The Recipe Doctor

From low-fat recipes to recipes designed for persons with diabetes, Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, shares recipes and advice to create healthy meals that are guaranteed to please. [Editor's note: Elaine no longer contributes to Silver Planet, but we have made her archived blog entries available as a service to our readers.]

Have Some Good Fat with Your Salad

Yes, some fat is good for you

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Eating smart fat (e.g., fish or plant omega-3s, monounsaturated fat) at the same time we are eating salads helps boost the absorption of various antioxidants and phytochemicals like lycopene from tomatoes or lutein from dark green vegetables.

A recent study at Ohio State University in Columbus measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed after people ate a lettuce, carrot, and spinach salad with or without 2.5 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado eaters absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene, 13.6 times more beta-carotene, and 4.3 times more lutein than the others.

Another study found similar results when seven women ate salads prepared with either fat-free dressing, reduced-fat dressing containing 6 grams of canola oil per serving, or a full-fat version with 28 grams of canola oil. The researchers measured the amount of carotenoids in the women’s blood to see how much of the nutrients had been absorbed. The level detected corresponded to the increased oil: numbers were higher for the reduced-fat dressing than for the fat-free dressing and highest for the full-fat dressing. Canola oil, like avocados, is composed of mainly monounsaturated fat (8 grams per tablespoon), with about a third polyunsaturated fat (4 grams per tablespoon), some of which is plant omega-3s.

How is the smart fat doing this? I think researchers are still confirming the processes involved, but it makes sense that fat in general slows down the digestion process, which would give phytochemicals a better chance of being absorbed. Other mechanisms may play a role as well.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
The Recipe Doctor Blog


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