Many health-conscious eaters opt for low-fat or non-fat dressings on their salads, but according to a study by Purdue University, eating a salad without fat is actually less healthy. That's because fat is needed by our bodies to absorb the nutrients in vegetables — but not all fats are alike. Researchers discovered one type of fat in particular is the best choice for salad-eaters who are watching their weight.The study looked at salads dressed with saturated fat (butter), monounsaturated fat (canola oil) and polyunsaturated fat (corn oil). All promoted the absorption of carotenoids, the fat-soluble compounds in vegetables that are linked to a reduced risk of diseases like cancer. But the butter and corn oil were dependent on dose, meaning that you would have to eat more of the fat to get the maximum carotenoid absorption, while the canola oil provided the same amount of absorption regardless of how much was consumed.
This means a dressing made with monounsaturated fats like canola oil and olive oil is the healthiest choice, especially for calorie-conscious eaters. Using a smaller amount of full-fat dressings made with these oils will cut back on calories without losing out on any nutrients from the vegetables.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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