Does Salad Make You Gain Weight?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/18/2024

Salads are often considered a go-to healthy meal option, but does salad make you gain weight?


Salads are generally good for your health and can help with weight loss. However, certain popular salad ingredients or an imbalanced intestinal microflora can lead to weight gain after eating salad.


Let's look at why salad can cause you to gain weight and discover how to make the right type of salad to support your weight loss goals.


Young man thinking about salad

Can eating salad cause weight gain?


Yes, there are a few reasons why eating salad may make you gain weight.


Not all salads are healthy. Popular toppings such as croutons, certain dressings, or dried fruit contain high amounts of carbohydrates and sugar that can contribute to weight gain.


Choosing the right ingredients is crucial for balanced nutrition and effective weight management when regularly consuming salads. 


Another lesser-known cause of weight gain from salads is a deficiency of critical digestive enzymes or an imbalance of beneficial gut bacteria


Especially for those not used to eating large amounts of vegetables, the gut may need time to adjust to digest fiber efficiently.


As Dr. Berg explains, "Building a balanced gut microbiome is vital for digesting vegetables. Digestive enzymes work synergistically with beneficial gut bacteria to break down fibers, helping to reduce bloating, water retention, and temporary weight gain."


Watch this video to learn more about weight gain after eating salad.

Did You Gain Weight Eating Salad?

What to do when salad causes weight gain  


If you're experiencing weight gain after eating salads, there are a few strategies you can employ to help correct the issue.


Here are five steps you can take to avoid weight gain after eating salad.


1. Opt for healthy salad dressings

Many salad dressings contain added sugars and unhealthy fats, such as high fructose corn syrup, seed oils, and maltodextrin, which can contribute to weight gain.


Instead of buying low-quality store-bought versions, consider making your own dressing using nutritious ingredients that enhance flavor while supporting weight loss.


Here are some key ingredients to make a healthy salad dressing that won’t cause weight gain:


Dressings prepared with avocado oil or cold-pressed EVOO offer healthy fats and fat-soluble nutrients, including vitamins E and K.


These vitamins support various essential functions, including muscular health, cellular growth, and tissue repair, crucial for maintaining a healthy weight while promoting overall well-being.


Furthermore, acetic acid in vinegar promotes digestive processes by improving acidity in the stomach. This not only helps reduce bloating and water retention but also supports a healthy gut microbiome, which is linked to a healthy body weight.


In addition, a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry highlighted the importance of acetic acid to reduce body fat.


The researchers found that "a single administration of acetic acid increases energy expenditure, resulting in suppression of body fat mass."


2. Avoid refined grains 

Popular salad toppings, including wonton strips, croutons, and breaded proteins such as fried chicken or breaded shrimp, often include wheat flour or other refined grains.


Research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition links refined grains to higher levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can impact metabolic pathways and hormonal balance, increasing the risk of weight gain and abdominal fat accumulation. 


Moreover, refined grains are also high in carbs and low in fiber, causing blood sugar spikes that can lead to insulin resistance, a common cause of belly fat.


Instead, add whole foods such as roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts to your salads as they are a good source of healthy fats and protein that help you feel satiated after your meal.


Avoid wheat-breaded ingredients and choose low-carb alternatives, including pork rinds or almond flour, to make delicious salad toppers such as Crispy Pickle-Brined Chicken Thighs or Keto Popcorn Chicken.


Mix of fresh berries

3. Choose ingredients with a low glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure that indicates how much a particular food impacts blood sugar levels. The higher the GI score, the more it raises blood sugar and insulin levels linked to weight gain.


Avoiding foods with a high GI helps maintain steady blood glucose levels, which can reduce the adverse metabolic effects of blood sugar fluctuations. 


Many fruits, starchy vegetables, and legumes commonly used on salads, such as apples, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and black beans, have high GI scores. This may explain why eating certain salads can lead to weight gain. 


Instead, choose low-glycemic fresh fruit and vegetables in your salads, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, leafy greens, cabbage, and broccoli.


These ingredients help bulk up your salad and provide essential vitamins and antioxidants that contribute to your overall health without causing weight gain. 


4. Add high-quality protein

Eating cheese can be a good source of protein and healthy fats. However, processed cheeses, such as pre-shredded cheese or American cheese, often contain preservatives and high-carb anti-caking agents, including corn starch.


Furthermore, processed meats, such as bacon bits, pepperoni, and other deli meats, can also be high in sodium, sugar, dyes, and artificial nitrates, which can contribute to inflammation and hinder weight loss efforts.

 

Fresh cheese, grilled chicken, turkey, steak, hard-boiled eggs, and wild-caught fish are excellent protein options for salads.


Large intestine digesting food

5. Slowly increase vegetable intake  

People new to eating large amounts of vegetables may need to help their digestive system adapt to prevent constipation and temporary weight gain. 


Slowly incorporating more vegetables into your diet allows your intestines to adjust and produce the enzymes needed to process large amounts of raw vegetables efficiently.


Increasing salad intake promotes the growth and proliferation of beneficial gut bacteria that ferment dietary fiber, resulting in more efficient digestion of plant foods.  


That said, those making an effort to heal and strengthen their gut should avoid nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants.


"Nightshade vegetables contain lectins, which can be difficult for some people to digest. Consuming lectins can trigger an immune response and exacerbate digestive issues, leading to inflammation, bloating, and discomfort," says Dr. Berg 


Steaming vegetables like squash, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus can also help break down fibers, making them easier to digest.   


Fit young women eating salad

Benefits of eating salad 


Regularly eating nutritionally balanced salads offers numerous health benefits.


Common salad ingredients such as leafy greens, sprouts, onions, garlic, and cheese are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Combined with a nutritious salad, these foods make an excellent meal choice for those working on losing weight.


Vegetables are rich in fiber, which helps regulate digestion, promotes a feeling of fullness, and stimulates the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. This is crucial for maintaining a healthy digestive system and metabolism. 


Additionally, incorporating healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, cheese, and olive oil facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins needed to promote a healthy weight and overall health and well-being. 


Weighing a bowl of salad

How much salad should you have?


The ideal amount of salad depends on individual factors such as body size and digestive health. 


As a general guideline, the average person should eat between seven and ten cups of leafy greens daily.  


However, eating too much salad may overwhelm the digestive tract and can increase the risk of constipation and digestive discomfort. Listen to your body and adjust your intake accordingly. 



Healthy salad recipes


Incorporating a variety of nutritious salads into your diet is an excellent way to support weight management and overall health. 


From classic Greek salad to innovative combinations such as a low-carb avocado bacon chicken salad, these dishes offer a range of flavors and plenty of nutrients to keep your meals exciting and satisfying.


Here are some delicious salad recipes for you to try:

  1. Keto Greek Salad

  2. Salmon Salad

  3. Chicken Cobb Salad

  4. Keto Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Bacon

  5. Shredded Beef Salad

  6. Keto Avocado Bacon Chicken Salad

  7. Vegan Carpaccio Salad 


A couple eating fresh salad

Key takeaways


Does salad make you gain weight? Yes, salads can cause weight gain if they contain high-carb ingredients and sugar-laden dressings.


In addition, a lack of adequate digestive enzymes can slow down digestive processes and lead to bloating, water retention, and temporary weight gain after eating salads.


By creating balanced, nutrient-rich salads and focusing on gut health, you can enjoy salads' health benefits while maintaining a healthy body weight. 



FAQ


1. Can eating salad cause weight gain? 

Yes, salads can cause weight gain if they contain ingredients such as croutons, deep-fried protein, or dressings packed with sugars and preservatives. 


In addition, gut issues such as digestive enzyme deficiency or an imbalance in intestinal microflora can lead to slow digestion and temporary weight gain after eating salad. 


2. Are salads good for weight loss?

Yes, eating salads prepared with healthy ingredients in addition to a healthy lifestyle can help you lose weight.


3. What happens when you eat salad every day?

Eating a well-balanced and nutrient-rich salad every day can support digestive health and metabolic balance. Regular salad consumption can also promote the body’s nutrient stores linked to overall health and well-being. 


4. Will I lose belly fat if I eat salad every day?

Yes, eating a salad daily, especially when combined with other healthy eating habits, can help you lose belly fat by providing fiber and essential nutrients. 


Consuming salad can also help achieve a calorie deficit, aiding in weight loss. 


5. What should I avoid putting in my salad for weight loss?

Avoid processed meats and cheese, refined grains, croutons, starchy vegetables, high-sugar fruits, and store-bought regular or fat-free salad dressings with unhealthy ingredients.


6. Why am I gaining weight even though I’m eating salads?

Possible reasons for weight gain after eating salads include excessive intake of carbohydrates and sugars from grains, legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and dressings. 


Temporary bloating and water retention after eating salad can also be a reason for salad-related weight gain and is often linked to a deficiency in digestive enzymes or an imbalanced microflora. 


7. Can I eat salads every day without worrying about my calorie intake? 

Many popular salad toppings, such as croutons, fruit, and sugary dressings, can be high in carbohydrates and calories.


However, choosing low-carb and organic salad ingredients and preparing homemade dressings is an excellent strategy to enjoy a daily salad without worrying about calories. 



Sources


  1. https://academic.oup.com/bbb/article/74/10/2158/5949622 

  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-021-00996-1 

Healthy Keto Guide for Beginner

FREE Keto Diet Plan