Salads are one of the first foods many people think of when deciding on a healthy meal. Unless you opt for a salad of chicken, tuna, egg or pasta, it’s a guaranteed meal choice full of vegetables, which means you’ll get plenty of fiber (an important nutrient that vast majority of people in the United States do not use). not enough) and other nutrients.
But a salad without dressing can be boring. Depending on the type of dressing you use, how you top your salad can make it even more nutrient dense or subtract the benefits. That’s why it’s important to know which dressing ingredients can make your salad healthier and which ones to avoid.
Creamy dressings are not necessarily less healthy
The first decision involved in choosing a dressing is whether you want a creamy or oily dressing. In terms of nutrition, Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian and author of “Read It Before You Eat: Taking You From Label to Table,” says creamy salad dressings tend to be higher in saturated fat. than oily salad dressings, with saturated fats. fats from both oils and dairy products.
“These types of fats are not as healthy for us [as unsaturated fats]and the American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat be less than 6% of the diet,” Taub-Dix said.
While you might not think creamy salad dressings contain oil, dietician Melissa Rifkin says store-bought salad dressings often contain it, which can increase the amount of saturated fat. Still, that doesn’t automatically mean that an oily dressing is more nutritious than a creamy one.
“Oil will determine the ratio of fats in the dressing and plays an important role in the ‘health’ of the dressing,” Rifkin says.
For example, olive oil contains a higher amount of unsaturated fat (which, unlike saturated fat, is good for heart health) than vegetable oil, making it a healthier option.
“Different oils have different nutrient components,” says dietitian Alexis Newman. “Dressings containing oils high in monounsaturated fats are recommended. These types of fats help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL), which prevents heart disease and reduces inflammation.
No matter what type of salad dressing you’re considering, Taub-Dix said it’s a good idea to read the nutrition label, not only to check the saturated fat content, but also sugar, sodium and calories if one of your health goals is weight loss. It’s also worth reading the ingredient list and keeping an eye out for five specific ingredients that dietitians say have little or no nutritional value.
5 ingredients to avoid
1. Palm oil
Palm oil can show up in both creamy and oily salad dressings, and it’s a top ingredient that Taub-Dix said to avoid. By now you might have an idea why. Yes, it is high in saturated fat.
“Daishing dressings made with avocado oil or olive oil are healthier,” Taub-Dix said.
2. Sugar (but it is rarely called sugar)
You might not think sugar is used in salad dressings, but the three dietitians say it’s pretty common.
“Often, fruity dressings, like a raspberry dressing, will have a higher sugar content,” Taub-Dix says. Other popular dressings that use sugar include honey mustard, sweet Italian dressing, poppyseed dressing, and French dressing.
Here’s what’s tricky about sugar in salad dressings. Taub-Dix said it’s often listed in ingredients under other names. High fructose corn syrup, sucrose, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, and rice syrup are ways sugar can be listed. Delicate, right?
In general, the American Heart Association says to keep added sugar intake under 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (or 26 grams) per day for men. A diet high in sugar is linked to a host of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
While the amount of added sugar listed on the nutrition label may be quite low, Rifkin said it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of dressing you use on your salad may be more than one serving.
“One serving of salad dressing is generally considered two tablespoons, which is way less than most people use,” Rifkin said. “The amount of sugar in a dressing becomes even more important when the dressing is consumed in larger quantities.”
“Salt is a common ingredient in all dressings and should be monitored by those with hypertension,” Rifkin said. The reason is that salt contains sodium and a diet high in sodium increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. According to a scientific study, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases by up to 6% for each gram of sodium intake.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day, or about 1 teaspoon of salt. And if you already have high blood pressure, the recommended daily limit is even lower – 1,500 mg. Because salt is such a common ingredient, 90% of people in the United States consume more than this recommended amount, so that’s definitely something to keep in mind.
Some types of salad dressings that are often high in sodium include Caesar, blue cheese, and Thousand Islands. Just like with sugar, Rifkin said the amount of dressing you can use is likely more than the nutrition label says is the serving size.
4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Rifkin explained that monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used in some salad dressings as a flavor enhancer. It is made from fermented carbohydrate sources, like sugar beets. It is often used in salad dressings for its umami flavor, which is literally appetizing.
Some scientific studies show that a diet high in MSG can cause inflammation in the body. Other studies have shown that regular consumption of MSG is linked to obesity, liver damage and central nervous system disorders. Because of these connections, Rifkin advised to minimize consumption.
5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil can sound healthy, but Rate-Dix says it’s yet another ingredient high in saturated fat, making it one to avoid. Just like with palm oil, she suggested skipping bandages with this oil. Opt instead for those with avocado oil or olive oil.
Avoiding these common dressing ingredients will prevent your greens from turning into a high-calorie sodium bomb.
If you’re still looking for a flavor boost, don’t underestimate the power of fresh herbs, such as garlic, basil or thyme, Taub-Dix said. Not only do they add flavor, but the herbs are full of antioxidants, which are good for heart health. This is definitely something that the ingredients listed above cannot claim!
Of course, enjoying your salad is also important, and most things in moderation are fine, Newman said. So if you like a dressing that’s full of the ingredients listed here and isn’t technically “healthy,” that’s okay. Keep that in mind and don’t fool yourself into thinking that your romaine slathered in blue cheese dressing with extra bacon bits will be your healthiest meal.
Some meals are simply for enjoyment, not nutrition. And that’s OK too.