So many people eat salads, thinking that they are doing something healthy. If it was just up to the vegetable matter, they probably are. When it comes to the dressing however, they just might be hurting their health. Most salad dressings are made with soybean or canola oil (with plenty of additives) and are likely damaging to health if eaten in excess or too often. And yes, the detriment of the dressing likely outweighs the benefit from the vegetables. We do need some polyunsaturated fatty acids in the body however an excess is not ideal, particularly when consumed from toxic sources.
Why? Because these oils are unsaturated fats, comprised mostly of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that have been highly processed and wreak havoc on our body. The suspect oils/fats: soybean, corn, canola, peanut, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed or any other vegetable/seed/bean oil. Of anything food related, in a salad dressing or not, these are the substances I avoid the most. In essence, they scare me. My common sense and the available science both tell me that it is smart to limit exposure to these fats and oils.
What’s so bad about PUFAs?
These oils are very new to humans, some only in the last few decades. Strike 1.
These oils are very highly processed, including heat and chemicals. Strike 2.
The mounting evidence showing the scope of harm they do in the body is growing daily. Strike 3.
What do harm do they do in the body?
Impair immune function.
– Major player in disrupting our innate and appropriate immune response.
– These fats oxidize very easily and are highly reactive in the body. They are considered by many to be the prime contributor to cardiovascular disease.
Impair thyroid production and metabolism.
– Not desired for people trying to lose weight and improve their body’s energy level or hormones.
Number one suspect in diabetes.
– Yep, more than sugar. These fats signal our cells to stop taking up glucose. This is why squirrels devour nuts before winter. The unsaturated fats signal a squirrel’s body to stop using energy and start storing fat. They tell the organism to become diabetic to prepare for the winter scarce months and hibernation. Similar in humans, PUFAs send a message to store energy. Although useful for the natural hunting and gathering world with long, cold and lean winters, this biological response, paired with supranormal PUFA exposure (vegetable oils, which are PUFA fats extracted from the original whole source, heat/chemically treated and condensed) is a disaster to people with constant access to food and no real winter. Diabetes is a natural mammalian adaptive response for survival in the natural world. With an overdose of those supranormal signals (massive amounts of PUFAs and sugar) in an artificial world with no winter to reset the body, diabetes has become a major health problem.
This brings us back to salad dressing. Taking a look at most options in the salad dressing aisle, you see two things: vegetable oils and sugar. Whether it’s canola, soy(bean) or some other oil it doesn’t really matter, they are all highly processed, polyunsaturated fats. Eating more than a few grams of these oils each day is sending your body some bad signals that most of us, myself included, would rather not receive. Add sugar to the mix and it just accelerates the process.
Olive oil (a less processed monounsaturated fat) is all good. Just make sure the dressing is actually olive oil and not “made with” olive oil. Many advertised olive oil dressings are made with primarily canola/soy and are accented with olive oil. Check the label. If you see a vegetable oil, try another kind.
Can’t find a good store bought version? Make your own. Some good olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper go a long way. Even at a restaurant, you can always ask for olive oil and vinegar. A simple Internet search can gather several versions that are olive/avocado/macadamia nut oil based and offer plenty of flavor.
The Bare 5 Bottom Line:
Don’t let the salad dressing turn a health promoting meal into one working against you. Using some ranch dressing every once in a while won’t kill you but a daily salad with soybean oil based dressing is negatively impacting your health more than you think.
For more detail on PUFAs, here’s a nice article from Ray Peat on unsaturated fats.
Thanks for reading, have a great PUFA free day!