Now that the festive season has come to an end, most of us will be aiming to get back on track with our eating habits to lose some of those December-indulgence kilos. Your new year’s resolutions might include cutting down on certain foods and getting in more of the healthy foods such as vegetables.
But don’t skimp on the healthy fats when it comes to your salads and veggies, researchers say that these fats such, such as olive oil, help provide optimal absorption of nutrients, most specifically carotenoids.
Carotenoids are pigments that are responsible for the bright colors of fruit and vegetables and are associated with a variety of health benefits such as protection from cancer and heart disease and promotion of eye health.
Although these findings are not new and researchers have long since proved that veggies paired with or cooked with fats promote the amount of nutrients absorbed, many people are still opting for fat-free dressings, believing these are a healthier option.
In previous studies, researchers compared nutrient absorption after eating salads with varying levels of fat, making use of canola oil, and found that much smaller amounts of carotene were found in the blood after eating a salad with fat-free dressing than after eating a salad with full-fat dressing.
Since this study researchers have found that while all fats promote carotenoid absorption, it is olive oil that is the best choice for your salad dressings. A 2012 study from Purdue University showed that monounsaturated fats (the main type of fatty acids in olive oil) have the most efficient absorption of carotenoids.
For this study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers gave 29 participants salad with either a saturated fat dressing, a monounsaturated fat dressing or a polyunsaturated fat dressing. Each salad was served with 3 grams, 8 grams or 20 grams of fat from dressing. The participants had their blood tested for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids, compounds such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.
While all fats promoted absorption of the carotenoids, the salad dressing that contained the monounsaturated fat required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit.
Although the researchers also made use of canola oil in this study, we know that olive oil contains more monousaturated fat than canola oil.
Along with being a great source of antioxidants, olive oil is also a great option for those wanting watch their calories while getting the most nutrition out of their vegetables.