There are, of course, many more points to consider, so we’ve broken it down with the help of dietician Sangeeta Pradhan, and introduced 10 of our favorite yummy, nutritious dressings for you to get started on picking your healthy salad dressing. We chose Bragg's Organic Vinaigrette Dressing as the healthiest of the bunch—check out why below!
We picked our top 10 salad dressings out based on the guidelines that Sangeeta helped us establish, but we want to make it clear that the Web Dietitian does not endorse any brands or products, and the dressings below were determined by the team here at mybest.
|Flavors||Ginger and sesame, tuscan kale, apple cider vinegar, pomegranate, vinaigrette|
|Oil||Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||40~45kcal.|
|Volume||5.4 oz. (per bottle)|
|Flavors||Raspberry, blackberry, green apple, mango|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||Not provided|
|Flavors||Classic Italian, shiitake ginger, romano caesar, etc.|
|Oil||Extra virgin olive oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||75kcal.|
|Volume||10 oz. (per bottle)|
|Flavors||Lemon garlic, habanero ranch, creamy caesar, etc.|
|Oil||Extra virgin olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil|
|Calories (per tbsp)||90kcal.|
|Flavors||Creamy ranch, creamy caesar, etc.|
|Oil||High oleic sunflower oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||85kcal.|
|Volume||8 oz. (per bottle)|
|Flavors||Poppyseed, honey dijon mustard, raspberry vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, etc.|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||2.5kcal.|
|Flavors||Organic goddess, shiitake sesame, balsamic vinaigrette, etc.|
|Oil||Expeller-pressed canola oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||55kcal.|
|Flavors||Green goddess, Lite poppyseed, lemon and chive, etc.|
|Oil||Expeller-pressed vegetable oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||20kcal.|
|Flavors||Ranch, honey mustard, balsamic, Italian, etc.|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||70kcal.|
|Volume||8.5 oz. (per bottle)|
|Flavors||Garlic, basil, lemon, chili|
|Oil||Organic extra virgin olive oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||Not provided|
Drew’s All Natural
Tessemae’s All Natural
Tessemae’s All Natural
Organic Vinaigrette Dressing
Infused Balsamic Quartetto
Classic Italian Vinaigrette Dressing
Lemon Garlic Salad Dressing
Organic Creamy Ranch
Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Organic Vegan French Dressing
Lite Honey Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing
Greek Vinaigrette with Avocado Oil
Flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil Variety Pack
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Fights Infections and Cleanses Arteries
Syrupy, Sweet, and Completely Versatile
Less Greasy Than Your Typical Italian But Tastes Just as Good
Has Got a Lot of Good Fats–That’s Why It’s So Flavorful
Super Creamy Dairy-, Grain-, and Sugar-Free Ranch
A Little Tart, A Little Sweet, and Fat and Sugar Free
Tangy, Sweet, and Savory Expeller-Pressed, Heart-Healthy Canola Oil
Almost No Fat or Sugar in This Tangy Honey Mustard Dressing
Tastes Like Oregano and Packed With Body-Healthy Nutrients
Antioxidants-Rich Olive Oil and Zesty Spices
|Volume||12 oz.||5.4 oz. (per bottle)||12 oz.||10 oz. (per bottle)||10 oz.||8 oz. (per bottle)||8 oz.||8 oz.||8 oz.||8.5 oz. (per bottle)|
|Flavors||Ginger and sesame, tuscan kale, apple cider vinegar, pomegranate, vinaigrette||Raspberry, blackberry, green apple, mango||Classic Italian, shiitake ginger, romano caesar, etc.||Lemon garlic, habanero ranch, creamy caesar, etc.||Creamy ranch, creamy caesar, etc.||Poppyseed, honey dijon mustard, raspberry vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, etc.||Organic goddess, shiitake sesame, balsamic vinaigrette, etc.||Green goddess, Lite poppyseed, lemon and chive, etc.||Ranch, honey mustard, balsamic, Italian, etc.||Garlic, basil, lemon, chili|
|Oil||Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil||Not provided||Extra virgin olive oil||Extra virgin olive oil, high oleic sunflower oil||High oleic sunflower oil||None||Expeller-pressed canola oil||Expeller-pressed vegetable oil||Avocado oil||Organic extra virgin olive oil|
|Calories (per tbsp.)||40~45kcal.||Not provided||75kcal.||90kcal.||85kcal.||2.5kcal.||55kcal.||20kcal.||70kcal.||Not provided|
And the advent of the internet, where anyone can post anything at any time, hasn’t helped matters much. We could barely separate truth from semi-truth from fiction, so asked the Web Dietitian to help us cut to the chase.
Introducing Our Expert
Sangeeta Pradhan is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator. It's her job to delve into the complexities of nutrition and distill it into easily digestible information for the public. It's also something she loves doing.
That's one of the reasons she started her blog, the Web Dietitian. It's a little corner of the internet where nutrition is presented plainly and frankly, with assertions that are backed by research and a simple desire to help. You can expect lovely writing and apt metaphors, as well as some great recipes to round everything out.
First, look at the serving size of the dressing. This is important, because it denotes how many calories you will actually be digesting. For example, if you see a 100 calorie dressing and use four tablespoons of it on your salad, it could actually be 400 calories you're intaking, if the serving size is just one tablespoon!
Some companies make serving size super small so that their product looks healthier. Don’t be misled. With salad dressings, for the most part, you need a minimum of two tablespoons to feel any zest—so that’s the serving size that we and Sangeeta recommend (each of which should pack 100-120 calories).
You want to avoid too much sodium in your dressing and choose something with less than 250 milligrams per serving. That’s because in a day, a healthy adult should be ideally consuming 2,300 milligrams, according to The American Heart Association. Too much sodium could potentially lead to high blood pressure.
If you are part of at-risk populations—these include, but are not limited to folks over 50, African-Americans, and people with hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease—the AHA lowers the cap to 1,500 milligrams (so about 200 milligrams per serving). Around half of the US population falls into this group.
According to the AHA, more than 70% of the sodium we consume comes from packaged, prepared, and restaurant foods. Sodium makes your body hold on to water. As more blood flows though your blood vessels, blood pressure increases.
You can get something called edema—water retention—and what that means is your heart, which is pumping blood throughout your body, now has a higher blood volume to contend with. So it has to work harder to pump that extra fluid, and if unchecked, it can lead to congestive heart failure.
Your heart’s a muscle, and when you overwork a muscle, it gets larger, so you can end up with something called cardiomyopathy. Overall, it is very important that we watch the sodium in our diet, even for the average consumer.
The US Dietary guidelines advise limiting intake to 2300 milligrams per day for the average adult and 1500 milligrams per day to those with HTN (hypertension) and pre-HTN (pre-hypertension).
The American Heart Association says that around 16 grams of saturated fat a day is fine—but eating too much risks high cholesterol and heart disease because saturated fat has a stable chemical structure that stays solid at room temperature, but clogs up your arteries. Ideally, you want just two to four grams of saturated fat per serving.
The AMDR (acceptable macronutrient distribution range) supported by the Dietary Guidelines propose 20 to 35% of your total calories should come from fat, which is about 45 to 67 grams per day on a 2000 calorie diet .
You definitely want to avoid saturated fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils, also known as trans fats, which are slowly being phased out of the food supply as per FDA guidelines. But the key takeaway is this: you want to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats, either mono- or polyunsaturated fats, and not refined carbohydrates.
There are, however, good unsaturated fats which come with a host of health benefits. You can find them in the oils of most plants. So, look for healthy fats, stick with the suggested serving size, and try to stay within the recommended guidelines for total fat as noted below.
You want to make sure that there is a moderate amount of fat at every meal, and that includes some healthy fats in your salad dressing as well. Fat carries flavor and promotes satiety. You need fat for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. All kinds of hormones are made from fat. You absolutely need it as part of a healthy diet.
I would suggest limiting saturated fat intake to 1.5 to 2 grams per serving, while watching the actual number of servings as well. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat intake to around 10% a day, while the AHA recommends even lower intakes of 7% a day and 5 to 6% of total calories—or 11 to 13 grams—per day on a 2000 calorie diet for people who need to lower their cholesterol.
Oil is the number one ingredient in most salad dressings. But there’s so many different types, from so many different fruits, vegetables, and seeds–and they’re processed in so many different ways. So let’s talk about a few key terms that will hopefully help you make head and tails of everything.
When you hydrogenate a liquid fat, you turn it into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. This keeps the oil from going rancid quickly, but it also unfortunately produces trans fats, which are not good.
When reading the ingredients label, make sure there is no partially or fully hydrogenated oil. Steer clear of shortening as well, which is made from partially hydrogenated oil.
Instead, look for liquid oils, which are brimming with healthy (unsaturated) fats. They do just the opposite of hydrogenated oils, which means they lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. However, there are a lot of theories about nutritional differences between monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats.
There’s definitely a case to be made for including both MUFAs and PUFAs—i.e. omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids—in your diet. There is some evidence linking diets containing MUFAs with favorable changes in weight and body composition in women with obesity.
In addition, MUFAs have been linked to reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raising HDL cholesterol levels. And they’re found in nuts, seeds, olive, and avocado oil.
Sangeeta wants you to know that you need both MUFAs and PUFAs as part of a healthy diet. As long as you are consuming salad dressing in moderation and all the oils are liquid, you will be taking in a healthy amount of fat, be they mono or poly. Most plant-based oils are full of unsaturated fat, so look out for nut, avocado, peanut, sesame, and olive oil.
But I haven’t seen studies to support whether monos are better or superior than polys, per see, so we want to proceed with a common-sense approach. And that would be to just replace those solid fats with liquid oils, be they mono or poly, or to replace them with whole-plant fats, such as the fats found in nuts, seeds, and avocados.
We don’t want to just keep focusing on the fatty acids in the diet because, ultimately, it’s not isolated nutrients that matter. It’s whole foods and whole dietary patterns that count. So, every so often, I think we just need to take a step back and look at the big picture so that we don’t miss the forest for the trees.
Many oils are drawn out chemically using hexane, which is toxic. It’s heated out later, of course, but we aren’t sure how much is left over. And the heating process changes the make up and flavor profile of the oil and might even phase out some nutrients.
In a nutshell, you’re left with less high-quality, less healthy stuff. If the bottle doesn’t tell you how an oil was harvested, assume it was chemically processed.
Hexane has been classified as an air pollutant and could adversely affect the nervous system according to the Center for Disease Control. However, the whole process where you use a chemical solvent such as hexane to refine the oil is not supposed to leave a lot of residue.
For this reason, itʼs unclear whether consuming the trace residue long-term is truly a health hazard. Perhaps more studies that also explore dose-dependent effects is required.
Then you’ve got expeller-pressed oils. Here, the fruits or nuts were stuck into a giant machine, which literally squeezed the oil right out of them. But you need a lot of pressure to wring oil from a peanut. So expeller pressing, while better than chemical processing, still generates a lot of heat.
In Europe, cold-pressed oils are oils that haven’t been exposed to any temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This means no chemical reactions and no flavor changes. In the States, however, we don’t regulate this strictly, so if you want the healthiest stuff possible, look for “expeller-pressed” or “cold-pressed” oils in the ingredients list.
The “extra virgin” you see before olive oils also refers to the extraction process. In a nutshell, “extra virgin” is the purest stuff. It’s got the strongest flavor and keeps the most nutrients and health benefits.
Obviously, an oil that is minimally processed to some extent would be preferred, but the problem with extra virgin olive oil is that its smoke point is really low. So for sautéing, you may want to use the lighter, yellow olive oil which has a higher smoke point, and use the dark green, extra virgin only for cold preparations such as dips and salad dressings.
In addition, when you buy olive oil at the grocery store, get the one thatʼs at the back of the shelf that hasn’t been exposed to light, keep it in a dark place, away from heat, and make sure itʼs tightly capped. Oxygen, light, and heat can cause oils to spoil quickly.
Short ingredients lists are good. You want them to start off with any of the oils from up above, water, or vinegar, followed by a bunch of seasonings that sound like they were plucked out of an Italian kitchen. You don't want anything chemical that you can’t read.
If you’re having two tablespoons of salad dressing with some artificial ingredients once every two weeks, but the rest of your diet consists of whole and unprocessed foods, that is considered a negligible amount. If your diet is high in processed foods and you are choosing salad dressings with artificial ingredients, you may want to reconsider.
A general rule of thumb is to try to eat foods that are as close to their original source as possible. We want to bear in mind that industrial processing is relatively new—perhaps 100 to150 years old at best. Before that, our ancestors pulled food out of the ground and from trees.
While our modern, fast-paced lifestyles would certainly not allow us to slave over a hot stove all day long, there is a strong case that one can make for consuming foods that are whole and minimally processed to optimize one’s nutrient intake.
All the flavors, ingredients, and textures have got to be compatible, so make sure your dressing pairs well with your favorite kind of salad. Of course, a lot of this is up to preference, but here are some of our favorite blends.
Greek dressing is light, so it’ll enhance the flavor of fresh ingredients, without detracting from stronger ingredients, like onions and cheeses. Sangeeta makes her salad dressings from scratch, but you can still draw inspiration from her creations when you throw together your next salad and are looking for a new dressing to try.
I love to add fresh, succulent fruits to my salads to make them pop with flavor and give them a refreshing twist. The added acidity in salad dressing gives it a tangy flavor. Honey can also to give it a naturally sweet flavor.
Fresh fruit can give a regular garden salad a slightly unexpected twist. In addition, it also adds a very important nutrient—vitamin C, an antioxidant, not to mention other phytonutrients.
Are you looking to incorporate more healthy swaps into your life? There's a lot out there, but we've got you covered with these buying guides on all your favorite foods!
If you pick the right dressing, it might just end up making your salad healthier (not just fattier). And, actually, some vitamins are fat-soluble and can’t be absorbed without some elbow grease. Just make sure that the grease is coming from good oils, like extra virgin olive oil or expeller-pressed canola.
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