How Salad Dressing Can Save Your Life

Categories: Beet Reporter

Salad dressing is incredibly important, and it's not dramatic to say it can save your life.

But not just any salad dressing. It has to be the right one, and the right salad dressing will generally be one you make yourself. A thoughtfully crafted homemade salad dressing can help you accomplish two goals.

1. It can enhance the nutritional value of your salad rather than detract from it, as with most store-bought varieties, specifically Hidden Valley Ranch. Here are the ingredients in that particular offender:

Soybean Oil, Water, Egg Yolk, Sugar, Salt, Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, Natural Flavors (Soy), Spices. Less than 1% of Dried Garlic, Dried Onion, Vinegar, Phosphoric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Modified Food Starch, Monosodium Glutamate, Artificial Flavors, Disodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid and Calcium Disodium EDTA as Preservatives, Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate.


The primary ingredient in most dressings is oil, the most concentrated fat and calorie source on the planet, and a nutritionally deficient one at that. So two tablespoons of Hidden Valley contain 145 calories -- 135 of them from fat -- plus lots of additives and preservatives, one-eighth of the sodium you are allowed for the day (in two tablespoons of food), and less than 1 percent of any necessary nutrient.

2. A delicious homemade dressing can make you salivate over the prospect of eating more vegetables, specifically the dark leafy greens that are so immensely important because of their superior nutrient density.

Of course, some of us are lucky enough to have grown up with a parent who lovingly nagged us to eat our greens. But none of us, not even the nags themselves, could have known how astute these spinach-pushing mantras were.

As recently as last year, researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research found evidence that the presence of leafy greens in the diet has the capacity to activate a gene (T-bet) that creates special immune cells (innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs) responsible for keeping the body healthy in a host of ways:

  • They fight off bad bacteria in the intestines and bacterial infections that invade through the digestive system.
  • They might play an important role in controlling inflammatory diseases, obesity, and food allergies.
  • They might prevent the development of bowel cancers.

When it comes to weighing the idea of a whole-foods, plant-based diet against a typical nutrient-deficient American diet, the scales need no more tipping. But this research does provide yet another reason to feel good about loading your plate with collard greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy, cabbage, romaine lettuce, spinach, and, yes, the now-famous but still-not-overrated kale.

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