Low-Fat Versus Full-Fat Salad Dressing: What’s Healthier?

Low Fat vs Full Fat Salad Dressing

When eating a giant bowl of kale, roasted vegetables, micro greens, and anything else in the fridge, you want to maximize your nutrition, right? So what’s healthier to pour over your salad? The low-fat versus full-fat salad dressing battle begins!

If weight loss is your goal, it might be counterintuitive to drizzle greens with full-fat salad dressing. However, we’ve denounced the whole ‘fat makes you fat’ philosophy, as fat is actually key to metabolism and weight maintenance.

A 2012 study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that those who ate high-fat diets actually had a faster metabolism than those who don’t. The study showed that low-fat and high-carbohydrate diets spike insulin production, which in turn slows metabolism and promotes the storage of belly fat.

In another 2013 study, Dr. David Ludwig and his Harvard colleagues found similar results when comparing high-fat, low-carb diets with low-fat, high-carb diets.

The group eating a high-fat diet burned roughly 300 more calories per day than the low-fat group. Even better, the high-fat group showed reduced LDL cholesterol levels and lowered triglyceride levels. The high-fat group even improved markers of insulin resistance, which can lead to pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes.

Full-fat salad dressing on leafy greens and vegetables not only promotes metabolism and weight maintenance, it boosts nutrient absorption, too. A 2004 study found that eating a salad with an oil-based salad dressing helps the body absorb carotenoids found in vegetables including lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene, which have been shown to be protective against heart disease and cancer. The study notes, “When the salads were ingested with fat-free salad dressing, the absorption of carotenoids was negligible.”

Certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be properly absorbed and utilized. Drizzling extra virgin olive oil on salad is a great way to utilize these vitamins.

When it comes to salad dressing, go high quality – or make your own! Choose salad dressings made with a base of extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, or walnut oil. Choose cold-pressed and organic options when available. These are our favorite store-brought versions, FYI.

Avoid vegetable oils like canola oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. These vegetable oils are highly processed and contain an unhealthy ratio of omega-6 fatty acids, which promote unhealthy levels of inflammation.

Numerous studies have found vegetable oil consumption linked to heart disease, depression, inflammation, cancer, and increased cell damage.

Low fat versus full fat salad dressing has no competition: go full fat, and add a slice of avocado while you’re at it.

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Kate Gavlick
Kate Gavlick

Kate is a Nutritionist with a Master's of Nutrition from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon and the blogger and photographer of Vegukate. Kate believes in nourishing the whole body with real, vibrant foods that feed the mind, body, soul, gut, and every single little cell. Her philosophy is simple when it comes to food and nourishment: cut the processed junk, listen to your body, eat by the seasons, eat plates and bowls filled with color, stress less, and enjoy every single bite. When she's not cooking in her too tiny Portland kitchen, Kate can be found perusing farmer's markets, doing barre classes, hiking, reading, and exploring.