The Association for Dressings & Sauces, an Atlanta-based trade organization, welcomes  National Salad Month by reminding health-conscious consumers to abide by the American Heart Association’s recommended nutritional intake of  five or more servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

Researchers at UCLA and Louisiana State University found those who eat salads, raw vegetables and salad dressing have considerably higher levels of vitamins C, E, B6 and folic acid—all key nutrients in promoting a healthy immune system. Their research was published in the September 2006 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Salad dressings, if chosen carefully, can also be healthful. Many provide alpha-linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid that helps protect women against heart attacks) and vitamin E, which offers circulatory and antioxidant benefits.

Researchers at Iowa State University and Ohio State University published a study in the August 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that showed eating salad vegetables with some added fat promotes the absorption of lycopene, alpha-carotenes and beta-carotenes, all of which aid in the fight against cancer and heart disease.

Most of today’s artisan salad dressings are free of trans fats. Be sure to read product labels.

Tune in tomorrow for a “greatest hits” list of veggies to include in your organic salad.

Recommended Cookbook: Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia