Salad dressings turn a lackluster bowl of lettuce into a satisfying bowl of flavorful gold. What your salad dressing may not be revealing to you, is its potentially harmful ingredients. Here I shall touch on just a few.
- EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)
Main use: Dissolve limescale
Main use in dressing: Preserve freshness and color
Why to avoid: As a rule of thumb, I avoid anything with the words EDTA in it. It is a chemical, formed in a lab, and I can’t readily pronounce what the acronym is. Moreover, studies have found that some forms of EDTA cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, decreased mineral absorption, and in some cases kidney failure.
- Titanium Dioxide
Main use: Whitener in many things (paper, plastic, etc.)
Main use in dressing: Aesthetic appeal; Color
Why to avoid: This ingredient is made of insoluble nanoparticles; small particles that your body can’t break down. Studies have shown that all nanoparticles (asbestos and EDTA, for example) are either suspected or proven carcinogens. So while there may not be extensive scientific studies showing that this ingredient kills you, common sense tells me to avoid it. Read more here
- Gums (Guar, Xanthan, etc)
Main use: Stabilizer or emulsifier (thickening agent)
Main use in dressing: Same as above; holds ingredients together
Why to avoid: Gums are almost always derived from natural sources. Some brands are better than others, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill brand (http://www.bobsredmill.com/) The problem with gums has nothing to do with their source, but with their potentially allergenic properties. Gums sometimes cause allergic reactions, including but not limited to headaches and gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, bloating, etc.)
Practical Solutions and Alternatives:
- Lemon wedge/dash of vinegar (option to mix with a natural oil such as hemp seed or grape seed)
Essentially, this is a quick, safe and home-made oil and vinegar dressing alternative. Squeeze any citrus of choice over your salad (or a small amount of vinegar), and if you find it to be too tart, dash a teaspoon of oil and toss. Voila!
- Liquid Aminos
The building block for proteins is amino acids. This dressing alternative tastes like soy sauce. I recommend Bragg's non-GMO brand (https://bragg.com/products/bragg-liquid-aminos-soy-alternative.html)
- Water down your favorite dressing
Start with equal parts of your favorite dressing to water, and work your way to less dressing and more water.
- Use your fork for dipping
If you’ve never tried this, you must. Instead of dousing your salad in dressing, have your dressing in a small container on the side. Before each bite, dip your fork in said dressing, pick a perfect bite combination from your plate, and eat.
- Add more interesting ingredients to your salad
Fresh and/or dried fruit, fresh veggies, sautéed veggies, raw nuts and seeds. Get creative. You may find dressing unnecessary with enough flavorful toppings.
- Read the label
This point seems elementary, but how frequently are we drawn to the ploy of a low calorie, full flavor dressing? These are the ones that tend to be chemically ridden. My advice: if you don’t know what every ingredient is, don’t buy it.