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Homemade vs Store Bought: Why I Make My Own Salad Dressings

As you’ve seen in a few of my food videos, like this one for a Grapefruit Mushroom Kale Salad, or this one for a Spiralized Cucumber Arugula Sweet and Spicy Salad, or, my most recent recipe for a Mediterranean Inspired Crispy Chickpea Mint Salad, I prefer to make my own salad dressings. Why? Well, next time you are home, take a look at the ingredient list for any of the dressings in your refrigerator. What you see may surprise you.

You may find the first ingredient is usually vegetable oil.

Why should you be concerned? The vegetable oils used in most store bought salad dressings use highly concentrated omega-6, inflammatory oils such as soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, or a combination. Why? Because it’s cheaper. Why is it cheaper? Because the government subsidizes most of these industries. (The topic of government subsidies in the American food industry is a way deeper topic that I’ll delve into another time.) Even “healthier” options, such as Newman’s Own Organic Olive Oil Vinegar Salad dressing, who, right on the front of the package, claims to be using olive oil, is adding inflammatory causing vegetable oil’s into their ingredient lists. Yes, they’ve added Olive Oil, but they’ve also added Soybean Oil. Again, a mix like this is cheaper for them to produce, but more expensive for the health of their customers in the long run.

Sugar is another big addition — mainly because of how addicting it can be. Why wouldn’t a company who wants you to purchase their product again and again add a sweet filler that keeps you addicted? Store bought salad dressings get sugary, and quick — especially if it’s deemed as a “Lite” salad dressing. Take a look at this Annie’s Natural Lite Poppy Seed Dressing for instance. The second ingredient is Cane Sugar, and two more down from that is Honey. Sugar is on there twice! And the second ingredient being sugar, above olive oil, means that most of this bottle right here is Cane Sugar. Just because their branding label’s this salad dressing “Natural” and “Lite” does not deem it a healthy option.

Fillers and preservatives, such as Xanthan Gum, Gum Acacia, Guar Gum, Corn Starch, Citric Acid, etc, is something to be a bit careful of too, especially if you have any gut issues going on. Most of these are derived from corn, including citric acid (shocking, right?), and gum fillers have been thought to be linked to leaky gut syndrome. That last note is a fairly new thought and not much has been proven, however, as a rule of thumb, if it’s not something directly from the earth in it’s natural form, maybe you shouldn’t be ingesting it. Food science is cool and all, but you know what else is cooler? Food in it’s natural form!

Some of the examples I used above are from more natural brands. I won’t get too deep into the scarier brands, but, take a look for yourself at the ingredient list of Hidden Valley’s Original Ranch salad dressing. You just might find monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the mix there, along with a few other ingredients that I’m not really sure how to pronounce or what they do. Which, speaking of monosodium glutamate (MSG), an ingredient list may not contain those dreaded two words, but they may contain something called “yeast extract”, which is a form of MSG. How about them apples!

If you haven’t done so before, making your own salad dressing can seem like an intimidating task. I’m here to let you know, it’s really not! Below are two of my go-to’s:
  1. Olive oil, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper, my favorite spices (recently, that’s been rosemary).

  2. Olive oil, dijon mustard (or whatever mustard I have on hand), a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar.

You can get creative with whatever you have in your cabinets or fridge — it’s just a matter of experimenting and finding out what you like to include. Always start with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as your base. The juice of lemons, oranges, and limes are great additions. Any sort of vinegar — apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar — adds a nice tang. I personally love adding mustard to my salad dressings, but you could also add a little bit of mayonnaise (a healthy version, of course), siracha, or hot sauce for a bit of a kick. The final touch is spices, it can be as simple as a little bit of pink salt and ground pepper, or a bit more eccentric as adding basil, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder for an Italian flair. The possibilities are endless.

Now that you can see how easy making your own homemade salad dressings can be, have fun and experiment!

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