Say what you will about the merits of mustard greens massaged with premium olive oil and sherry vinegar, or even a big fat wedge of iceberg obscenely tarted up with creamy blue cheese dressing and lardons the size of your pinky.
Salad straight sucks, yo.
At least that's what the Washington Post's Tamar Haspel might have us believe. Writing this week, Haspel argues that in a world in which ethically minded eaters consider waste and the future of our planet when planning their meals, there's no room for salad.
First off, salad greens—that is, iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuces, and the like—don't do a damn bit of good for you nutritionally, or at least not compared to vegetables that don't typically make their ways into salad. Cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, and celery, according to "organic consultant" Charles Benbrook, pack some of the vegetable world's least nutrients, mostly because they're all water. Think empty calories, but the other way around—the empty lack of calories.
"Although water figures prominently in just about every vegetable (the sweet potato, one of the least watery, is 77 percent), those four salad vegetables top the list at 95 to 97 percent water," writes Haspel. "A head of iceberg lettuce has the same water content as a bottle of Evian (1-liter size: 96 percent water, 4 percent bottle) and is only marginally more nutritious."
Not only is lettuce, in Haspel's words, "a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table," it's also expensive for the nutrients it delivers, and it takes up space in fields that could be growing more nutritionally dense offerings like collards, kale, tomatoes, or green beans.
Haspel goes on to decry the "salad" offerings at some of America's finest eateries—Applebee's, specifically—and the "health halo" that surrounds any dish that's largely green, even if it clocks in at more than 1,400 calories.
Not enough salad scorn for you? But wait, there's more!
Haspel points out that lettuce is the top source of food waste for vegetables (probably because iceberg doesn't have much of a job to do unless it's in that bacon-y wedge salad), amounting to more than a billion pounds each year. Watch and be dazzled as an entire nation throws a solid third of their Caesar into the garbage day after day!
It's also a common source of foodborne illness, according to the CDC! But here's where Haspel's logic gets a little specious, which even she admits: "To be fair, 'leafy vegetables,' the CDC category, also includes cabbage, spinach, and other kinds of greens, but the reason the category dominates is that the greens are often eaten raw. As in salad."
Yes, as in spinach salad. As in nutritionally dense spinach salad that gives us Popeye arms and night vision. And maybe sometimes fatal cases of the shits, but still.
So believe this anti-lettuce gospel if you want to give up your pallid, bottled-Italian-dressing-drenched iceberg on the side (and save the good stuff for a heart-stopping, cheese-smothered wedge salad).
But don't go thinking that all salads are created equal unless you plan to turn your back on the vegetable kingdom altogether, and go full carnivore. And that may not be the wisest move, either.