Salads are full of important vitamins and nutrients, but you won't get the benefits without the right type of salad dressing, a new study in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research shows.
For the study, Purdue University researchers fed human subjects salads topped with saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat-based dressings and then tested their blood for absorption of carotenoids. Carotenoids - such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin - are associated with reduced risk of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
The researchers found that monounsaturated fat-rich dressings required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit.
"If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings," said Mario Ferruzzi, the study's lead author. "If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables."
Monounsaturated fat-rich dressings, such as canola and olive oil-based dressings, promoted the equivalent carotenoid absorption at 3 grams of fat as it did 20 grams, suggesting that they may be a good choice for those craving lower fat options but still wanting to optimize absorption of health-promoting carotenoids.
"Overall, pairing with fat matters," Ferruzzi said. "You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad."
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Source: Purdue University