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April 13, 2010

Fat-Free = Fewer Nutrients: A Salad Study

Sometimes news takes a while to trickle through. 

A headline in the April 2010 issue of Cooking Light Magazine reads “Choose Fat-Free Dressing, and You’ll Miss Out on Many Nutrients.” Results from a 2004 Iowa State University study conducted by Associate Professor of Food Science and Nutrition Dr. Wendy S. White found that eating salads with fat-free or reduced-fat salad dressings is not as good for you as you may think.

The study brought to light that eating vegetables accompanied with little or no fat inhibits the absorption in the human body of cancer-fighting nutrients inherent in vegetables. The study acknowledges that eating a diet with moderate levels of fat is already recommended by U.S. dietary guidelines, but the study’s significance is its discovery that eating fat alongside vegetables, such as the fat found in salad dressings or other fats contained in salads improves the absorption of vegetables’ vitamins and minerals. Specifically, of those who ate salads with fat-free, low-fat, or full-fat (regular) salad dressings, the individuals who consumed salads with a higher fat content had a greater absorption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene in its participants.

From the  Iowa State Press Release, 7-22-2004:

"We're certainly not advocating a high-fat diet, or one filled with full-fat salad dressing," White explained. "If you'd like to stick with fat-free dressing, the addition of small amounts of avocado or cheese in a salad may help along the absorption.

"Our findings are actually consistent with U.S. dietary guidelines, which support a diet moderate, rather than very low, in fat," White continued. "But what we found compelling was that some of our more popular healthful snacks, like baby carrots, really need to be eaten with a source of fat for us to absorb the beta carotene."

The study was published in the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here is the  abstract, and here is the link to the full text study.

Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Natalie Smith for preparing this post.  Ms. Smith is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.

April 13, 2010 in Dieting, Scientific studies | Permalink

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