Being quarantined at home for the last month I have had a lot of time to cook and experiment in the kitchen. This week I created my own version of a prosciutto salad.
Typically a prosciutto salad will be topped with candied walnuts and blue or goat cheese. I decided to forgo these ingredients. This is because I am sensitive to dairy. It does not agree with my stomach and my skin will start to break out if I have too much.
I normally try to limit my intake of added sugar but with the added stress of everything going on I have been trying to avoid it as much as possible. Sugar can weaken your body’s ability to combat the physiological effects of stress and weaken the adrenal gland which manages your stress response [R].
Instead, a piece of fruit is usually my go-to when I am craving something sweet.
If you do add sugar to your diet. You really want to limit your intake to less than 25 grams a day. This is about 6 teaspoons. If you have a health condition you want to go even lower with about 15 grams (4 teaspoons of added sugar).
This prosciutto salad is a good mix of salty and sweet but also packs a lot of nutrients and protein to keep you full. It is a great recipe to make for lunch or as a nice complement to your dinner.
Veggies Help Fill You Up and Reduce Stress
My goal is to help you combat stress with food. One way to combat stress is through nutrients. Getting a good amount of vegetables in your diet will give you nutrients your body needs to calm the physical effects of stress [R].
When we are stressed our bodies deplete essential vitamins and minerals. To keep the body healthy we need to replace those nutrients through food [R].
The scary thing about stress is that you may not even know you are undergoing the physical effects. Stress can occur from even just putting too many things on your plate and are very busy.
Vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition and should be consumed to replace back those nutrients lost during stress. So eating more veggies while quarantined is a great way to alleviate the physical effects of stress. This salad will do just that!
Benefits of Arugula for Stress Relief
Arugula is a leafy green. It has a spicy, peppery taste. Arugula is a great food to add to your diet for its numerous health benefits.
It is high in fiber and antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C and A. Arugula is a great source of folate and magnesium which is necessary for improved mental health as well as preventing free radical formation in our cells [R, R].
There are different variations of arugula. You may see it as “baby arugula” in the supermarket. This is arugula that was harvested at a younger age. The leaves are delicate and have a less intense flavor. You will still be getting the same health benefits as anything labeled just plain arugula.
Arugula is also low in oxalates. Oxalates are compounds that bind to calcium in the body. This makes calcium less available to be digested. Some people with certain conditions need to be careful with how many oxalates they take in. Arugula is a green that is lower in
If you are new to trying arugula and are worried about being sensitive or not liking the taste you can substitute mixed greens instead.
Benefits of Pears for Stress Relief
Pears are becoming one of my favorite fruits. I love adding them to salads and vegetable dishes. Their natural sweetness will complement the salty flavor in this prosciutto salad.
They are a great food to add to your diet. They contain the B vitamins riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folate (B9), and pyridoxine (B6). These vitamins help to improve mood and lower stress and anxiety [R].
Pears have vitamins that strengthen immunity. These include vitamins C and E. The minerals calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium are needed to help combat the physical effects of stress [R, R]. A pear is packed with these nutrients and will help your body calm.
The dressing for this prosciutto salad is quite easy to make since it consists of only two ingredients. I did not have any dijon mustard or lemon juice in my house so I decided to go with what I had in my cupboard: extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead. The two are mixed together to make a sweet and tangy vinaigrette. The flavor of the dressing pairs great with the salty taste of the prosciutto.
Both balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties. Vinegar is rich polyphenols a compound that prevents free radicals from forming and lowers the stress response [R]. Olive oil is rich in vitamin E a vitamin that is depleted during stress. Consuming this food will help to put back the nutrients your body needs to fight the physiological effects of stress [R].
The quality of your olive oil is important you want to get a cold- or expeller pressed version. I like to use California Olive Ranch or Bragg’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil. In the case of the balsamic vinegar, I like to find a brand that is free of sulfites. You also want to look for a brand that does not have any caramel coloring or red wine vinegar. These ingredients create a poor product that is acidic and diluted. The first ingredient listed should be cooked grape must.
Prosciutto Has Nutritive Value
Prosciutto is thinly sliced deli meat with a bold flavor. Often, demonized for its high salt and fat content it has some nutritive value.
A 100 gram (about 3.5 ounces) serving of prosciutto di Parma provides a good source of protein with about 26 grams. It also is a good source of vitamins and minerals needed for stress relief including B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, B6, and B12. It also provides minerals iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. All of these nutrients are essential to the body and can help with calming the physical effects of stress [R].
Concerns Over Salt Content in Proscuitto Salad
Proscuitto is often demonized for the high salt content. One ounce contains between 570 and 660 milligrams of sodium. This can be high depending on what else you are eating during the day.
Can Too Much Salt Be Problematic?
If your diet consists of high salty processed foods then you will be getting too much sodium. Which can be problematic if it’s done on a daily basis. This is because there is research that says high sodium intakes can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease [R].
In healthy individuals, high sodium ingestion does not cause sustained hypertension [R]. Those with high blood pressure or heart disease, on the other hand, have to be careful with their intake and are advised to consume 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day.
Can Too Little Salt Be Problematic?
Sodium is a necessary electrolyte our bodies need to function and getting too little of it can be problematic.
Some smaller studies have also shown that lowering sodium does not produce any benefit when sugar and processed foods are still being consumed. This may indicate sugar could be more harmful to blood pressure than sodium [R].
Some research has indicated there is a link between insulin resistance and low sodium diets. A study of 152 healthy individuals found those who consumed a low sodium diet had an association with higher blood sugar levels than the group who was on a high salt diet. This is an interesting concept but more research needs to be done to see the connection between diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and low-salt intake [R].
Sodium has also been found to lower anxiety in rats. This can also explain the reason why we crave salty foods [R]. In humans, low sodium intake was found to elevate heart rate when compared with a normal nad high sodium diet
Too low of a sodium intake has also been associated with cardiovascular disease [R].
Concerns Over Fat Content in Proscuitto Salad
Surprisingly, the fat content of prosciutto is made up of various fats including healthy ones found in heart-healthy foods like olive oil. Depending on the type of pig used on average the fat composition of dry-cured prosciutto hams consists of the following [R]:
- Saturated fat: 30 to 40%
- Monounsaturated fat 45–58%
The ranges vary depending on the type of ham. Iberian hams tend to have lower levels of saturated fats than white hams [R].
As you can see about half the fat is monounsaturated. Oleic acid is the main fat found in these meats and is the same fat found in olive oil. Oleic acid has been found to anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy [R].
Saturated fats may raise blood cholesterol but monounsaturated fats can reduce the “bad” cholesterol while raising the HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Prosciutto does have high-fat content but fat is an essential part of the diet. Like with sodium, depending on what other types of fats you are taking in can have a bearing on your overall health.
Eat More Vegetables to Balance the Salt and Fat Content of Foods
Having a balance is key. This means not eating prosciutto every day. Another way to balance out the sodium levels is to increase your vegetable intake. Getting 9 to 10 servings (about 5 to 6 cups) a day will help to lower sodium and give your body vital minerals it needs to balance sodium levels [R].
The pairing of meat with vegetables like in this prosciutto salad can increase the potassium and nutrient content of the meal. It also provides a good amount of fiber which can lower blood pressure.
Depending on what else you are consuming in the day, prosciutto can be part of a healthy diet.
If you are concerned about your salt intake or do not like prosciutto you can sub in grilled chicken.
What to Look for When Buying Prosciutto
If you want to avoid carcinogens be sure to get a brand that does not have any nitrates or other preservatives. The only ingredients listed should be pork and salt. If you can find an organic brand that is the best option. One way of knowing the quality of the meat is by getting a brand with an EU protected designation of origin certification (PDO).
Prosciutto is not meant to be eaten every day but every once in a while it can be part of a healthy diet. Sticking to a serving of 2 slices is a good rule of thumb.
When looking for prosciutto you want to get a brand that is minimally processed. This means the only ingredients you see should be pork and salt. If you can get an organic brand that is a plus.
If you’re feeling adventurous and have time you can try making crispy prosciutto. This will give you a nice crunch and give you the consistency of crisp bacon. You can bake it in the oven for 15 minutes or throw it in the air fryer to get that perfect crunch.
Time and Equipment Needed for the Recipe
This recipe is pretty straightforward and easy to assemble. The total time it takes to make the salad is about 10 minutes. In terms of equipment, you do not really need many gadgets or utensils. Below are the items I have used to make the prosciutto salad.
Equipment Used In This Recipe
Prosciutto Salad with Arugula and Pears
- 1 Medium Zucchini peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 3 cup Arugula
- 4 slices Prosciutto
- 1 Pear sliced
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Place the olive oil in a small mixing bowl
- Add the vinegar to the olive oil
- Mix the olive oil and vinegar until blended
- Place the arugula, zucchini, walnuts, pears, and prosciutto in a small mixing bowl
- Top the salad with the dressing, mix well, and serve