We've all heard the assertion that fat-free salad dressings and vinaigrettes are better to put on your greens than the heavier, creamy varieties. But registered dietitian Janis Jibrin says that there's a big reason you might want to reach for the full-fat salad dressing, instead of banishing it to the back of the refrigerator.
Speaking with #OWNSHOW about healthy eating and getting the most out of our produce, Jibrin explains how drizzling a salad with fat-free dressing can actually mean you miss out on some of the meal's positive health benefits.
"You think it would be a good idea, right? You're lowering your calorie level, maybe lose some weight, but when they've done research, people who dress their salads with a fat-free dressing absorb zero -- zilch! -- carotenoids," Jibrin says. "These are important antioxidants that are in a lot of salad materials, like the lettuce and tomatoes."
While switching to a low-fat dressing as opposed to fat-free will help you absorb some of these healthy antioxidants, Jibrin recommends going with a full-fat option. "There, you're getting two to three times as much carotenoid absorption," she says.
If you really want to up the ante, look no further than one more powerful ingredient.
"This was a recent study. I thought this was great: If you add avocado to your salad, your carotenoid absorption will go up by six-fold!" Jibrin says. "That's huge -- and who does not love avocados in their salad?"
The reason for this increase comes down to fat content. "These carotenoids are what we call lipophilic, meaning they love fat. They need fat to be absorbed into your system," Jibrin explains. "That's why pairing tomatoes and romaine lettuce and spinach and broccoli and carrots with some sort of a fat will help you absorb those wonderful carotenoids."
Bonus tip: Get more iron out of your greens by pairing dark, leafy greens and beans with a source of vitamin C.