If you’re adding lots of vegetables into your diet, congratulations! This is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
However, there’s one huge caveat to keep in mind when you’re chowing down on all those colorful veggies: If you are using commercial salad dressings as part of your meal, you are likely undoing a significant amount of the benefits from the healthy foods you are working so hard to eat.
The vast majority of ready-made salad dressings from the supermarket contain a whole host of nasty ingredients; if you read the label critically, you don’t want to be subjecting your healthy vegetables to this culinary insult. It would be like eating a lovely organic grass-fed beef burger, and slapping a slice of processed, plastic-wrapped cheese on top of it. You just wouldn’t do it.
There are a number of reasons that make commercial salad dressings an appalling waste of your hard-earned dollars and should be permanently shunned from the grocery cart.
If you take a moment to skim the ingredients list on the back of pretty much any salad dressing you can buy, the first or second ingredient will be one of the following oils:
- Vegetable oil
- Sunflower or safflower oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Canola oil
- Ungraded olive oil
The problem with these oils is that they are made up largely of polyunsaturated fats. This fact on its own is fine, but the way the oils are produced causes the delicate polyunsaturated fats to become oxidized and rancid. The oils are extracted via high heat and pressure, and the process often uses chemical strippers, cleansers and deodorizers.
It’s important to note that the dressings labeled with words like “simply natural” and “organic” probably still feature these toxic oils as one of the main ingredients. Even those labeled as an olive oil dressing usually have one of the industrial oils as a close second on the ingredients list. This is because these refined chemicalized oils are cheap and plentiful, and are used to fill in the gaps between more expensive, higher quality ingredients.
Don’t be fooled by attractive branding and a fancy bottle — always flip it over, read the label, and be critical of what you’re buying. Even though it cost more and came from the health food aisle, it may still be full of toxic junk!
All too often, you will see ingredients such as the following, which are actually just other words for, you guessed it, sugar!
- Glucose syrup
- Corn syrup
On many salad dressing labels, sugar, or one of its many relatives, will be among the first ingredients. Don’t tarnish your healthy veggies by pouring sugar over them! You can use whole food sugars, such as a little maple syrup, honey or fruit in your homemade dressings.
Many salad dressings also contain vague words that can cover up for GMOs, MSG or wheat. These include caramel color, yeast, “spices” and anything with the words autolyzed or hydrolyzed. It’s best to avoid these ingredients, since they are simply food-like substances that are engineered to stimulate the brain’s taste centers without adding value or nutrition.
Finally, look out for additives with long, difficult to pronounce names. These are generally preservatives, such as sorbic acid, disodium phosphate and calcium disodium EDTA. Many dressings contain a long string of several of these chemical ingredients near the end of the list. There is no reason to eat these processed chemicals when you can make your own more delicious dressings that will promote health rather than pollute the body.
If you choose low-fat or fat-free dressings, which have been marketed as healthier alternatives, it’s important to know that these actually impair the absorption of nutrients from vegetables. There are many vitamins in vegetables that are fat soluble, as opposed to water soluble. Examples are vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin K.
We cannot use these valuable nutrients from our food unless we consume them with fat. Saturated and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in butter, eggs, coconut oil, real sour cream, real yogurt, avocado oil and olive oil, have been shown to facilitate the most effective release of these fat-soluble vitamins.
Not only do fat-free dressings provide suboptimal nutrient absorption, they generally also contain junky “fat replacements” which thicken the dressing and allow for a more pleasant mouthfeel, to trick us into thinking we are eating fat. If these thickeners and emulsifiers weren’t added, there is little chance we would ever consume these nasty dressings. These are some ingredients to look out for:
- Guar gum
- Modified starches
- Xanthan gum
So without further ado, let’s look at some real, whole food salad dressing recipes that you can easily whip up in your kitchen. The simplest dressings take less than five minutes, and you can make larger batches and keep them in the fridge.
—The Alternative Daily
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