It's a lunch-time conundrum. You've already decided to be healthy and eat a salad. Now, the question remains: do you opt for a tasty full-fat dressing and actually enjoy your salad or begrudgingly choose a less flavorful no-fat or low-fat variety?
You no longer have to feel completely guilty picking out the more fat-filled option. According to a new study, by incorporating some of the fat into your salad, you'll actually be reaping more of its nutritious benefits. The key, according to the Purdue University researchers, is the type of fat and the amount you drizzle on.
"If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings," Mario Ferruzzi, the study's lead author and a Purdue associate professor of food science, said in a statement. "If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables."
The study tested 29 people with salads tossed in butter (a saturated fat), canola oil (a monounsaturated fat) and corn oil (a polyunsaturated fat). Fat levels from the dressings were either 3 grams, 8 grams or 20 grams per salad served.
The amount of carotenoids -- compounds that can be a source of vitamin A and have antioxidant properties -- absorbed by each individual were measured. What the researchers found was that both the saturated and polyunsaturated fat options were "dose dependent," meaning the total grams of fat on the salad from dressing affected the amount of carotenoids absorbed. In other words, the more fat that was present, the more nutrients was absorbed.
The monounsaturated fat was not dose dependent. No matter how much dressing was on the salad contributing grams of fat, carotenoid absorption remained steady. Researchers said this type of dressing could be the best choice for those looking to go low-cal but still wanting to absorb higher levels of nutrients.
"Even at the lower fat level, you can absorb a significant amount of carotenoids with monounsaturated fat-rich canola oil," Ferruzzi said. "Overall, pairing with fat matters. You can absorb significant amounts of carotenoids with saturated or polyunsaturated fats at low levels, but you would see more carotenoid absorption as you increase the amounts of those fats on a salad."
Watch this university report on the research:
(H/T: Science Daily)