Dressed to Kill: The Truth About What Our Salads are Wearing

By Katie Cardner

We have been conditioned to believe that a salad is the healthiest item to order on any given menu. A bowl full of colorful vegetables with few calories – what’s not to love!? Many people don’t realize that along with
those leafy greens, crunchy carrots, and juicy tomatoes, comes the high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and trans-fat found in our salad dressings. We sit at our lunch table, feeling happy and proud with our lunch choice, when we really should feel cautious and guilty.

Don’t be discouraged – not all salads and salad dressings are harmful. We can still see salads as great ways to get essential vitamins and minerals in our diets; we just need to make sure salads are our friends, not foes.

Fat Stats
When we see “low fat” or “fat free” on a label, we assume this is the healthier option of a food we love. Unfortunately, when something has had fat removed from it, there may be even worse health effects. Usually, when fat is removed from salad dressings, it has been replaced with sugar, fructose, or sodium to keep the flavor. Having a “fat free” dressing isn’t healthier for you; it’s just unhealthy in a different way. Low-fat salad dressings can inhibit the body’s ability of taking in the carotenoid antioxidants found in the vegetables. By adding low-fat dressings to our salads, we are blocking essential nutrients from helping us fight oxidants known to cause cancer.

Fat is nothing to hide from. Keep in mind that 20-35% of our caloric intake should come from healthy fats. There are plenty of dressings that give us these healthy fats, most of which are found in vinaigrettes or oil-based dressings. You can’t go wrong with some olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette!

Some Oils May Spoil Your Salad
Not all oils are created equally. Just because some oils can give us healthy fats does not mean that all oils do. Refined oils like cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, and others are not our friends. This is because the process used to extract these oils from their seeds can turn the polyunsaturated (good) fat into mutant fats, including the terrifying trans-fat. These oils go from heart-healthy to heart-harmful very quickly. Make sure you check the label!

Another issue we see with polyunsaturated fats is that they can limit the amount of fats our bodies absorb. Remember, not all fats are foes. Polyunsaturated fats are known to lower our levels of bad cholesterol. This sounds like good news, but sometimes the body has a hard time distinguishing healthy fats from unhealthy fats. When our body notices a lot of polyunsaturated fat in the system, it stops our bodies from digesting other fats. Unfortunately, this means it stops our bodies from digesting good fats too. This means that we aren’t absorbing all of the fat-soluble vitamins from our salads, like Vitamins A, E, and K. Monounsaturated fat is a healthy fat that helps us absorb these nutrients. Monounsaturated fat can be found in olive oil, so look for dressings based with olive oil.

Dye-T Destruction
Although we are advised to add colorful fruits and vegetables to our salads, we should be careful about the “colorful” dressings we put into our salads. Many salad dressings get their mouthwatering colors from not-so-healthy sources. Titanium oxide is a chemical used in the paint industry to make colors seem brighter. Many salad dressing manufacturers use titanium oxide in their dressings to make the color pop. Titanium oxide has been linked to digestive issues and inflammation, which can result in the formation of cancer cells.

Some salad dressing companies are known to use Red #40, which the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been trying to ban. Red #40 is a food dye that has been linked to many health issues, including ADHD in children. This food dye has also been linked with cancer, learning impairment, and aggressiveness. Luckily for us, more attention is being brought to the use of food dyes in America. Because of this, many companies are using natural ways to dye their food, such as beet juice. This is something we should be looking for on our dressing labels, not to mention all food labels.

MSG: Makes Salad Gross
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is added to foods to exaggerate flavors. Unfortunately for the consumer, this means that companies can use MSG to bring flavor to foods instead of using real ingredients. In animal studies, MSG has caused brain damage. In studies involving humans, MSG has been linked with migraines. Other symptoms of MSG consumption include weakness, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, numbness or tingling, and increased sweating. Some studies have shown that the body changes excess MSG to GABA – a neurotransmitter in the brain that calms excessive nervous tension and stress. The release of GABA neurotransmitters can be addictive, meaning that foods with MSG in them can become addictive to humans.

Oil-Based Salad Dressings
• Lemon Vinaigrette
• Balsamic Vinaigrette
• Crushed Tomato Vinaigrette
• Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette
• Orange & Rosemary Vinaigrette
• Ginger Asian Vinaigrette

Yogurt-Based Salad Dressings
• Basic Yogurt Salad Dressing
• Italian Style Yogurt Dressing
• Anchovy Yogurt Salad Dressing
• Lemon Yogurt Salad Dressing
• Creamy Avocado Yogurt Dressing
• Yogurt Cucumber Dressing

Citrus Salad Dressings
• Citrus Vinaigrette
• Citrus Honey Vinaigrette
• Lemon Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette
• Asian Citrus Vinaigrette
• Orange Dressing
• Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
• Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing


Hockessin Athletic Club opened its doors on June 10 2007. Boasting over 100,000 sq. ft., a 5-pool aquatics complex, and over 200+ weekly group and aqua fitness classes, it is Delaware's premier fitness destination. 100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, DE · HAChealthclub.com

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