Monday, July 2, 2012

Is Low Fat Salad Dressing the Best Choice?

For some people the fat content of a salad dressing is a deciding factor in the type of salad dressing chosen. Individuals who are watching their calorie and fat intake typically go for the fat free and lower fat salad dressing.  A recent study questions if this is the best option. A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found the use of fat free and low fat salad dressings prevented the optimal absorption of healthy ingredients, specifically carotenoids, in fruits and vegetables within a salad.

This recent study was not the first of it's kind.  A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the amount of carotenoid extracted from vegetables with salad dressings of varying fat contents.  The researchers concluded fat free dressing inhibited the absorption of carotenoids from vegetables, while low fat dressings provided only minimal aid in the removal.  Both studies agree on the idea that the higher the fat content of the salad dressing the greater amount of carotenoid extraction.  A noted limitation of both studies was the number of participants.  

Why do carotenoids even matter?
Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants that have been linked to disease prevention and better  health outcomes.  They are a group of phytochemicals such as lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene.  Carotenoids are commonly founds in carrots, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, and fruits.  

What does this mean for your salad dressing choice?
These studies are not suggesting that you run out and purchase high fat creamy salad dressings such as ranch or ceasar salad dressings, rather that you choose a healthier dressing with an olive oil or canola oil base.  Although both olive oil and canola oil do contain fat and can add up in calories quickly, they offer heart healthy benefits.  When consumed in moderation (no greater than 1 tablespoon) they can be part of a healthy eating plan.  One of my favorite homemade salad dressing choices is 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper. Fresh lemon juice can be substituted for the balsamic vinegar.    

Happy salad eating!!


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