This may come as a bit of a surprise to those of you who think you should use fat-free salad dressing as a healthy choice on your salad, but researchers have found that adding some healthy fats to the mix actually helps your body better absorb important phytonutrients.
That’s right – fats can actually make your salad even more nutritious.
Researchers at Purdue University determined that in order to get more nutritional absorption from eating fruits and vegetables,they need to be paired correctly with fat based dressings. While salads paired with fat-free dressings may be lower in overall calories, the absence of fat causes a loss in some of the nutrient absorption.
The reason is that certain phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, are fat soluble. By pairing these phytochemicals with a healthy fat during ingestion, the absorption is enhanced.
Carotenoids include compounds such as lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. They give plant foods their color and act as antioxidants in the body, stopping free radicals from damaging the body.
Another study at Ohio State University also showed that certain phytochemicals were better absorbed when salads were paired with healthy fats. In that study individuals who ate a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach with 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado absorbed 8 times more alpha-carotene and more than 13 times more beta-carotene than those who ate the same salad without the avocados.
So, the next time you sit down to have a salad, ditch the fat-free dressing for some healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts. Your salad will taste even more delicious and you’ll know that you’re maximizing the absorption of imprtant nutrients for your body.
Michael Lenz RPh, is a partner in Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga. He has over 10 years experience in custom compounding. Michael has received extensive training in Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and Adrenal Fatigue. He is an advocate for healthy eating and proper nutritional supplementation, and speaks frequently on the subjects of hormone health, nutrition and wellness. Michael is currently enrolled in the Institute For Functional Medicine’s Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Program. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with his wife and 4 children.