“How can a salad be unhealthy?” Sally Fallon Morell asks in her discussion about fats. The answer is that it can be unhealthy when it is topped with a salad dressing made with processed and rancid polyunsaturated vegetable oils like soybean oil or canola oil. Therefore, in her presentations on traditional diets, Sally recommends that we all make our own salad dressings. Excellent dressings take very little time to make, are cost effective and require no other equipment than a fork and a bowl.
Guest Author Raine Saunders
We used to buy almost all of our salad dressing in a bottle from the store. Years ago, I’d buy Kraft, Wish Bone, or Hidden Valley Ranch. For awhile I thought these dressings tasted just fine and were healthy.
Eventually I started buying Litehouse Brand and Annie’s Organic Dressings and other organic brands, thinking I was doing something better. The taste was better, but it was pretty expensive.
Later on, I learned something interesting. The Hidden Valley Ranch, Kraft, Wishbone, Litehouse, and organic dressings had something in common: the oils these brands use are full of too many Omega 6s and contain highly-processed, rancid, industrially produced vegetable oils.
Each of these dressing brands contain highly rancid or hydrogenated (or both) vegetable oils (like soybean, canola, and in some cases sunflower and safflower oils, or cottonseed oils) that are not recognized by the body as real food and some of those oils (the soybean in particular) contain phytic acid – a substance that inhibits absorption of nutrients.
It’s true, the organic dressing is made of organic ingredients, and the first three were not. But, the first three also likely contain ingredients that are made from genetically-modified organisms and foods, while the organic variety does not contain these substances.
Best bet for store-bought dressings
So, if you are going to buy a store dressing, it’s always best to check the label and make sure it only contains one of the following oils – extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Olive oil and coconut oils contain healthy fats that we need in our diets – Omega 9s and the right balance of Omega 3s to 6s in coconut oil. And of course, check ingredients to make sure there are no other suspect items that may be harmful for consumption such as preservatives, emulsifiers, etc.
I do not have any good store-bought brands to recommend that meet this criteria because I have never seen any, but it’s possible that there could be a few in existence that I’m unaware of.
Health benefits of olive oil and coconut oil
Olive oil has an unusually large amount of monounsaturated fat which maintain healthy cholesterol levels, antioxidants (Vitamin E), helps to maintain the proper balance between Omega 3s and 6s since it is an Omega 9, helps to lower the incidence of cancer by protect the cells of the colon from carcinogens by reducing the effect of an oncogene (a gene that turns a host cell into a cancer cell), controls blood sugar by lowering triglyceride levels (something which affects most diabetics), and activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones – making it beneficial for gallbladder health. Here are some of our recommended olive oil brands via Amazon affiliation: Bariani Olive Oil Company and Bragg’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Coconut oil is contains anti-microbial enzymes, helps the thyroid and proper cholesterol levels, and is an anti-carcinogenic agent (eliminates cancer risk). From the Coconut Oil Information web site: “Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids such as lauric (C-12), caprylic (C-10) and myristic (C-14) acids. Of these three, coconut oil contains 40% lauric acid, which has the greater anti-viral activity of these three fatty acids. Lauric acid is so disease fighting that it is present in breast milk. The body converts lauric acid to a fatty acid derivative (monolaurin), which is the substance that protects infants from viral, bacterial or protozoal infections.” Here are some of our recommended brands via our Amazon affiliation Artisana Coconut Oil, Garden of Life Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil and Barlean’s Organic Oils Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Also: when eating vegetables raw, the fat content in healthy oils can help the body to absorb the nutrients contained within your lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and other salad selections.
The home-made dressing alternative
Why is home-made a good alternative to store-bought dressings? For one thing, it is more economical is to make your own. Another reason is that you control what goes in and you can make pretty much whatever you’re in the mood for or have on hand.
Here are some recipes we’ve used in our house to make our own dressings:
Basic salad dressing
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cold-pressed grapeseed oil (optional)
- 2 tablespoons Basalmic vinegar (raw is optimal)
- 1 tablespoon red Wine Vinegar (raw is optimal), we recommend Eden Organics via our Amazon affiliation
- Sea salt and pepper to taste, we recommend Celtic Sea Salt via our Amazon affiliation
Directions: Whisk ingredients together in a bowl well. We store ours in a glass bottle (usually a recycled one from olive oil or vinegar) in the cupboard. Some people store theirs in the refrigerator, but if you do, you will have to take it out about twenty minutes to a half hour before using it to allow the olive oil to soften – as olive oil will harden when cooled. A trick we have used is adding a small amount of sustainable-produced, cold-pressed grapeseed oil to keep the dressing from hardening.
- 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk (we use homemade)
- 3 tablespoon homemade mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 teaspoons real lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon finely minced onion
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
- Salt to taste
Directions: Mix ingredients together in a bowl with a fork and then whisk.
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 3 drops hot pepper sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- corn (optional)
- 1 cup cubed and peeled papaya or mango
- 1/2 cup diced red onion
- 1 cup of black beans, soaked in whey overnight and cooked – or Eden organic canned [no BPA]
- 3 – 4 cups of a leafy green lettuce of your choice, chopped
- 3/4 cup red bell pepper strips
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Whisk together the first 9 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons dressing and set aside.
- Add corn, onion, mango and beans to bowl; toss gently to coat.
- Place 2 cups lettuce on each of 2 plates; top each with 1/2 cup bell pepper strips and 2 cups mango mixture.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon reserved dressing over each salad; sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon cilantro.
What are your salad dressing ideas?
I love the salad dressings and marinades in Nourishing Traditions and have been making a point to try more of them as time goes on. What are your favorites that you always return to again and again? Please share your links in the comments.
Raine Saunders served Nourishing Our Children and Nourishing Ourselves communities as one of our primary Facebook administrators for a number of years. In 2006, she established Agriculture Society and blogged there for a number of years before she joined our cause as a collaborator in the spring of 2013. Read more about Raine’s background.
Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiotsrun/7242247656/
15 Responses to Salad Dressing
My favorite dressing is Max Shkud’s recipe:
The amounts of each item can be varied according to your taste. All organic ingredients … of course.
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of Balsamic Vinegar (Bariani Balsamic Vinegar recommended via our Amazon affiliation – http://amzn.to/18eiTGv)
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons of Plain Yogurt – add more if you’d like it more creamy and less spicy
1/2 clove of garlic
1 Tablespoon of fresh squeezed orange juice (optional)
1 teaspoon of maple syrup or honey (or more as per taste and whether or not you are using orange juice)
I love reading recipes for ideas but I rarely ever follow them. I prefer to wing it.
Here is a very simple and delicious way to dress a salad:
Prepare your lettuce by washing, spinning dry and tearing into small pieces. Add any chopped or grated veggies.
Toss with olive oil until everything is coated the way you like it. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice and toss. How much lemon juice? Taste as you toss and add more or less depending on how acidic you like your salad. Last step, add salt and pepper and toss.
With a great olive oil you don’t need much else to have a delicious salad. Once you get comfortable dressing a salad without a recipe you’ll start coming up with your own variations. I like to add blue cheese, sour cream, yogurt or garlic salt. I’ll use vinegar if I can’t get fresh lemons, but very cautiously.
Liz – Like you, I don’t follow exact recipes anymore unless I am making something new as I have familiarized myself enough with basic dressing recipes that I don’t have to look them up. I love the fact that I can make the dressings we use most in just minutes, and with healthy, fresh ingredients! So easy!
I would not use grape seed oil. it is high in omega-6 fatty acids
Carolyn – this ingredient is optional in the recipe. I generally agree that omega 6s are a good idea to avoid, especially in foods that are processed such as grain products, soybean oil, canola, vegetable oils, and meats and animal foods from feedlot environments. If the oil is organic, cold pressed, and not heated, consuming it on occasion should not be an issue.
I spent a few years removing processed foods from my diet, in particular, those high in Omega 6s. During an appointment to see my nutritional therapy practitioner, she discovered that in all my efforts to avoid Omega 6s, I had actually become deficient in real Omega 6s. I was pretty surprised to hear this!
My favorite (and even my 3 year old LOVES it) dressing is as follows (I do not measure ingredients – all organic and raw of course – anymore person prepares it according to his/her desire): Same ratio of apple cider vinegar and oil (or olive, hemp, flaxseed), minced garlic, raw honey (or maple syrup), herbs de province (or any other herbs), and then one can add sea salt, black pepper, mustard, fresh lemon juice etc. It is so simple yet sooo yummi!
I would avoid hemp oil
My favorite dressing (for one) is 1 tablespoon raw yogurt, 1 tablespoon raw kefir, 1 tsp oil (olive, coconut or macadamia), 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar, and salt to taste.
My absolute favorite dressings of all time utilize the non-salty brines from a finished anaerobic ferment. We have a growing body of recipes on Probioticjar.com, but I recently tried this, and was just delighted at the results:
2/3 dill pickle brine (Carrot brine worked really well too)
1/3 light flavorless oil (grapeseed, sunflower, low poly-phenol olive oil)
fresh herbs (anything ~ haven’t tried a bad one yet!)
salt to taste
Optional: Preserved lemons (on ProbioticJar.com), splash of garlic or onion brine
Nothing in the world as wonderful as a probiotic dressing!
There is also a fantastic recipe for Ranch using fermented mayo.
This is the salad dressing that I personally make for meals with my family:
3 or more tablespoons of olive oil
balsamic vinegar to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
lemon pepper and salt to taste.
Stir with a spoon or shake up in a glass jar.
I have a very similar one I use Heidi – I also add yogurt for a bit of a creamier dressing!
I like buttermilk, organic mayo, sour cream, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper, best ranch ever, I add blue cheese sometimes too. No measurements because I rarely measure. A little mayo goes a long way.
I love using dijon, sour cream, herbs, yogurt, homemade mayo, blue cheese and lemon juice in my dressings. I often don’t measure either, just throw stuff in!
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