Israeli salad: simple, healthy and in season for students

Years ago, when I was a volunteer on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv, I was introduced to a deliciously bright salad that I soon learned is typically served at every meal in Israel. Yes, even breakfast. The foundation of tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions lightly tossed in olive oil and lemon juice is famously known as the Israeli chopped salad.

Today, as the parent of two young schoolchildren, I’ve discovered something else about the Israeli chopped salad: Not only is this healthy side dish loaded with vitamins and nutrients, it is also quick and easy to make as we head into the busy school year.

Perfectly timed with the beginning of school, the end of summer through mid-autumn is the best time to prepare the Israeli chopped salad, as the warm days are prime growing season for each delicious ingredient. 

As with many of the best-known Israeli national dishes, including falafel and hummus, Israeli chopped salad is not solely a Jewish dish, but shares its origins with other Middle Eastern cultures. First served in Arab and Palestinian rural communities, the salad was popularized in Israel by kibbutz cooks, and is now so commonplace in Israel that it’s hard to find a restaurant or household that doesn’t serve this salad daily.

Though often called a “chopped salad,” nothing about it is haphazardly chopped. What truly distinguishes this salad is the small uniform dice of the tomato and cucumbers. But no matter how you cut it, what makes this vibrant salad a good choice for young and old is the amazing health benefits each ingredient brings to the plate.


Cucumbers: The small, sweet Persian cucumber is preferred over the larger, tougher-skinned English variety, but either will work. Delightfully cool and crisp, cucumbers are a fat-free and low-calorie food full of water and fiber. In fact, cucumbers are 95 percent water, so eating a cup of cucumber is a great way to quench your thirst.

Beyond hydration, cucumbers contain many antioxidants, including vitamin C, beta-carotene and manganese. These compounds help your body on the outside with anti-aging skin components, while on the inside they bolster the immune system. What’s more, cucumbers are also filled with vitamin K, which promotes bone health and supports memory function. Lastly, cucumbers are a good source for potassium, a mineral with heart-healthy benefits.

Most of the cucumber’s nutrients are found in its skin, so keep the peel on. However, conventional cucumbers are often sprayed with pesticides, so try and use organic cucumbers whenever possible, or else scrub the skin thoroughly.

Tomatoes: Fresh off the vine, tomatoes are chock-full of vitamins C and A. Like cucumbers, tomatoes are also good for heart health, and have been shown to help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Tomatoes are also super-rich in lycopene, known for its prostate cancer-fighting properties. According to recent studies, it promotes bone health as well. Organic tomatoes are said to provide up to three times the lycopene of nonorganic varieties, so again, go organic when possible. 


Red onions: Beyond containing many vitamins and minerals, onions also contain the flavonoid quercetin, an antioxidant compound that may help protect against cancer, heart disease and allergies. The anti-inflammatory effects of red onions can be specifically beneficial for people with allergies, asthma and arthritis

Parsley: An amazing herb full of vital vitamins — including vitamins C, B-12, K and A — parsley may help keep your immune system strong, while supporting bone and brain health. In addition, parsley contains folic acid and has diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties that may help control blood pressure and ease joint pain.

Olive oil: Known as the world’s healthiest oil, olive oil is extremely rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and carotenoids. A diet high in olive oil has been shown to have a vital role in preventing heart disease, fighting some types of cancer and lowering blood pressure.

The final ingredient, lemon juice, is full of vitamin C, antioxidants and potassium, making it a great full-bodied tonic. 

Jeannie Solomon is a wellness coach and certified chef at the Peninsula JCC in Foster City.