SUMMARY: The focus of this post is to better your understanding of vegetable oils and unsaturated fats. Raw vegetable salads are chock-full of important vitamins and nutrients, but the latest science says you won’t get much benefit without eating them along with both the right type & amount of fat. In fact, essentially no or very low absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads with fat-free salad dressing were consumed (see this study or this study, Table 3.)
In this post learn: the preferred fat/oil for best carotenoid absorption, that you can actually ditch dressing and instead add half an avocado, or you can add cooked eggs to an incredibly small amount of dressing to even further boost carotenoid absorption. Make certain you consider the sections entitled What inhibits Carotenoid Absorption for possible impact due to your particular health status, and the tips for Decoding Labels.
Ummm… all those low or fat-free eaters, listen up…. Ends up, fat really does matter when it comes to carotenoid absorption as this Purdue University study shows. Bonus: You are going to learn fatty acids (and those not healthy) in this post. Use this to choose the fat/oils you want in all your foods, not just salad dressings.
Ingesting healthy fat is absolutely critical to your health as You need fat to absorb fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, Carotenoids, CDC nutrition report)
If you use diet to avoid or battle chronic disease, you’d better be absorbing it’s micronutrients and antioxidants; thus the point of this post focusing on fats/oils and carotenoid absorption.
Adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet is the answer to reducing, managing, and even reversing chronic disease. Through diet we increase anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, decrease inflammatory (Omega-6 fatty acids, and food intolerances), and increase fruits and vegetables to increase antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. High quality meat, grains, and diary have a place in a nutrient dense diet, but this post is about cold use oils and maximizing nutrient and antioxidant absorption from uncooked produce.
The point is to reduce your risk of chronic disease that shortens lifespans and to live with vitality. The lifespans of babies born today are shorter than their parents, and the diseases affecting men and women, are devastating lives, families, and incomes. What diseases?Ages 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 are shown in the below slides & are telling:
3 Dietary Factors Deliver 80% of value in terms of disease risk and body composition.
Dr. Peter Attia, M.D. (mechanical engineer ⇒ Stanford MD ⇒ surgical oncology fellow ⇒ healthcare consultant ⇒ NUSI (founder with mission to answer with scientific certainty through the best possible research— what we need to eat to be healthy questioning current guidelines — check out NUSI NEWS page) has gone so far as to say, “My point: Just modifying your diet by the 3 factors I mention in this post:
- Lower consumption of sugar,
- Lower absolute consumption of carbohydrates, and
- More favorable consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)
— even if you are not genetically programmed to be lean, will probably deliver 80% of the value in terms of disease risk and body composition.”
Attia’s prong, “…favorable consumption of PUFA,” among other things, ensures that carotenoid absorption is optimized. This Linus Pauling Institute carotenoid article notes: Recommendations by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association to consume a variety of fruit and vegetables daily are aimed, in part, at increasing intakes of carotenoids.
There are two Parts to this post: Part 1 is easy to read and cuts to the chase: what is the best fat/oils for cold use and what and whys of carotenoids. Part 2 (watch for it in the next few weeks) contains the technicals delivering the pubmed why’s behind fatty acids and impact on health. Totally your choice how detailed you want to get.
Now for Part 1….
What’s the best salad dressing oil?
- Grab your grocery store dressing, and read it’s label. Besides seeing ingredients not known to the common man, most contain soybean or canola oil which is not the best for carotenoid absorption, none the less for your health. Important Update: soybean oil [note: most labeled vegetable oil contains soybean oil] and corn oil was shown to be linked to Type 2 Diabetes and to effect gene expression that impacts one’s response to drugs and environmental toxicants; the authors suggest that all industrial seed oils will likely be found to similarly implicate health concerns. Read the post, SOYBEAN OIL, CORN OIL, DIABETES, AND METABOLIC SYNDROME.
- All seed oils, including canola, touted as healthy, have unlabeled transfats due to FDA labeling loopholes (see this article or Part 2 for details.) To possibly be reasonably healthy, the oil, including canola, has to be“cold pressed” (rare find) to not contain transfats. Don’t be fooled by “expeller pressed” terminology —while such does not use hexane solvent (hexane remains in the oil when it is used) heat, which generates the transfats, remains an issue.
- To not have PCBs, PBDEs and PAHs and high concentrations of organophosphorus (OP) insecticide, it has to be organic. Add in hexane if the mixture isn’t “expeller pressed” or “cold pressed.” Relative to OP… it’s mechanism on health —inhibits acetylcholinesterase at cholinergic junctions of the nervous system and has been associated with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, lymphoma and leukemia, and in rats: adrenal, thyroid, and pancreatic tumors. This is the 2012 study that evaluated the contaminants for vegetable oils: poppy seed oil, rapeseed oil (canola oil), sesame seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, hempseed oil, linaire oil, borage oil & evening star oil. A pdf of OP biomarkers (blood, saliva…) is here.
- The final nail in the vegetable oil coffin was the latest science that found: using LESS monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) oil (a scant 2/3 teaspoon) actually absorbed more carotenoids than the PUFA Omega-6 rich oils; a total win win since all fats do have calories.
The authors used canola oil in the study and suggested alternatively, olive oil could be consumed as the MUFA. Since canola oil that is organic and cold pressed is a rare find, use instead unadulterated, organic, and cold pressed EVOO such as:
- Costco Kirkland Organic works, or see the entire UC Davis pdf report here — 69% of the imported olive oils and 10% of the California olive oils did not pass the standards of California, Australia and Germany for “extra virgin.” Some were rancid, oxidized, and/or adulterated with cheaper refined oils, or of poor quality in general. The following brand information was compiled from UDavis, Eat Grow Local, and Consumer Reports.
- Pure and unadulterated EVOO sources are: Costco Kirkland Organic, California Olive Ranch, Cobram Estate, Lucini. Lucero (Ascolano), & McEvoy Ranch Organic.
- Brands that failed to meet the EVOO standards: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Star, Pompeian, Filippo Berio, Mazzola, Mezzetta, Newman’s Own, Safeway, and Whole Foods.
A Reminder: Avoid Cumulative OP/Toxin Loads from the PRODUCE itself — Purchase to EWG’s 2015 Dirty Plus/Clean Dozen List
Why Make Homemade Salad Dressings: Easy, No Transfats, Uses Un-Adulterated MUFA EVOO, No Toxins, & No Additives
Below is a favorite MUFA —EVOO recipe (preferred over top rated Epicurious); it is always in my healing refrigerators.
For more great recipes, all of which use MUFA — EVOO, check out the Pinterest Salad Dressing Board. From that board, the Fabulous Greek House Dressing (from a pizzeria restaurant) and the Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette dressings are also always in my healing refrigerators. Balsamic vinegar insights… they are pricey and yet most are not “Real Balsamic Vinegar” due to insufficient barrel aging and crazy additives. The “real balsamic vinegar“ I recommend is Olivier Napa Valley which is SCD/GAPS legal as it is fermented properly (25 years) and free of additives. Olivier’s was actually pulled from Williams-Sonoma stores a few years back as they introduced their own brand. Due to customer demand, Olivier’s is now back in their stores or online, or get it direct from Olivier’s online.
Cold use: Unadulterated, cold pressed, organic EVOO,
Anytime use: Unrefined organic cold pressed coconut oil (Nutiva or Costco Kirkland Organic brand works,) and
Anytime use: Pastured butter — sourced from a local farmer is better yet.
Extrapolating one step further: Can adding a lipid whole food along with only 3 g MUFA (that’s a scant 2/3 teaspoon) salad dressing further increase carotenoid absorption?
Yes according to this article, read study here, which found adding 3 cooked eggs (including the egg yolks) along with 3 g canola oil further increased carotenoid absorption: 4.5 fold for lutein and zeaxanthin and 3.8 fold for α-carotene, β-carotene, and lycopene. No real surprise there; this University of Connecticut randomized, crossover clinical trial in subjects with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus found consuming one scrambled egg for breakfast for 5 weeks reduced inflammation when compared to oatmeal. These authors suggested the finding may be due to the content of highly bioavailable lutein and zeaxanthin (these are carotenoids) in the egg. Clinicaltrials.gov, trial #NCT02181244.
I am not certain you even need the dressing when you consume the eggs as this study did not tease this out, but half an avocado without dressing enhanced carotenoid absorption (see below for details.)
It is easy to overuse salad dressings and consume excess calories. Most regular fat salad dressings (what you need to consume for cartoenoid absorption) contains 140 to 160+ calories in one serving size, which is 2 tablespoons or ~28 g. Most consumers far exceed this serving amount. One large whole egg is about 70 calories and provides 6 grams of protein, not to mention the increased micronutrient profile. Restaurant food: Panera’s Greek Dressing contains a whopping 370 calories with 34 g of mostly inflammatory Omega-6 PUFA and 1140 mg sodium (that’s not sea salt.)
Let’s piggyback onto the egg thought… imagine if you consumed pastured eggs. Look at the below slides for the additional micronutrient punch beyond CAFO eggs, or see here for PennStateResearch, here for WholeFoodsWebsite, or here for MotherEarthNews. Note, most nutrients are in the yolks so eat the whole egg. Also note: the fatty acid profile is changed to increase Omega-3 fatty acids; interestingly, this University of Nebraska article notes, “If Americans consumed five [Omega-3] enriched eggs PER WEEK, the amount of [Omega-3] ingested would be approximately equivalent to one five ounce serving of fish per week (Scheideler and Lewis, 1997.)” Pastured egg nutrient profile:
- 5 times more vitamin D
- 2/3 (40%) more vitamin A
- 2 to 4 times more Omega-3 fatty acids (essential fatty acids).
- 3 times (50%) more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
- 50% more folate (Folate protects against such things as fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease and certain forms of heart disease. –ANH-Intl Feature: Does folic acid protect from – or cause – cancer? Folate is NOT folic acid — a controversial ubiquitous synthetic compound likely in your multivitamin and fortified in enriched breads, cereals, flours, cornmeals, pastas, rice, and other grain products ) since 1998. Folic acid is associated with prostate cancer and mammary tumors (see also PLoS ONE, 2014: 9(1); e84635.)
- 70% more vitamin B12
- 25% less saturated fat
- 1/3 less cholesterol
Extrapolating one step further: Can a whole food be used instead of adding fat/oil to increase carotenoid absorption?
Yes, according to this study (looked at carotenoid absorption for salsa, avocado, and avocado oil) finding that the lipid-rich fruit (half an avocado, ~100 calories ) increased carotenoid absorption similar to the increase achieved by adding 24 g (~250 calories) avocado oil (Spectrum Organic) which most use much more of in practice. A whole avocado did not significantly affect the absorption of lutein, α-carotene, or β-carotene compared to the half avocado. That’s sweet since according to NHANES analysis, the average consumption is one-half a Hass avocado (68 g) despite the official avocado serving being one-fifth of a fruit. Half an avocado provides: dietary fiber (4.6 g), total sugar (0.2 g), potassium (345 mg), sodium (5.5 mg), magnesium (19.5 mg), vitamin A (43 μg), vitamin C (6.0 mg), vitamin E (1.3 mg), vitamin K1 (14 μg), folate (60 mg), vitamin B-6 (0.2 mg), niacin (1.3 mg), pantothenic acid (1.0 mg), riboflavin (0.1 mg), choline (10 mg), lutein/zeaxanthin (185 μg), phytosterols (57 mg), and high-MUFA (6.7 g) and 114 calories... a lot of bang for the buck; it is quite a nutrient and phytochemical dense food.
Carotenoid Absorption: It’s all about the fatty acid profile
Don’t do a face-plant here… understand Canola Oil 101 and EVOO vs canola oil, which to choose? Clue: it’s about the fatty acid profile!
Food we think is healthful one day is junk the next. On the other hand, some foods, like eggs, that we once thought were bad for us, are back into being healthy. Nothing is set in stone.
Unsaturated Fats 101: Unsaturated fats are called PUFA or MUFA and are subdivided 3 ways. Vegetable oils contain a mix of these unsaturated fats. Human and animal experiments suggest that fat/oil low in PUFA Omega-6 provides the best carotenoid absorption; conversely, the higher the PUFA Omega-6 content, the lower the carotenoid absorption. Or, put another way, fats/oils HIGHER in MUFA absorb carotenoids best, and you need LESS MUFA fat/oil to do so.
- PUFA Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- PUFA Omega-6 (linoleic acid, Arachidonic Acid)
- MUFA Omega-9 (oleic acid)
This human study found that MUFA fat-rich dressings (olive oil or canola oil) required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, compared to saturated fat (butter) and PUFA dressings [such as soybean oil— used in most commercial and grocery dressings] which required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit. This human study found that the MUFA lipid-rich fruit (half an avocado) increased carotenoid absorption similar to the increase achieved by adding avocado oil. This human study found adding cooked eggs (including the egg yolks) even further improved carotenoid absorption. And this rat study found when compared to corn oil [PUFA], olive oil [MUFA] roughly doubles the absorption of lycopene and astaxanthin.
How to read that chart above: The fat profile for avocados, olive oil, and canola oil are proportionately higher in MUFA compared to the PUFA; these foods enhanced carotenoid abosrption. Conversely, the fat profile for corn and soybean oil is proportionately higher in PUFA compared to MUFA; they are not great carotenoid abosorbers. Seems science is learning that higher MUFA increases carotenoid absorption; the studies are:
- EVOO–canola oil–soybean oil study,
- This avocado–avocado oil study,
- This cooked egg study, and
- This rat olive oil–corn oil study.
Teasing out the PUFA in Canola Oil vs Olive Oil: Canola oil is generally considered a “healthy” oil because it is very low in saturated fat (10%); like olive oil, it is high in MUFA (61%). What fat remains? PUFA. Using this brand of canola oil, the PUFA content is 32% which is much higher than olive oil which has 6%, and we need to go a step further: The majority of the canola oil PUFA is in the form of Omega-6 (21%) which is inflammatory, with Omega-3 (11%) which is anti-inflammatory. Contrast this to olive oil which contains less PUFA Omega-6 linoleic acid (10%) with less Omega-3 (1%) linolenic acid. It seems that the PUFA in the form of inflammatory Omega-6 trumps the PUFA Omega-3 anti-inflammatory card. Not to be forgotten however… the higher MUFA must also play a major role in promoting better carotenoid absorbers.
Another major deal breaker for canola oil is that it is subjected to heat in processing and cooking (hello oxidation and transfats) whereas olive oil is not. Actually, “the top four vegetable oils consumed in the United States are soybean, canola, palm, and corn oil. These are referred to as refined, bleached, deodorized oils – or RBD for short – because this describes the process by which they are manufactured… all contain transfats.” -Ask the Expert: Concerns about canola oil. All is detailed in Part 2 (look for it in a few weeks.)
If you can easily make your own clean healthy MUFA salad dressing, why can’t Panera?
Panera’s comment, “Salad dressing proved the menu item most difficult to reformulate, in part because different oils impart specific viscosity and taste. For Greek salad dressing,” Panera had to take apart the spice mix it used and go back to the basics — lemon juice, garlic, oregano and rosemary,” Ummmm…. no mention of types of oils. Wondering what is currently in Panera’s Greek Dressing’s ingredients that won’t be in your homemade? Soybean oil, water, distilled vinegar, olive pomace oil, cider vinegar, salt, organic gum blend [organic gum acacia and organic guar gum], xanthan gum, dehydrated garlic, black pepper, lemon juice concentrate, dehydrated tarragon, dehydrated oregano, citric acid, dehydrated parsley, dehydrated rosemary, dehydrated thyme, dehydrated bay leaves. It’s also 370 calories, 34 g of mostly inflammatory Omega-6 PUFA, and 1140 mg sodium (and that won’t be sea salt.) I also don’t understand why it’s taking them till the end of 2016 to remove EWG’s “The No No List” from their menu. Just saying…
Lesson learned: If you eat out, take your dressing with you. The Pinterest Salad Dressing Board has a Fabulous Greek House Dressing from a pizzeria restaurant. I hate you trying to increase intake of vegetables, carotenoids, and micronutrients but take on-board unknowingly so many crummy inflammatory dressing ingredients.
Why you want to absorb lots of Carotenoids!
What are Carotenoids? Think color, think carotenoids. Carotenoids are compounds such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. The most abundant carotenoids in human serum are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are found in green leafy vegetables and in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables (e.g., carrots, pumpkin, collard greens). The main source of beta-cryptoxanthin is orange and red fruits and vegetables (e.g., pumpkin, papayas, red bell pepper). Lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in green leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, turnip greens) as well as egg yolk. Tomato products are the primary source of lycopene in the US . -CDC Fat-Soluble Vitamins & Micronutrients: Vitamins A and E and Carotenoids
Carotenoids compounds have antioxidant effects scavenging and quenching free radicals, reducing damage from reactive oxidant species, and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Carotenoids are associated with reduced risk of a variety of common diseases including multiple types of cancer (see here for breast cancer, or here for prostrate cancer,) cardiovascular disease (see here, here and here,) macular degeneration. and cataract formation (1–3). Carotenoids possess antioxidant properties that are associated with cell protective mechanisms (4), facilitate cell-to-cell communication which regulates cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis (5), and some carotenoids convert to vitamin A. -Circulating Carotenoids and Risk of Breast Cancer: Pooled Analysis of Eight Prospective Studies, the Medical News Today article, Fruits And Vegetables Linked To Lower Breast Cancer Risk, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Carotenoids,and the fat study Meal Triacylglycerol Profile Modulates Postprandial Absorption of Carotenoids in Humans.
Some thoughts on sufficiency: Most are likely deficient
Ford 2002, Tables 1 thru 5 summary: The NHANES III data show that serum carotenoid concentrations are not uniformly distributed among children and adolescents. Carotenoid concentrations varies for age, race or ethnicity, poverty-income ratio, body mass index, serum lipid concentrations, C-reactive protein concentrations, cotinine concentrations, and fruit and vegetable intake in children and adolescents. The highest total carotenoid concentrations occurred among African American children and adolescents, and overweight children and adolescents had the lowest concentrations. In general, the patterns among children and adolescents reported corresponded reasonably well to those of the adults in this data set (22).
In general, are we carotenoid sufficient? Thinking not… this Purdue University-led analysis, see the full-text study here, of breast milk, found that levels of carotenoids differed by country, with the “U.S. lagging behind China and Mexico, a reflection of regional dietary habits.” Seems if our breast milk lags, so too would we as does our diets and/or absorptive ability (my opinion.)
This CDC interactive map shows how deficient your state is in even consuming one vegetable a day and it’s obesity. Obviously, this is far off the American Gut optimal microbiome data summarized here, which found 5 to 30 different plant varieties consumed weekly (6 to 10 is good, but 30 is best) contributed hugely to optimal microbiome.
This CDC report notes: No quantitative recommendations are available for the intake of carotenoids but existing recommendations support increased consumption of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables… current public health guidelines advise that people consume 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on caloric need, to ensure adequate nutrient intake… there is no defined serum test for carotenoid deficiency.
How much carotenoids are in whole food? A Lot…
- The total carotenoid content in rthis 300 g salasa was 41 mg with 97% from lycopene and 3% from β-carotene. See Table 2.
- The total carotenoid content in this 220g salad was 24 mg with 48% β-carotene, 25% lutein, and 28% α-carotene (40 g romaine, 80 g organic baby spinach, and 100g shredded carrots.)
- The total carotenoid content in this 247g salad was 31 mg with 12g β-carotene, 6g lutein, and 4g α-carotene, and 9g lycopene (48g romaine, 48g spinach, 66 g carrrots, and 85g cherry tomatoes) see Table 1.
- For other food carotenoid levels see Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute tables 1 thru 5 or this National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet.
What inhibits carotenoid absorption:
- Those suffering fat malabsorption — e.g., pancreatic disorders, celiac disease, IBD UC and Crohn’s disease, autoimmunes, gallbladder removal (tip: see here for 8 Ways to Improve Fat Malabsorption Naturally.)
- Low dietary fat intake. Absorption of carotenoids from salad was non existent to very low when consumed alone (here and Table 3.) The food industry pushes low or no-fat oils and the wrong fat/oil (not MUFA.) “Over the past 10 y, there has been steady growth in demand for low-fat salad dressings and mayonnaise (13). In the US, 20% of men and 33% of women report that they always choose low-calorie instead of regular salad dressings (14). The vegetables in salads are essentially fat-free but rich in carotenoids, which need fat to be absorbed. By choosing reduced-fat or fat-free salad dressings, consumers could potentially compromise their exposure to the putative bioactivity of those carotenoids in preventing heart disease (15, 16), cancer (17), and other chronic diseases (18). –Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection
- Drug Interaction, Drug Interactions, Linus Pauling Institute: Do your homework here. Some examples of drugs that decrease carotenoid absorption are: Increasing gastric pH through the use of proton pump inhibitors, such as Omeprazole (Prilosec, Losec), Lansoprazole (Prevacid), Rabeprazole (Aciphex), and Pantoprazole (Protonix, Pantoloc), decreased the absorption of a single dose of a β-carotene supplement, but it is not known if the absorption of dietary carotenoids is affected (107). The cholesterol-lowering agents, cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid), can reduce absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids, as can mineral oil and Orlistat (Xenical), a drug used to treat obesity (102).
- Certain fiber inhibits absorption: Studies suggest an inhibitory effect of dietary fiber on carotenoid absorption and that urgent research is needed to assess the “nutritional role and real impact of many fruit and vegetable phytochemicals in the prevention and therapy of some chronic human diseases“: “The limited bioavailability of antioxidants present in food from fruit and vegetable matrices is determined by their low bioaccessibility in the small intestine due to the physical and chemical interactions of the antioxidants with the indigestible polysaccharides of cell walls… The fiber may entrap the lipids and bile salt molecules… which may block the passive absorption in the small intestine. Furthermore, dietary fiber increases the viscosity of the intestinal content. This results in reduced absorption of antioxidants because of slowed enzymatic activity in the pancreas and increased difficulty in contacting intestinal enterocytes. All the nonabsorbed carotenoids and dietary fiber along with entrapped lipids and bile salts pass to the large intestine, where the polysaccharides are hydrolyzed by bacterial enzymes and the carotenoids may exert their antioxidant activity in the large intestine environment… Even if released during processing and digestion, antioxidants may interact with other food components in the gut by binding to macromolecules such as fiber and forming chemical complexes and colloidal structures that reduce or improve their bioavailability, a subject that needs urgent research. This has remarkable consequences in assessing the nutritional role and real impact of many fruit and vegetable phytochemicals in the prevention and therapy of some chronic human diseases… and the real repercussions of dietary fiber in the bioabsorption of carotenoids and phenolic compounds in the gastrointestinal tract.” -The Role of Dietary Fiber in the Bioaccessibility and Bioavailability of Fruit and Vegetable Antioxidants. Note however: this study found despite dietary fiber present in avocado, carotenoid absorption was enhanced.
- Cooked vs raw: It is easier to absorb cooked plants as the absorption of carotenoids from foods is highly dependent on cooking techniques that break down plant cell walls and release carotenoids. This concept is the cornerstone of beginning SCD/GAPS gut healing diets. I am noting this since it is summer thus this post is focusing on raw food carotenoid absorption in the form of salads.
- Plant sterol- or stanol-containing food: Some studies found that the regular use of plant sterol-containing spreads resulted in modest, 10-20% decreases in the plasma concentrations of some carotenoids, particularly α-carotene, β-carotene, and lycopene (113, 114) (see the article on Phytosterols). However, advising people who use plant sterol- or stanol-containing margarines to consume an extra serving of carotenoid-rich fruit or vegetables daily prevented decreases in plasma carotenoid concentrations (115, 116)
- Foods such as Olestra substantially decreases carotenoid absorption (also see here and Vanderbilt University “Olestra: WOW or WOE” Vanderbilt University paper written by Katie Watson.)
Tips for Label Reading Grocery Salad Dressings
- Expeller pressed & Hexane loads. Don’t be fooled by “expeller pressed” terminology. Canola oil that is not “expeller pressed” contains hexane. Understand, 65% of canola oil is removed via a single set of expellers. The remaining 35% is removed from the canola solids using a solvent – typically hexane. All of the hexane can not be distilled away so it gets mixed back in with the first expressed oil. Lots of processed and restaurant foods use canola oil that is not “expeller pressed”… think about how much cumulative hexane load you eat due to canola oil in processed and restaurant foods. Studies show that it is metabolized in the liver and then distributed in the blood to various organs, including the liver, kidney and brain. While “expeller pressed” doesn’t use hexane, it still uses heat extraction. The soybeans or rapeseeds (for canola oil) are heated, then put under extreme pressure to release the oil. For “expeller pressed“ oils, heat causes oxidation and transfats, and pesticide loads still remain if not organic (see Part 2.)
- Read labels; even if organic, most have ingredients no common man has heard of which are inflammatory, avoid them. Avoid even “natural flavors” which are actually a compilation of 100s of synthetic chemicals with solvents, emulsifiers, flavor modifiers and preservatives often making up 80 to 90% of the mixture. EWG explains: The FDA defines natural flavors as substances derived from animals or plants and artificial flavors are those that are not. An artificial flavor must be comprised of one of the nearly 700 FDA-allowed flavoring chemicals or food additives categorized as “generally recognized as safe,” or any of 2000 other chemicals not directly regulated by FDA but sanctioned for use by an industry group, Just avoid them, they are anything but natural.
- Contrary to the dressing name labeling, manufacturers are not only using MUFA oils, nor is it the predominant oil. Read the list of ingredients to see all the oils included as well as predominance. FDA mandates that the ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. See Food Renegade’s take on Organic Ville brand salad dressing,“Organic Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar” which actually mostly contains PUFA soybean oil, sweetener, and spices in greater volume than MUFA olive oil.
- Last, when multiple fat/oils are listed, you can be reasonably certain the manufacturer is using the cheapest listed, and that isn’t likely an oil that is good for your health.
- For best carotenoid absorption make your own homemade salad dressings using MUFA such as unadulterated cold pressed EVOO or “cold pressed” organic canola oil. You only need to use a mere 3 grams (that’s a scant 2/3 teaspoon) of MUFA oil since no further absorption was achieved using 20 grams. This lipid source may be a good choice for those craving lower fat options but still wanting to optimize absorption of health-promoting carotenoids from fresh vegetables.
- Add cooked whole eggs (1-1/2 to 3 worked, if no intolerance) to the MUFA dressing to further boost carotenoid absorption.
- Alternatively, instead of MUFA fat/oil, add half an avocado to further boost carotenoid absorption.
- MUFA fat-rich dressings (olive oil or canola oil) required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat (butter) and PUFA fat dressings [such as soybean oil— used in most commercial and grocery dressings] required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit. So if you are using such, consume a lot and note — it’ll have lots of calories since the low/nofat fails to absorb carotenoids.
- Processing oxidation compromises claimed canola oil health benefits; choose unadulterated extra virgin olive oil instead for cold use as it’s health benefits are indisputable (see Part 2), it won’t contain transfats since it is cold pressed, it is not extracted with hexane solvent nor is it deodorized, and it will contain a variety of polyphenols. But each of us needs to make their own educated choice. -Note: This is also the option provided by expert Dr. Guy Crosby, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chang, School of Public Health, for those wanting to avoid RBD oils.
- If you can find “cold pressed” and organic canola oil (rare find), that might be reasonably healthy since it won’t be as high in oxidized fats. But on the downside, it will contain Omega-6 adding to your excess Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance, and the Omega-3 form of ALA will not be efficiently converted into the usable EPA and DHA form (see Part 2). Last, don’t heat it as the PUFA could oxidize and turn rancid.
- The intent of this post is for you to better understand your cumulative Omega-6 vegetable oil loads from all foods consumed, not just salad dressings. Understanding fatty acids is complex but worth it so you can better choose vegetable oils in all foods you consume. Like this newly found travel food having palm oil… high MUFA according to above chart, but also high saturated fat so don’t OD on them. Still, it’s better then the industrial seed oil used on most chips. Do you know about plantains? If green, they contain fibers your large intestinal colon microbiome will love (say hello to major anti-inflammatory butyrate); if ripe (SCD/GAPS legal) they’ll digest before the large intestine so not much help for butyrate microbiome colon producers. Choose ripeness depending on your personal health goals/ digestion status.
This concludes Part 1.
Click here for Part 2 (watch for it in the next few weeks.) It dives into pubmed technicals of fatty acids, how they impact health, & begins..
Unsaturated Fats 101
Look over the below slides to see the breakdown of fatty acids to better understand the unsaturated fatty acids, MUFA and PUFA discussed in this post: EVOO, canola oil, and fish oil. All of these have differing fatty acid compositions.
Decoding labels: Let’s check what you’ve learned in this post… do you recognize the common problematic red flags???
Annie’s Organic Red Wine & Olive Oil Vinaigrette ingredients: WATER, *EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL [is it adulterated?], *EXPELLER PRESSED VEGETABLE OIL (*SOY, *CANOLA AND/OR *SUNFLOWER), *RED WINE VINEGAR, SEA SALT, *ONION, *CELERY SEED, *GARLIC, *LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, *PARSLEY, *COLORS (*BLACK CARROT, *BLACK CURRANT, AND *APPLE JUICE), *BLACK PEPPER, XANTHAN GUM.
Bragg Organic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing ingredients: Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Bragg Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil [is it adulterated?] , purified water, organic honey, organic garlic, Bragg Liquid Aminos, organic onion, organic black pepper, natural xanthan gum.
Olive Garden Italian Dressing ingredients: Water, Soybean Oil, Distilled Vinegar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Egg, Romano Cheese (Milk, Salt, Cultures, Enzymes), Dehydrated Garlic, Sugar, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Calcium Disodium Edta Added to Protect Flavor, Annatto Color, Natural Flavors.