Monday, July 2, 2012

Don't Skip the Dressing!

A recent human trial out of Purdue University and published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that to get the most nutritional bang out of your salads, you need to add some fat. That means don't hold the dressing!

Carotenoids, such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, are fat-soluble vitamins found in deep green, orange and yellow vegetables. Lots of salad veggies! Fat-soluble vitamins require dietary fat optimal absorption and utilization by the body. So pairing fat with veggies, either through adding dressing to salad or sauteing a vegetable in olive oil, is the perfect solution for maximizing your vitamin intake.

Some fats are healthier than others though, so make a wise selection (and don't go overboard, either). The study found that monounsaturated fat-rich dressings required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while polyunsaturated and saturated fat-based dressings required more to get the same benefit.

Monounsaturated fats are a healthy type of fat found in oils, avocados and certain nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are also a healthy type of fat, but did not yield as much absorption. Saturated fats, primarily found in animal products, are a less healthy type of fat that has been shown to raise cholesterol levels.

This study validates the concept that all foods are okay (and perhaps even beneficial) in moderation. In this case, adding some fat to your diet is definitely helpful! So don't hold the dressing, or even look for fat-free versions. When choosing to add an oil-based dressing to your salad, prepare it with an oil that has the highest quantity of monounsaturated fats: pick olive, safflower or canola oils. Try some oil and vinegar or an oil-based vinaigrette and enjoy! Just make sure the portion size that you use fits into your overall meal plan and calorie budget.

Try my favorite homemade salad dressing: Lemony Dill Dressing.

Sources: Wiley Online Library, Purdue Newsroom

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