Remember the fat-free diet craze of the 80’s and 90’s? Back then, I wouldn’t dream of dressing my salad with oil or fat because I was always “dieting.” I thought eating fat meant gaining weight. It was strictly fat-free Italian dressing or honey mustard for me. Little did I know that dietary fat is necessary for the absorption of nutrients from fruits and vegetables. In a study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, people who consumed salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and carrots than those who consumed their salads with a salad dressing containing fat.
We need all the phytonutrients we can get. Many nutrients in the food we eat are fat-soluble. Beta carotene, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E are three such nutrients that require fat in order to be absorbed and used by our bodies, but there are many others. So it is time to toss out the fat-free dressings and embrace healthy fats which include extra-virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, and fats from plant sources such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconuts. It doesn’t take much fat, by the way, to aid the absorption of these important vitamins and nutrients. Eating just 5 or 10 nuts, or one-fourth of an avocado, provides plenty of dietary fat for transporting these nutrients and aiding their absorption.
Unfortunately most salad dressings that you find in the store are not made from healthy fats. The majority are made with oils like soybean oil, which is high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Most of us consume far too many Omega 6 fats. When the ideal ratio should be in the range of 2:1 – 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3, the average person eating the standard American diet has a 14:1 to 20:1 ratio. Salad dressings you find at national restaurant chains or fast food restaurants are also made with the cheapest oils possible which would include soybean oil and partially hydrogenated oils, which of course, should be avoided at all costs.
Very rarely do I purchase bottled dressings these days. I love making my own. But, if I am in a pinch, I’ll use any of these:
1. Brianna’s I love the French Vinaigrette .
2. Annie’s Naturals The Goddess Dressing is my fave. So many knock-offs out there, but Annie’s original recipe is the first and the best!
3. Drew’s All Natural The Sesame Orange Dressing is wonderful on an a salad with chicken and mandarin oranges.
4. Newman’s Own I like the Lighten -up Red Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil dressing the best.
My rule of thumb is to look at ingredients. Canola oil is better than soybean oil, and olive oil is better yet. Make sure that are no ingredients on my Kitchen Dejunking list like high fructose corn syrup or MSG.
My kids will tell you that their favorite dressing is my simple homemade “Dressed Up” vinaigrette. I shake it up in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge. It lasts for a 1 week. It tastes wonderful on a simple mixed green salad. Don’t be afraid to try your hand at homemade dressings. There are lots of recipes online.
Dressed Up Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp of Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 minced shallot
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 pressed clove of garlic
- 1 1/2 cup olive oil
- (in the summer I add a couple tablespoons of different fresh herbs from my garden)