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Forego Fat-Free Dressings?

Fat is needed to maximize the absorption of certain important phytonutrients.

November 10, 2009 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Image thanks to SweetOnVeg.

Transcript

Final step: the dressing. Which is more nutritious, a salad with an oil-free dressing or salad with an oil-based dressing?
And the answer is fat-filled. What? Why? Because many of the phytonutrients in salad are fat soluble and so our body needs fat to absorb them. The bioavailability of nutrients is higher when you take in fat.
Check this out: Here’s the amount of these nutrients we can measure in your blood stream over the course of ten hours after you eat a salad with fatty dressing. This is how much you get from reduced fat dressing—with the open circles, and at the bottom—the triangles—is the amount of this nutrition you absorb from a fat free salad. Essentially nada, zero. Why did you even eat it to begin with?
Now oil isn’t good for you—it’s basically just a lot of empty calories. The healthiest way to eat fat is from whole foods, like nuts and seeds. So a dressing made with tahini, which is just ground sesame seeds, or a creamy dressing you can whip up on your own by blending nuts like cashews is the best way to absorb all that nutrition in our salads. Or you can use a fat-free dressing and just throw some nuts and seeds on top. My family’s favorite is freshly toasted walnuts. Just 5 walnut halves is all the fat you need to get at those fat soluble nutrients in your greens.

Similarly, this is all the lycopene you absorb from salsa—that great red phytonutrient that protects against cancer. Why? Because salsa is a fat-free food. This is how much you absorb if you add some avocado to that salsa. Again, the fat helps you suck up the nutrition. And adding a whole avocado worked just as well as adding a half of one. In fact, just one-quarter of an avocado is probably all you need to add to salsa or salad to maximize absorption.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out theother videos on absorption. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

Check out my associated blog post, How to Enhance Mineral Absorption.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on absorption. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/maybush1/ maybush1

    Dr. Greger, nowadays avocados seem to be frowned upon as a vegetable that has too much fat/cholesterol to eat…especially every time we eat any salsa.

    So, is it recommended to eat whole nuts and seeds with every salsa and every salad?

    And in order to maximize the amount of fat-soluble antioxidants in all of our diet, do you recommend eating something “fatty” (like nuts, seeds, oils) with EVERY meal? If so, how much? Thanks!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    Hello maybush1!
    Cholesterol is actually a production of animals and cannot be found in any plants! As humans, we even create our own cholesterol. Avocados are therefore void of cholesterol. The fat in avocados are primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which actually extract saturated fat from your body (the bad fat) and replace it with this good kind. Like nuts, avocados are health promoting. Check out Dr. Greger’s video all about avocados! http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/are-avocadoes-good-for-you/ Also note that cholesterol can never be too low! http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/can-cholesterol-be-too-low/ I would say every time you eat a phytonutrient rich meal, like a salad, tea, or fruits; eat a fat with it. As suggested in this video, 5 walnuts halves suffice to absorb all the pytochemicals of that meal. I make it a point to do so with my meals!

    • Jayson2

      Why do you answer questions not directed at you? I came to this website to read advice Dr. Greger has on nutrition. I did not come here to read your unreliable information.  
      If I wish to ask a question of  Dr. Greger, or if I’m reading a question by another poster directed at Dr. Greger, it’s Dr. Greger’s reply I expect to read in return, not yours.  

      • Harel B

         Jayson2, you will have noticed upon looking over the comments section in the many pages on this site that it’s not just Dr. Greger replying but rather, when someone asks a question, everyone who has input chimes in with what they know. This does not stop (and has not stopped) Dr. G. from replying when he wishes to add something. I actually enjoy the back and forth in the comments section, and I think readers have enough sophistication to notice who the source is of the advice, and to make their own minds up about how reliable it is.

        The back and forth is a positive aspect of the comment section imo. And speaking of keeping things positive, let’s all try to do that. Taking my own advice is why I do not add additional commentary on your comments directed to Toxins

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/maybush1/ maybush1

    Hi Toxins and thanks for the reply! Actually, it’s not correct to say that cholesterol “is actually a production of animals and cannot be found in any plants”. Cholesterol is also a production of plants and are found within them…albeit in much lower quantities than in animals (cholesterol is a partial component to cell walls). See, for example, http://chemistry.osu.edu/~gopalan.5/file/7B.PDF
    Also, in the same study, it mentions some cholesterol is found in avocado oil as well.

    Besides, it is beginning to seem that the idea of eating avocados may not be such a good idea afterall as shown in Dr. Greger’s latest set of videos on the subject (today’s video – http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/are-avocados-bad-for-you/ and last week’s: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-avocados-good-for-you.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Ah yes, I didn’t realize that plants had cholesterol. But it seems like an insignificantly small amount! And ya, it seems my response is all around wrong since avocados are now considered not health promoting. My apologies, I try to be as accurate with my responses as possible

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/maybush1/ maybush1

    No apologies necessary Toxins! The nutritional science that comes out is constantly in a state of flux and is very dynamic. Old dietary recommendations are, many times, being superceded or adjusted by the new science that is coming out. It’s difficult to keep track and to be on top of it. I’m just very glad that there are those who are doing this so well, such as Dr. Greger, Esselstyn, Campbell, Novick, et al! We should all be grateful to him and his efforts on behalf of us all.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      I agree, these are all great doctors.

    • Harel B

       Maybush1, I want to thank you and not just for not beating up on Toxins but for the new information..this was new to me and I’m sure others too.

      However I don’t want this to turn into a talking point for the pro-omni-diet folks…I don’t think that’s what you’re doing but when this info gets more widely disseminated other folks might use it to say “see you vegans can’t ever, ever complain about cholesterol in meat/dairy ever again..ha!”

      So as Toxins said the amounts would seem very small but I wanted to look at some numbers

      See my post (I’ll copy paste there) at the top (well as the “July 9, 2012″ date which may or may not be the top when you get here) for the numbers I found  by a few little conversions based on the source you gave.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/SusanBeterbide/ Susan Beterbide

    Arrgh! I’m so confused! Dr. Esselstyn tells us not to eat fat from ANY source in his book on reversing heart disease!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello Susan!

      You have answered your own question. If one has heart disease but is looking to reverse it, cutting out fat is probably the best bet until it has healed. Essylsten advocated avoiding nuts as more of a safety net, possibly accelerating the process of healing the arteries of the heart. These fats in nuts are primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats being the good kind. After the point of reversal, consuming nuts will not bring about any risk of heart disease. Check out these few videos for more on nut fat.

      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/good-great-bad-killer-fats/

      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/halving-heart-attack-risk/

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/SusanBeterbide/ Susan Beterbide

    Thank you for your answer. I have become addicted to this web site and will soon have to face an intervention!!

    • Valnaples

      heh, I’ve become a nutritionfacts junkie too! And I share it as much as I feel I can with others without becoming too “preachy.”

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/blueberry/ blueberry

    What if you put your salad in a blender and drank it? How would absorption compare to adding a little fat?

    I know that if you take a wheat grain, chop it into a powder and eat the powder, you absorb more (at least more of the calories, if not the nutrition). Would the same be true if you blended your greens and drank it without adding anything else?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/drdons/ DrDons

    HiBlueberry, Putting the salad in a blender will help aid digestion much as chewing the salad does. However it appears that the fat is necessary to get the nutrients (i.e.antioxidants) from the intestine into the body. As the video states you don’t need processed oil to do this(although it works) but you can accomplish with nuts,seeds, avocados and don’t need much.The nuts, seeds and avocados contain nutrients you won’t find in processed oils. The fats are more calorie dense then starches so if you are trying to loose weight you have to not overdo the processed oils and nuts and seeds. The absorption of carbohydrates is not dependent on fat for absorption so you still get alot of calories from carbohydrates and protein even if you don’t add fats.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yyyounes/ yyyounes

    mr Greger,

    Is this video still correct?
    I was just wondering because of this logic:

    -If you eat fat with your meal, the nutrients will indeed stay longer in the bloodstream, simply because you consumed fat. But does this automatically mean that you absorb more>? Are we sure that blood nutrient levels are a good indicator of nutrient absorption for the human body?

    -However, if you eat the fat-free salad, wont the nutrients just directly go to the cells trough the action of insulin instead of circulating for hours in the bloodstream ?

    So what I am proposing is–> Because of the lack of fat, all the nutrients get into the right place, quicker, than if fat is added.

    Is this evidence ever tested in the way of gene expression yet?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      If the nutrients are in the bloodstream, then they have already been absorbed and your body has already begun utilizing them. Everything must pass through the gut wall before it is considered “absorbed”. Now do we utilize all of the phytonutrients? That I do not know, but why not include more of a good thing?

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yyyounes/ yyyounes

        @Toxins,

        Thx for your reply,

        So.
        How many grams of fat are needed for nutrient absorption?
        Are the fats, present in natural foods ( take for example wheat) sufficient for this effect?
        Or is additional fat needed?

        I wonder what Mcdougall would say about this.. Since you would assume, everyone on that plan would be highly deficient in everything according to this video.

        Are there more studies done on this ?
        Because it really would seem unlikely to me, also only a few parameters were measured, What about if you would add in a high insulin stimulating food like potatoes into the meal. Wouldnt that make a huge difference, in the way of absorption?

        I’m not saying healthy fats are bad … But I do wonder, if it is necessary to eat fat with every meal, as this video would suggest u should.

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

          I have brought up this topic with Jeff Novick who works closely with Dr. McDougall. Jeff’s position is that it is not necessary to eat fat with food since we absorb enough from the food anyway. The issue he says is not that we are not absorbing enough, it is that Americans do not eat enough…

          “These data, although in varying populations, suggest that 3 to 6 mg/day of β-carotene from food sources is prudent to maintain plasma β-carotene concentrations in the range associated with a lower risk of various chronic disease outcomes (see Table 3).”

          http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9810&page=353

          Table 3:
          http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9810&page=341

          This range is more than sufficiently achievable if one does not include fat. That is Jeff’s position and I respect it.

          As for myself, I see no problem in increasing the quantity of phytonutrients in my body. There are no ill effects associated with this.

          Dr. Greger says that 5 walnut halves would be enough to absorb most of the phytonutrients found in the salad.

          We can conclude that it is not necessary to include fat with the salad, but I don’t see how it would hurt. Especially if one included healthier nuts/seeds like English walnuts, flax or chia seeds.

  • Harel B

    Following up on the source Maybush1 gave (thanks again for the heads up!) that indeed plants do contain cholesterol..but the amounts are very small..here’s what I found.

    Maybush1′s source (Cholesterol and Plants E. J. Behrman* and Venkat Gopalan
    ) states “the quantity of cholesterol is generally small when expressed as percent of total lipid. While cholesterol averages perhaps 50 mg/͞kg total lipid in plant”

    A little calculation – 1kg is about 35.27 oz So the average is just over 1.4mg per oz or  5.7mg per 4 ounces.

    But that’s per 4ounches of pure plant lipid ; since the plant food
    will be less than 100% lipid, the mg cholesterol per 4oz of plant food
    will be less – or much less depending on the food – than 5.7

    According to one source (“What Percentage of an Avocado Is Fat?”, livestrong—-com)

    “Of the 201 g in a regular avocado, 29.47 g, or about 15 percent of the
    avocado’s weight, exists in the form of fat.”

    So to the extent that avocado fat is not far from the above ‘average’
    figure given,  4oz of avocado would have about 0.1466 as much or
    (0.1466)*5.7 or about 0.835mg of cholesterol.

    Less than 1 mg!

    By comparison, “A four-ounce serving of tuna has 40 milligrams of
    cholesterol, while haddock or rainbow trout has more than 80
    milligrams” (“Organic Meats Are Not Health Foods”, pcrm—org)

    Even if avocado    fat had 5 times the ‘average’ concentration for plants, in its fat/oil, that   would take us to 4mg, or one-tenth of what tuna has per 4oz serving, and the
    beef and many other meat based sources  are higher( or much higher) than tuna.

    Seems like 1mg or even some modest multiple, per entire serving, thereof isn’t the end of the world (but I did look at the link on the potential effecdt on DNA of avocado, even if we’re not sure if it’s really tube int he body or only in the test tube)

  • Harel B

     Following up on the source Maybush1 gave (thanks again for the heads
    up!) that indeed plants do contain cholesterol..but the amounts are
    very small..here’s what I found.

    Maybush1′s source (Cholesterol and Plants E. J. Behrman* and Venkat
    Gopalan
    ) states “the quantity of cholesterol is generally small when
    expressed as percent of total lipid. While cholesterol averages
    perhaps 50 mg/͞kg total lipid in plant”

    A little calculation – 1kg is about 35.27 oz So the average is just
    over 1.4mg per oz or  5.7mg per 4 ounces.

    But that’s per 4ounches of pure plant lipid ; since the plant food
    will be less than 100% lipid, the mg cholesterol per 4oz of plant food
    will be less – or much less depending on the food – than 5.7

    According to one source (“What Percentage of an Avocado Is Fat?”,
    livestrongdotcom)

    “Of the 201 g in a regular avocado, 29.47 g, or about 15 percent of
    the
    avocado’s weight, exists in the form of fat.”

    So to the extent that avocado fat is not far from the above ‘average’
    figure given,  4oz of avocado would have about 0.1466 as much or
    (0.1466)*5.7 or about 0.835mg of cholesterol.

    Less than 1 mg…..

    By comparison, “A four-ounce serving of tuna has 40 milligrams of
    cholesterol, while haddock or rainbow trout has more than 80
    milligrams” (“Organic Meats Are Not Health Foods”, pcrmdotorg)

    Even if avocado    fat had 5 times the ‘average’ concentration for
    plants, in its fat/oil, that   would take us to 4mg, or one-tenth of
    what tuna has per 4oz serving, and the beef and many other meat based sources  are higher( or much higher)
    than tuna.

    Seems like 1mg or even some modest multiple, per entire serving,
    thereof isn’t the end of the world (but I did look at the link on the
    potential effecdt on DNA of avocado, even if we’re not sure if it’s
    really tube int he body or only in the test tube)

  • BPCveg

    I want advice on how to make an oil-free salad dressing (using nuts and seeds to provide the fat) that is still tasty.  Please provide suggestions.

    • Jola

      Hi BPCveg,

      Here is an oil-free dressing recipe that a friend shared with me that my boyfriend and I really love:

      Tahini Garlic Dressing

      1 cup roasted tahini (sesame seeds ground into a paste)
      1/4 cup soy sauce (high quality shoyu if possible)
      1/4 cup apple
      cider vinegar
      6 large garlic
      cloves ( more or less to taste)
      1 – 2 cups
      filtered or spring water (depending on desired consistency)In the future, I will use much less of the soy sauce, as I found the dressing a tad too salty for my likes. You can also use this recipe as inspiration to create different dressings by changing up some of the ingredients (e.g. try different vinegars, seeds, nuts, or nut butters).  For example, I food processed cashews (best to soak them overnight or for a few hours…in this case I did not have the time so I ground them unsoaked) instead of using the tahini and I used liquid aminos rather than soy sauce and it made for a delish dressing. In general, I find that ground cashews make for wonderful creaminess in recipes.You can also look for dressing recipe inspiration here: http://www.nutritionmd.org/recipes/index.html

      • BPCveg

        Hello WholeFoodChomper (previously Joya),

        You are a gem! This recipe is awesome!

        By the way, for the formula that you gave for tahini dressing, I was able to get away with 1 cup of water and 1 Tbsp of soya sauce.

        Thanks a lot!

  • Greg Trafton

    Help! The links to share your videos aren’t showing up where they used to be.. Several of my friends say they love that I fwd them (email because they won’t take the time to look up the website for themselves. The Lazybones..
    Will you put the link back, please?

  • SheriOrlo

    For those eating chips and salsa, is the amount of fat in the chips enough to increase absorption of the phytonurtrients? I know that the this is not a good fat source, but I’m curious since many people eat salsa this way.

    • Ian Taylor

      I’m actually fairly interested in an answer to this as well.

  • lovestobevegan

    Beet Around the Greens Dressing

    – ¼ cup sunflower seeds
    – ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
    – 1 organic* golden delicious apple, chopped
    – 1 medium beet, cooked
    – Water

    Combine all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Using very little water results in a consistency which is quite thick and easily spooned onto salad. Adjust the amount of water to achieve the consistency desired.

    *Apples rank 1st (most contaminated) for yet another year in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so choose organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes. https://www.facebook.com/PlantBasedEmporium?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Sounds delicious–and nutritious! Thank you so much LTBV!

  • dfgdf

    What about water soluble vitamins like vitamin c or b – can the added oil harm there absorption ?

  • albert

    I am really wondering if ground flax is suitable for the fat soluble (correct term?) antioxidants absorption. The reason I have doubts is because flax seeds are pretty firm and potentially they might get processed by GIT some time later (too late) compared to, say, walnuts. I’m grinding them as fine as possible yet still not quite sure. In any case I firmly decided to avoid any oils thanks to Esselstyn/Ornish/Greger arguments.

  • Roman Yelin

    Hi I am following a plant based diet and I am following advice and data from people like Dr.McDougall, Esselstyn, and Dr.Michael Greger. I saw a video of Dr.Gregers where he talks about a study that says that oil based dressing is better than oil free dressing. Which is a conflicting issue between these doctors. So I posted this on Dr.McDougalls Message board to get peoples opinions, Jeff Novick replied plus others and Dr.McDougalls opion on the matter from the past was posted. I would love to hear Dr.Greger thoughts about this thread: https://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=43793
    I hope it’s ok that I am referencing Dr.Mcdougalls site here.

    Thank you for all your work by the way, its very informative and changed my life big time.

    Roman

    • Thea

      Roman: Congrats on adopting a healthy diet. Sounds like you are on roll!

      I’m not a doctor nor an expert. So, I can’t chime in with any authority. But I do have some thoughts for you.

      The main point of Dr. Greger’s video is about understanding how a certain amount of fat is needed in order for your body to absorb certain nutrients. This is a very narrow statement. It says nothing about people’s unique situations. So, for example, if someone had say an obesity problem, then maybe they would want to forgo absorbing those nutrients and stick to low calorie dense foods instead. In other words, each of Dr. Greger’s videos is very focused. You have to apply some common sense to see how the information in the video might apply to you.

      re: “I saw a video of Dr.Gregers where he talks about a study that says that oil based dressing is better than oil free dressing.”
      If you look under each video, you will see a Transcript section where you can see the video’s text. Here is a quote from Dr. Greger from this very video:
      “Now oil isn’t good for you—it’s basically just a lot of empty calories.
      The healthiest way to eat fat is from whole foods, like nuts and seeds.”

      So, even though Dr. Greger is being a bit funny/provocative in the opening of the video, I think he makes it quite clear that he is not advocating oil based dressings. Instead, Dr. Greger is advocating that you not have completely fat-free salads. He advocates adding a few nuts or a quarter of an avacado. I think that those quantities of calorie-dense foods would work fine for most people – and do not contradict anything that McDouggal, Esselstyne or Novick allow for average healthy people.

      That’s how I put it all into perspective. Hope that helps.

      • Roman Yelin

        Thanks for your reply. Like you said it’s all about interpretation and things can be different on a case by case basis. There is a lot of information out there. Just trying to figure out and understand everything properly so all of this data / knowledge by all the experts can be applied with the most benefit.

        I would like to make my question more specific, in that video the study showed that with no oil or may be fat in the salad the absorption of the nutrients was 0 or close to 0. and that was very interesting. In the thread i posted in my original post here, there was a question about how valid that fact is that the absorption is 0 or so close to 0. Since oil in salads and such is actually a new thing and humans ate plant based diet before and managed to absorb the nutrients etc.

        • Thea

          Roman: Thanks for clarifying your question/discussion topic.

          I don’t have time to read that thread you referred to, but here’s my take: While the healthiest human populations may have been primarily plant-based, they did still eat some small amounts of fat-laden food with their plants. For example, Okinawans (sp?) ate 1% fish. And as Dr. Greger’s video shows, it doesn’t take much fat to help your body absorb the nutrients. So, now we have healthier options than the fish. We can eat the plants with some nuts, seeds or avocados and perhaps get the same effect the Okinawans got.

          I don’t know if that gets at your issue or not, but I wanted to chime in one more time.

          Good luck with your efforts. I agree that this is not easy and I admire the people who struggle with the information to try to help themselves.