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Good and Bad Oils for Salad Dressings

Misrepresentations and resulting confusion about the health effects of fats led some dieticians and nutritionists to advise against salad dressings. They suggested that salads should be dressed with plain lemon juice, thereby avoiding the use of any oils or fats. But, a salad with only lemon juice is not terribly tasty. As a result, some people stopped eating nutritious salads.

In fact, we should better avoid most commercial salad dressings as they are made with low-quality oils that are stripped nutritionally and made harmful by processing these oils under high temperatures. They may also contain solvent extracts. In addition, commercial salad dressings are “contaminated” with added preservatives, stabilizers, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. As if that were not enough of an insult, they have a hefty price tag for empty, unhealthy calories.

Almost all bottled salad dressings (particularly the low-fat varieties) contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a neurotoxin or some related glutamate. Some may also contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein or similar substances. Ingredients such as natural flavors or spices may also contain glutamates such as glutamic acid which is very similar to MSG.

But the good news is that homemade salad dressing made with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and lemon juice or raw vinegar is the best option for every nutritious salad.

Extra virgin olive oil contains an abundance of beneficial antioxidants. Both extra virgin olive oil and raw vinegar provide potent enzymes right at the beginning of the meal when they are needed the most. Garlic, fresh herbs, raw cheese, cultured cream, raw egg yolk and homemade mayonnaise added to dressings make nutritional contributions with vitamins and enzymes. Another major benefit is that they add natural flavors which wet everyone’s appetite including children.

A basic salad dressing takes very little time and effort to make and will reward you with substantial health benefits. With a little practice, you will be making them with ease and even creating your own dressing recipes.

Extra virgin olive oil is your best choice for all salad dressings, along with a small amount of unrefined flaxseed oil. Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, a very stable monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. One of the many health benefits of extra virgin olive oil is protection from cardiovascular disease. Make sure to read the label for cold-pressed or expeller-expressed oils because these also contain fat enzymes called lipases that are activated in the stomach to enable the breakdown of triglycerides into free fatty acids. If the extra virgin olive oil has been processed and handled correctly, it will contain most of the antioxidants to keep the fatty acids from going rancid. Look for extra virgin olive oil that is not filtered (cloudy, not clear) and golden yellow. The color tells you it has been pressed from ripe fruits.

You may also add some unrefined flaxseed oil as it is one of the best vegetable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, be careful because flaxseed oil is very volatile, meaning it goes rancid easily. It must be kept in dark bottles and in cold storage.

It is not recommended to use polyunsaturated oils as they can be bad for your health. These include soy, corn, cottonseed and safflower oils. The cold-pressed versions can also be bad for you, especially when heated, so better avoid all of these heavily processed oils. They are often rancid and high in omega-6 fatty acids. Too many omega-6 fatty acids interfere with enzymes necessary for producing prostaglandins and may thus contribute to weaker immunity and inflammation. Although canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, studies show that it may create vitamin E deficiency because it goes rancid easily. When oils go rancid, they turn into harmful trans fats. High consumption of trans fats can cause and aggravate some health problems, especially in diabetics and people with cardiovascular diseases.

Where to Find More Information: ChooseMyPlate.gov