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Salad Dressings—The Healthy Choice?

by Jill-Ann Ouellette

We all would like to eat healthier, right? How many times have you ordered a salad at the restaurant to watch your waistline? Salad is often thought of as the “original health food,” because it’s full of vitamins and nutrients, and it’s ideal for a healthy lifestyle. And it is—or can be. Since most salad dressings aren’t healthy and are full of harmful chemicals, perhaps you should choose the oil and vinegar. Whether you’re eating your leafy greens as an entrée or on the side, make the healthiest choice to dress that salad.


Aside from the greens, the dressing is the most important ingredient in a salad. It enhances flavor and adds moisture to the veggies. Most people would skip an undressed salad. If you choose a dressing carefully, it can be tasty and you can avoid the unhealthy options.


What do we need to watch out for in salad dressings? Many dressings found in the grocery stores today use color additives linked to health harms, like titanium dioxide, which can damage DNA. The European Food Safety Authority stated it is no longer safe for human consumption. Other food additives frequently found in dressings are the synthetic dyes, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, both of which have been shown to make children vulnerable to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems. Dressings are often full of preservatives, high in sodium, and high fructose corn syrup, and other hidden sugars. All of these health concerns can be compounded by using more dressing than the recommended serving size—something many folks do without realizing.


What to do? It’s simple, you just need to read the label. When you buy a salad dressing, look for organic choices. Organic packaged foods, including salad dressings, must comply with stronger standards that protect consumers from exposure to potentially harmful food additives. Organic packaged foods also have fewer highly processed ingredients, less saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium.


Your best defense is to avoid store-bought dressing altogether—make it fresh at home! You can easily come up with varieties that are healthy, simple and inexpensive. All you need is healthy oil, like avocado or extra virgin olive oil, and your favorite vinegar, my favorite is balsamic. Add in a few nuts or seeds, Celtic sea salt, and black pepper. There are many healthy organic options to choose from as well. Another option is to squeeze some fresh lemon instead of the vinegar—zesty and tasty!


What about those salad ingredients? You likely want to make your salad as healthy as possible, too, which means avoiding unnecessary exposure to pesticides. If you don’t choose organic veggies, please checkout the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists compiled by the Environmental Working Group annually. Visit: Ewg.org. At the very least, buy your greens organic. Enjoy your salad knowing that’s it GOOD for you!


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