There are some foods we eat because they’re high in protein or fibre, or because they remind us of childhood dinners with our families.
Then there’s salad.
A last-resort meal if ever there was one. It’s that work lunch you force yourself to eat on the Monday after heavy diet-ruining. You generally feel good immediately after eating it, but the feeling wears off soon after when you realise you’re still hungry.
You can’t even spell the word “salad” without “sad.”
Thankfully, emerging science has handed us a few pretty convincing reasons to ditch salads once and for all, the most compelling of which is that salads, for all their bells and whistles, are pretty much ruining the planet.
First off, evidence suggests that a lot of people who buy lettuce throw it away. Nearly 700 million pounds of romaine and leaf lettuce, the bedrock of most salads, end up in the garbage each year, earning the green menace the sorry distinction of being the most wasted vegetable in the country. Just above lettuce are potatoes and tomatoes — no strangers to the salad vessel — at 900 million and 800 million pounds wasted, respectively.
Around the world, some 663 million people don’t have access to clean water. Not that lettuce cares. The leafy vegetable is 96% water, all of which gets wasted when disappointed eaters discard their salad remnants and stores toss their unsold produce.
And unlike watermelon, zucchini, or cucumber, all of which deliver a robust profile of nutrients while they hydrate you, lettuce isn’t really all that good for you. Aside from water, lettuce contains some chlorophyll and trace amounts of vitamins, which you could easily find elsewhere.
As Tamar Haspel from The Washington Post put it recently, “Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table.”
In real terms, that means tens of thousands of acres are getting devoted to a crop that offers nothing unique to people’s diets. What’s worse, it then gets utilised as the foundation of one of the world’s most popular foods, only to be reluctantly choked down or thrown in the garbage.
The bottom line: We’re better than salad, and the Earth will be better off if we give it up.
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