One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of produce, for making delicious salads. While all the fresh veggies are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber to boost your health and immunity, there is one thing that may not be as healthy as the rest: the salad dressing.
Many grocery stores now offer the convenience of pre-made and pre-mixed bottles of salad dressing – but such conveniences may be bad news for our health. Not only are some high in fat, there are all kinds of hidden additives that can creep into your natural-looking salad with just one spoonful of store-bought dressing.
Additives to Watch Out For:
Disodium Guanylate, Disodium Inosinate and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
The three ingredients listed above are common flavor enhancers that are often used together and can be found in prepackaged foods such as instant noodles as well as salad dressing. Disodium guanylate is a natural flavor enhancer often derived from seaweed or fish. While it is deemed mostly harmless on its own, the accompaniment of disodium inosinate and MSG is more potentially harmful. It is recommended that people suffering from gout or uric acid kidney stones should avoid disodium guanylate. Guanylates are partly produced from fish and thus not vegan or vegetarian friendly. Because disodium gyanylate and disodium inosinate are fairly expensive additives, they are often mixed with MSG as a way of leveling production costs.
MSG can be disguised in food products under different names. For example, hydrolyzed vegetable protein is a source of MSG, among many others. MSG is a favorite among food manufacturers because it brings out the flavor in many foods. The downside is that it can cause various and severe allergic reactions in some people – including headaches, nausea, burning sensation at the back of the neck and forearms.
Gum appears frequently in salad bottle dressings as a stabilizing agent that keeps all the ingredients mixed together. While gums are all natural (bushes, trees, seaweed, bacteria), little studies are done to detect their allergenic qualities. The varieties of gum used as additives include guar, tragacanth, or xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is a common gum used in salad dressing bottles and may trigger individual allergic reactions including headaches and gastrointestinal syndromes such as bloating and diarrhea. Tragacanth gum has been linked in the past to potential allergic reactions in certain individuals, especially those suffering from celiac disease, because of its gluten residues.
Calcium Disodium EDTA
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, or simply known as EDTA, is a preservative found in many foods including sodas, sandwich spreads and sauces. EDTA is also found in many cosmetic products including shampoos, body wash, deodorant and skin creams. EDTA may cause allergic reactions, asthma attacks, skin rash and possible kidney damage. Studies have also found that sustained intakes of calcium disodium EDTA can lead to essential mineral depletion in dogs.
Corn syrup is one of the most inexpensive sweeteners around. It is used in many processed foods and drinks as well as condiments. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been shown to promote increased belly fat and insulin resistance and is linked to the increasing obesity crisis.
DIY Salad Dressings
If you want to avoid the harmful additives, opt for the bottles labeled organic and always read the ingredients list carefully – one ranch dressing bottle can be very different from the other. Or more ideally, you can make your own dressing at home – an equal part balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil makes a simple and refreshing addition to your greens. With a few substitutes you can even ‘veganize’ a standard Caesar salad dressing in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Statham, Bill. Eat Safe: The Truth about Additives from Aspartame to Xanthan Gum. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2008.Sobrasua
E.M. Ibim, Jason Trotman, Paul I. Musey and Wasswa E.B. Semafuko: Depletion of essential elements by calcium disodium EDTA treatment in the dog.
Steve L. Taylor, Susan L. Hefle: Ingredient and labeling issues associated with allergenic foods