These days I consider myself lucky that my husband is our grocery-shopping guru. Which is great because when I do go into a supermarket there are some things that make me really mad – not because they are unhealthy – but because they really shouldn’t be!
Last week I stopped off for an Italian seasoning packet – and it happened to be in the same aisle as a pretty huge range of salad dressings marketed as everything from gourmet to low fat and all natural. So of course, curiosity got the better of me and I started reading the labels… and I didn’t see one with a list of ingredients I would recommend!
And here’s why:
1 – Estrogenic Oils
Oils like Canola Oil, Soybean Oil and Vegetable Oil are called estrogenic (or oestrogenic) because they are full of inflammation-promoting Omega-6 fatty acids that lead to estrogen excess. This kind of hormone imbalance puts your body in a depressing cycle of storing and gaining weight – particularly around your middle – that can continue no matter how much effort you put into shifting it. Not to mention all the other things that go wrong when your hormones are out of kilter and all the other health risks that have been associated with estrogenic oils from breast and prostate cancers to the early onset of puberty in children.
2 – Trans Fats
Fats that began life as unsaturated oils but have been so processed they behave worse than natural saturated fats. Put simply, these are oils that have been so processed they contain trans fats, unsaturated fats that behave like saturated fats – only worse. Westerners were consuming these trans fats in everything from doughnuts and store bought cakes to margarine for years before it was recognised how bad for our health they were – increasing our bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease and contributing to type II diabetes and inflammation. They are so bad they are being phased out in both Australia and the USA. But they are not all gone yet, and while it’s easy to see we should avoid store bought cakes and doughnuts – it’s not so easy to see the health risks in a humble bottle of store bought salad dressing.
3) – Tricksters
Don’t be fooled by labels that claim: “Made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil”. Sure, they’ll point that out on the front of the label because it sounds good and leads you to believe that it’s an extra virgin olive oil based dressing. They can say that even if there’s only a drop of extra virgin olive oil in the bottle – and often that really is all it is. Have a look at the ingredients listed on the back and you will quickly see the same harmful vegetable oils listed first and extra virgin olive oil …way down the bottom. Is it unethical? Yes it is. Is it healthy? Certainly not. By the way – don’t forget to do the same ingredients check on the ‘all natural’ salad dressings in the supermarket refrigerated section because you will most likely find those same cheap, nasty oils listed there too!
4 – Bad Sugars
More often than not, in addition to cheap potentially harmful oils, store bought salad dressings are also loaded with sugar. Even worse, it often comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup – the absolute worst form of sugar available. If you research high fructose corn syrup it won’t take you long to see how widely it is used in processed foods and just how bad this massively processed sweetener is for your fat stores and your overall health. Check the label!
5 – Artificial Additives
As if nasty hormone-hacking oils weren’t enough, most store bought salad dressings are plagued by a long list of artificial additives and preservatives. If you’re looking to avoid artificial chemicals in your food, simply put, you won’t have much luck with store bought salad dressings. My suggestion is to educate yourself, and a great place to start is Peter Taubert’s Your Health and Food Additives. My husband and I have worked alongside Peter and if you’re interested in knowing what effect food additives are having on your health, I can recommend his book.
So now you know why we NEVER buy bottled dressings.
Most are horrible for you, and usually that includes the “all natural” versions too.
Which brings me back to the Italian seasoning packet I went to the grocery store for in the first place. Getting the right food into your body doesn’t always have to be difficult. In the case of salad dressing it is okay to use oil as long as you choose the right one. At home we regularly enjoy our salads with a simple dressing made from a little Italian seasoning mixed with red wine vinegar and REAL extra virgin olive oil – it’s easy, delicious and absolutely healthful. So go ahead – drizzle a lovely oil-based vinaigrette over that salad leaf mix, dip some crunchy fresh vegetables in a lovely home made aioli – just make sure you get the oils right first!
Yours in good health,
Judy and the LCA Team.