There’s some good news and some bad news on the salad-eating front. The bad news is that a full third of Americans don’t eat salads. The good news is that those among us who do eat salads enjoy a 40% higher vegetable intake — and with it, all the nutrient benefits that leafy greens bring.

These are the findings of a study recently published in the Medscape Journal of Medicine. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta looked at  dietary data for roughly 16,783 adult Americans between the years of 2003 and 2006. Unfortunately, dark green vegetables — e.g., romaine, spinach, arugula — accounted for a small portion of vegetable intake. The recommended daily servings for vegetables generally is three cups (raw) — but the actual consumption was less than one cup. However, tossing up or ordering a salad a few times a week can dramatically increase your vegetable intake. Leveraging salad bars to improve children’s nutrition could be particularly effective: One UCLA study found that fruit and vegetable intake rose 40% after introduction of a salad bar. That translated into more nutrients — but fewer overall calories — consumed by students. That’s why Dole has stepped up to donate 15 salad bars across the country to schools in low-income areas.

Bonus: Eating salads at home offers an additional benefit — Australian researchers found a 67% lower risk of stomach flu among most frequent salad eaters.

Published December 1, 2010