate digestion by promoting the growth of good bacteria in your gut! Red onions contain vitamin C, folate, and other B vitamins to help with metabolism and energy. Onions also contain chromium which can help the body regulate blood sugar levels.
I love rainbow carrots. There are so many health benefits in the various pigments in foods. Of course, if orange carrots are what you can get, then, of course use them. But if you happen to get a hold of some rainbow carrots think about the added benefits. Orange carrots contain beta-carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A and helps with eye health. Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls like lutein. Lutein also has eye protective properties. Red carrots have lycopene (the same antioxidant in tomatoes) that is good for brain health, may help prevent cancer, and improve heart health. Purple carrots have anthocyanins, which can enhance memory, vision, has anti-inflammatory properties, and may help to control weight. With all these great health benefits, I encourage you to eat the rainbow (of carrots)!
When eating red beets, beware of red poop (or pee). No, you aren’t bleeding. It’s just the red beets. If this idea scares you, there are golden beets, which have fewer frightening effects later. Beets are a good source of folate, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium. Manganese is involved in bone formation, nutrient metabolism, and brain function. Copper is required for energy production and producing certain neurotransmitters. Beets contain nitrates, which can lower blood pressure levels and provide significant heart benefits. They may also reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Nitrates may also enhance the performance of mitochondria (the energy producing parts of the cell), which can improve metabolism and athletic performance.
Cranberries are usually associated with winter holidays, but these tart little gems carry many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Be careful with dried cranberries, though, because they can contain a lot of sugar. Cranberries can help blood circulation and lower blood pressure. Cranberries support good gut health and beneficial bacteria populations in the gut. This can lead to better immunity, mood, and digestive health. Cranberries also contain fiber, which can help prevent constipation.
A note about bacon. There is some concern about processed meats like bacon being bad for your health. This is a case where the quality of the product matters. We get a smoked, uncured, organic bacon from Misfits that does not contain nitrates and nitrites, antibiotics, hormones, etc. By carefully choosing a higher-end product over the regular processed grocery-store variety, the health benefits increase vs the “badness” of a high salt, processed, saturated fat food. Bacon does have protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, and new research is showing that saturated fats are not as bad for our heart health as originally thought.
Coconut milk is a good source of medium-chain triglycerides like lauric acid, which may reduce body weight, lower the risk for coronary arterial disease, boost the immune system, and help you feel fuller (and less likely to look for sweet, carbohydrate treats). Coconut milk may also increase HDL levels. It contains iron, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Potassium works with sodium to regulate fluid levels in the body and supports nerve and muscle function. Magnesium helps with energy production, protein synthesis, blood sugar regulation, immune health, and blood pressure stabilization. Avocado oil contains healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that are heart healthy, promote wound healing, and eye health. It helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
This salad is a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet and eat the rainbow. Remember, it is recommended to have ½ to ¾ of your meal as vegetables to promote gut health, encourage the growth of a healthy microbiome, and reduce systemic inflammation. Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?
Recipe inspired by and modified from Broccoli Apple Salad (AIP/Paleo/Whole30) - Lichen Paleo, Loving AIP (lichenpaleolovingaip.com).