Is it possible that eating the right kinds of foods often enough can protect us from the sun? It can’t hurt! Plants have their own built-in protection against the damaging effects of the sun. When you eat foods derived from these plants, you consume protective compounds known as phytonutrients. These phytonutrients such as carotenoids, flavonoids, flavanols help boost your skin’s natural ability to protect itself by stimulating the synthesis of melanin and by chasing away free radicals caused by UV rays and and many other environmental toxins. So I thought, why not combine them into one delicious dish! Perfect for any potluck or BBQ this summer, meet the Sunscreen Salad!
Prep Time: 1-12 hours (passive)
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Seasons: Summer, Fall
8 to 12 ounces of salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 sweet potato or winter squash, roasted (makes extra for food prep)
2 carrots, shredded
8 strawberries, sliced
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 cups purple cabbage, shredded
¼ cup of sunflower seeds
¼ cup sliced almonds
handful of fresh pea shoots (or cilantro/parsley, leaves only)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk
¼ cup coconut aminos
4 Tbsp fresh cilantro/parsley, finely chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/3 cup organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon organic raw honey
1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
When you decide you are going to make this salad, the first thing you need to do is marinade the cauliflower florets the night before. When you take the time to marinade it, it changes cauliflower from ‘meh’ to magical, and adds a meaty element to any plant based dish. Cauliflower contains potent antioxidants that help fight off oxidative stress from free radicals. It is also a naturally sun-protective food thanks to histidine, an alpha-amino acid stimulates the production of urocanic acid, which absorbs UV radiation.
Making the Marinade
Combine all ingredients in a large container or reusable silicone bag. The marinade includes turmeric, which contains cucurmoids, which are very soothing and anti inflammatory compounds. Remove the leaves and stem from the cauliflower, and cut it into small florets that will be easy to eat with a fork. Add the florets to the bag of marinade and seal it, and then shake it to get all of the pieces coated. The salt creates an osmotic effect which pulls the juices out of the cauliflower, while at the same time allowing it to be infused with the marinade. Let sit in your fridge at least one hour, but preferably overnight, turning once.
Next make salad dressing by combining all ingredients in a 12 ounce jar, close lid and shake vigorously for about a minute to combine. Set aside for the flavors to meld together. As the Chia seeds soak, they will puff up and enable the dressing to cling to the salad ingredients. They also add vital omega 3 fatty acids which boost skin immunity to sunlight. The olive oil contains squalene, a compound that possesses antioxidant powers and prevents skin cell death subsequent to oxidative stress such as sun exposure.
Putting it All Together
To put the salad together, you will first need to bake the cauliflower florets and the squash or sweet potato. The orange vegetables have some potent skin-damage-fighting properties, thanks to the beta-carotene content. They also give the salad staying power, and make it more of a meal. We bake them to make them taste a bit sweeter and create a richer flavor. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the skin and chop the winter squash or sweet potato into bite sized pieces and place them in a medium bowl and toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes, turning once until they are crispy and tender. Repeat with the cauliflower florets, spreading them onto a separate baking tray and baking at the same time, at 400°F for about 35 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft inside and has a nice color on the outside. If you are in a pinch or don’t want to turn the oven on, you can also BBQ them in foil or pan fry them. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly before adding to the salad.
Split your Time
While your more hearty veggies are baking, prepare the rest of the ingredients in a large serving bowl, or smaller personalized salad plates if preferred. The greens you choose are personalized to your preference, I generally use 1-2 handfuls per person. If you are using larger leaves, tear into bite sized pieces first.
All of the ingredients are chosen purposely for their skin health benefits. For example, carrots beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamin C. All three nutrients have been shown to act as a line of defense against the dangerous effects of sun exposure including photodamage, skin cancer, and premature aging. We shred the carrots to make them easier to chew raw in the salad.
Tomatoes also have an impressive quantity of lycopene, and have been shown to shield against UV light-induced erythema, or skin reddening. We use cherry tomatoes as they look a bit nicer chopped in half and placed in a mixed salad, however salad tomatoes are great as well. The beautiful red colour of the sweet red peppers comes from the same potent phytonutrients, and we use them here for that reason. Finally we bring in some purple colour and benefits from cabbage, a good source of sulforaphane, a sulfur-rich compound that forms when raw cabbage is cut or crushed. Sulforaphane is linked to powerful anti-inflammatory benefits and cancer-fighting properties.
The Secret Touches
There are also a couple of decadent ingredients added which elevate it above your everyday tossed salad. Strawberries possess a high antioxidant capacity, as well as an important anthocyanin and vitamin content, which results in a protective effect on skin cells against UVA-induced damage. If you have no strawberries on hand, all berries possess a similar antioxidant punch.
We add avocado for a creamy texture and to make the dish more satiating. Avocado is also packed with vitamin E, which is essential for preventing photodamage and keeping skin hydrated. We add some crunch and protein to the mix with sliced almonds and sunflower seeds, both of which are also great sources of vitamin E.
Finally if you want to add even a bit more protein to this salad you can do so by topping it off with a handful of fresh pea shoots or other sprouts. I arrange this salad by laying a bed of greens in the bottom of the bowl, then adding the chopped vegetables in sections, arranged by their rainbow colours. I then sprinkle on the seeds and place the sprouts at the center. I allow each person to add their own dressing if I intend to have leftovers, otherwise I toss the salad right before serving. Enjoy it under dappled summer sunlight and get glowing skin this summer.