The Well-Dressed Salad

By Susan Littlefield

Delicious salads, filled with healthful veggies and fruits fresh from the garden, are one of the big motivations for growing your own. But to get the most benefit from all the nutrients home-grown produce provides, you need to be sure you are pairing your salad ingredients with the right kind of dressing. And it may come to both dieters and the health-conscious as a surprise, but non-fat is not the way to go.

In a recent study done at Purdue University and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, subjects were fed salads topped with dressings based on either saturated, monosaturated, or polyunsaturated fats, after which their absorption of health-promoting fat-soluble carotenoids -- compounds such as lutein and lycopene that are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye disease -- was measured. What researchers found, according to Mario Ferruzzi, lead author of the study, was that the most nutrients from fruits and vegetables were absorbed when these foods were paired with a dressing containing fat.

While carotenoid absorption increased with dressings containing all types of fats, the dressings rich in the monosaturated fats found in canola and olive oils resulted in the most nutrient absorption from the least amount of fat. Says Ferruzzi, "Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil."

To read more about this research, go to: Purdue University News Service.

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