Hidden dangers: Salad dressing is just a blend of oil, vinegar and a few herbs and spices…right? You’d think so, but it is often very far from the case. Most pre-made salad dressings that you find in the grocery store are packed with preservatives, artificial colors, GMOs, cheap oils, refined sugars and even trans-fatty acids, quickly turning your once beautiful, health-promoting raw-veggie salad into a huge wellness no-no.
What you should avoid: Salad dressings are a great place for companies to hide cheap ingredients, cutting corners to lessen their cost while making them palatable through the use of some of the worst food offenders. First off, avoid soybean, corn, cottonseed vegetable and canola oil – yes, many “healthy” dressings contain canola oil. These are most always genetically modified, along with any non-organic cane sugar or corn syrup, so avoid those as well. Genetically modified foods may lead to infertility, developmental disorders, liver disease, cancer and allergies. Next up, avoid high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats (also labeled as hydrogenated oil/fat, partially hydrogenated oil and shortening). Both have been linked to diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke. Another ingredient to avoid is artificial coloring such as Red #40, and Yellow #5. Research indicates that artificial colors may cause hyperactivity (ADD), increasing anxiety and reducing the ability to concentrate. Something else to be mindful of is dairy. Non-organic dairy such as cheeses and milk, contain hormones that interrupt normal balance leading to PCOS, estrogen dominance, endometriosis and weight gain. Finally, ditch the dressings with preservatives and chemicals such as sodium benzoate, disodium inosinate, monosodium glutamate and potassium sorbate.
Avoid: GMO oils, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, artificial colors, non-organic dairy, preservatives and chemicals
Here’s what to do: First off, don’t fret! While it seems like our “avoid” list leaves no healthy options to choose from, there are, in fact, so many left! Look for salad dressings that keep it simple and natural using nutritious oils (such as olive, coconut, sesame, sunflower, safflower, almond and grapeseed), vinegar and fresh herbs. If you are using a creamy, dairy-based dressing, opt for organic. Use dressings that are sweetened naturally with fruit juice, dates or stevia, and seasoned with spices and sea salt rather than table salt and artificial flavors. Finally, look for non-toxic preservatives such as xanthan gum and guar gum.
TCM Picks: We love Hilary’s Eat Well, Raw Foodz, and Bragg. Otherwise, whip up your own at home! Here are a few great ideas from TCM recipes.