If you eat your salad with a non-fat dressing and with no added fat like cheese, your body will not absorb all the nutrients in the vegetables you are eating.
Vegetables containing lycopene and beta-carotene, known as carotenoids, have been shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer, need fat to be absorbed into the body.
Dietary fats are also an important nutritional factor not only because your body needs them for building healthy cells and to produce hormones, but fat is also required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This includes vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of which your body needs to perform important functions.
You don’t need large amounts of fat to absorb the nutrients in vegetables, however. Use healthy extra virgin olive oil as a base for your dressing, some avocado or cheese (I like to sprinkle a bit of parmesan on my salad for extra flavor.)
Speaking of salad dressings, most commercial dressings are nasty and the no-fat ones are especially bad. Most commercial dressings contain inferior oils, chemicals, artificial sweeteners and sugars. Virtually all list the number one ingredient as water, and this includes expensive, organic varieties. Low or no fat dressings are loaded with artificial and natural sweeteners. Basically, buying prepared gives you a vastly inferior product that is way more money than making your own dressing.
So, no surprise that I always make my own dressing and it takes only minutes with my small food processor. I have a couple of Oxo salad dressing containers
to store them and am always making different recipes, so I am never bored. Because there is acid and salt in the dressings, they can last for weeks.
I do have some formal salad dressings, like Caesar, but most are based on the classic vinaigrette and I just make whatever I am in the mood for. You need oil—my staple is extra virgin olive oil, but I use walnut for light dressings. You want to stock different vinegars, as they are one of the main flavors. I use unfiltered organic cider, balsamic, rice, red, and white or sherry. Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar is nice and lemon and limes. You will want Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Fresh garlic. Other ingredients you can use are fresh or dried herbs like parsley, chives and dill. Hard cooked egg, hot sauces, capers. You can try pickle juice and pickles, soy sauce, sesame oil, anchovy paste or anchovies, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream, crème fraiche, avocado, tomato paste, spinach and shallots.
If you like prepared dressings, read the ingredients and try to copy it, using the better ingredients listed here. I am pretty sure yours will be far better and healthier, too boot!
The basic vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, salt and pepper. I usually add Dijon mustard. The nice part about mustard is that when you mix it in, it emulsifies the ingredients—meaning the dressing stays mixed. I usually add a clove of garlic. After that, I either keep it simple or add items from the list, above.
I eat salads every day for lunch and usually have chicken, but sometimes I have shrimp or beans. I usually have the protein the same way for the week and make it on Monday. If I have plain chicken, any dressing will work, but if I make spicy blackened chicken, for example, I’ll want something creamy, like Caesar. I just mix it up and have been eating salad almost every day for years and have not gotten bored yet. (I do take breaks on the weekends.)
One thing that makes me crazy (I’ll admit when it comes to food, the list is long…) is when I order a salad and the dressing comes on the side because then I must attempt to dress the salad evenly. It is almost impossible to do with a fork, and the upshot are under and overdressed bites.
I strongly recommend using a flat-bottomed bowl and a good pair of tongs or salad “hands” to get the job of an evenly coated salad done right.
Because homemade dressing doesn’t have water as the first ingredient, start with the smallest amount you think you’ll need. Toss and taste. Add accordingly. Do this and you won’t be using a lot of dressing and each bite will be perfect.
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