Therefore, explains Ferruzzi, a salad dressing containing olive oil, canola oil or another monounsaturated fat is ideal, because you’ll get all the heart-healthy benefits of the veggies without going overboard with fat.
“We love that this study and others have been helping to get the message out about the importance of using some fat on salads,” say SELF contributing editors Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh, registered dietitians and co-founders of C&J Nutrition.
Reading: Salad dressing bad for you
“It’s also important [that including fat in your dressing] ensures that if a salad is being eaten as a meal, that it’s high enough in calories to be satisfying as such,” say Clarke and Jarosh. “Of course,” they add, “portions of fats still need to be controlled, so that you get enough fat, but not too much to push the calories of the salad over an appropriate amount.”
So, what’s the BEST kind of salad dressing?
“The ideal is to mix up your own so that you can choose the oil that you use, and skip added preservatives and sugars,” say Clarke and Jarosh. “An oil and vinegar combo is the simplest to make at home. Vinegars such as balsamic, red wine and white wine are all great staples to have on hand to mix with olive oil or canola oil. Then, add a little more flavor by whisking in chopped garlic or shallots, citrus juice, other herbs and spices and a touch of honey if you’d like to tame the acidity of the vinegar.”
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Want something creamy in your salad? “Avocado is another great way to add fat to a salad, specially if you crave the creaminess that you would typically get from creamy dressings,” say Clarke and Jarosh. “Avocado contains monounsaturated fats, as do nuts and seeds – another great salad addition!”
What about your other favorite dressings? Clarke and Jarosh break some of them down for you here:
- Blue cheese. “Blue cheese contains mostly saturated fat, which will help with nutrient absorption to an extent,” say Clarke and Jarosh. But it is dose-dependent, meaning you have to eat more of the dressing to absorb more of the carotenoids, so you have to balance that against the ramifications of eating too much saturated fat.
- Ranch. “Most brands of Ranch use soybean oil as the main fat, so this wouldn’t be ideal because soybean oil is primarily polyunsaturated,” say Clarke and Jarosh. “But again, it will still help with nutrient absorption.”
- ” Low-fat” dressings. “Not worth it,” say Clarke and Jarosh. “They usually have fillers and more added sugar in order to keep the flavor up without the fat.” Better to go for a full-fat vinaigrette dressing that uses olive oil or canola oil for its main oil (meaning that oil should be first on the ingredient list in the dressing), they recommend.
If you really want to cut calories, Clarke and Jarosh say a “light” or “reduced fat” dressing can also be OK, as these dressings still have about five grams of fat per serving. For criteria on what to look for in a salad dressing, Clarke and Jarosh recommend using the guidelines they use for SELF’s Healthy Foods Awards:
Per one tablespoon of dressing:
- No more than 1 gram saturated fat
- No more than 2.5 grams sugar
- No more than 150 mg sodium
- No artificial flavors or colors (some dressings contain MSG!)
- Avoid partially hydrogenated oils and high sodium levels.
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