I was never a huge fan of salad when I was a child. My mom was a major traditionalist, and her salads were never composed of anything other than lettuce, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, and beets. It was plain, which is probably why I hated salads.
As I got older, I realised there were plenty of other fruit and veg you can include in a salad, packing them out with plenty nutrition and flavour in the process.
I also got a bit giddy when I used salad dressing for the first time.
Like everyone else, I used pre-made salad dressing from a bottle out of convenience, and it also made the salad taste even better. The thing is, though, that as healthy as a salad is supposed to be, salad dressings are not always so healthy. See, while your fruit and vegetables are rocking the nutrients like a cool cat, the salad dressing is dressed to kill.
When I first realised this, I was pretty darn worried! Nowadays I’m totally DIY with my salad dressings, and just in case you aren’t aware of the potential damage these dressings are doing to your health, here are 10 harmful ingredients that are commonly found in them.
Gum is often used in pre-made salad dressings because it knits all the other ingredients together. Think of it like a stabilising agent, if you will.
Gums in their natural habitat are perfectly healthy. Seaweed is a gum, as are trees and healthy bacteria. But few studies have been carried out to illuminate more clearly their allergenic qualities.
For example, Xanthan is a gum that is often used in pre-made salad dressings, and it has been found to trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. These reactions range from mild – such as a headache – to more major – such as diarrhoea.
“Wow! Back up here!” I hear you cry. “Since when was water harmful? Are you mad? I’m not reading this article anymore, you’re crazy!”
Bear with me a second.
See, water in and of itself is incredibly healthy. But water doesn’t absorb the flavours of the rest of the ingredients in a bottle of salad dressing. As such, it tastes plain and dowdy.
To get more flavour, manufacturers unnaturally flavour that was made in a lab. Really not cool.
It’s not easy to detect when a bottle of salad dressing contains soy oil because manufacturers are so brazen that they tell you their product is made with olive oil, when it is actually made with soy oil.
The problem with soy produced in the U.S. is that a good 90% of it is genetically modified. This is not cool because genetically modified ingredients have been linked to faster ageing, insulin resistance, and infertility.
Calcium Disodium EDTA
“I want more EDTA!” – said no one ever.
EDTA is a preservative that you will find in sodas and sauces. It’s also sometimes found in shampoos, skin creams and a variety of other cosmetic products.
It is also found in some pre-made salad dressing bottles. Quite why is anyone’s guess, when you consider that EDTA has been linked to all kinds of allergic reactions, including skin rashes and asthma attacks and even occasionally kidney damage.
EDTA has also been found to cause mineral depletion in canines.
NanoParticles are used on sunscreen and paints to make them brighter, and they are also added to numerous processed foods to colour them and make them thicker. They are also added to salad dressings, despite the fact that nobody has yet tested them for safety.
NanoParticles are tiny. You certainly won’t be able to see them, and companies aren’t even required to let you know if they are in your food.
The biggest problem is that no one seems quite sure what NanoParticles actually do. When the particles are reduced to such a small size through an engineered process, they have a tendency to do very different things to what they would normally do on a bigger scale. And that is the worrying thing.
Trans fats are the “bad fats,” but because “bad fats” is never on the label, many consumers aren’t even aware that trans fats are no good for them.
“Hey ma. This bottle contains something called trans fats. What d’ya think?”
“Stick it in the basket.”
Salad dressings often contain trans fats, but in the case of salad dressings, food manufacturers can get away with referring to their products as “trans fat free” even when there is 0.49 grams of the stuff in there per serving!
Salad dressings contain both natural and artificial flavours, right? So, you just gotta run away when you see artificial flavours on the label but can have as much as you want if you see natural flavours, right?
It might say “natural flavours” on the label, but it’s basically a downright lie. All flavours are produced in a lab, and all are pretty bogus. Avoid.
Disodium Guanylate is a flavour enhancer that is commonly found in a wide range of pre-packaged meals, including instant noodles and some ready meals, and it is also used in pre-made salad dressing.
It is derived from seaweed and fish and is a natural flavour enhancer. But while it’s mostly harmful when used by itself, it becomes harmful when used in combination with something called monosodium glutamate (MSG). The two substances react with one another and should especially be avoided by anyone who is suffering from uric acid kidney stones or gout.
It is assumed that the two are mixed together to save on production costs.
Corn syrup is often used in pre-made salad dressing bottles because it is one of the cheapest sweeteners on the planet. You will also find this ingredient in a number of processed food and drinks.
The problem is that consuming too much corn syrup can lead to more belly fat. It can also cause insulin resistance, and has therefore been linked to obesity and type-2 diabetes.
This is a preservative that should be avoided at all costs. Although it is “generally safe to use” the word “generally” should make you think twice. It has been linked to skin irritation and rashes.
If you still want to include salad dressings in your dishes, the easiest way to avoid harmful ingredients is to either buy organic bottles – or make your own. This is less complicated than it sounds and will enlarge your culinary skills.