Using Fatty Dressing Makes for a Healthier Salad (Really!)

Put away that no-fat dressing — it’s actually making your salad less nutritious, a new study from Purdue University says.

Why? Certain healthy nutrients like lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene found in vegetables and salad greens are fat-soluble (meaning they like to bond with fat), so using a fat-based dressing helps your body absorb more of these chemicals, the study shows.

“If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings,” says lead author Mario Ferruzzi, Ph.D. “If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.”

Not all fats are created equal, however. Dressing high in monounsaturated fats — like olive oil — promoted the highest absorption of nutrients at the lowest doses (just 3 grams), whereas polyunsaturated, fat-rich oils like soybean oil required higher doses to get the same level of nutrient absorption.

Bottom line: Don’t leave out the dressing, but try to stick with the olive oil-and-vinegar.

The study appears online in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

(Photo © Jeffreyw via Flickr)