Chances are your salad is filled with fiber-loaded leafy greens, nutrient-packed veggies, and topped with some proteins. But if you’re opting for the pre-mixed salad dressings, you’re automatically coating those previously healthy vegetables with a sugar bomb. Yes, there goes that healthy lunch you thought you’d be getting!
It’s time to get our salads a brand new dressing because new research is showing that soybean oil is the better way to go. According to the study, using soybean oil on your veggies and in your salads allows the body to absorb more micronutrients from the veggies, and these micronutrients could work to prevent cancer and even improve your eyesight.
“The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption,” said Wendy White, a lead author of the study.
But before you go ahead and toss a bottle of soybean oil into a single salad, pause.
In recent years, science has tied a diet high in soy to increased risk of cancer. A 2014 study showed that soy, when it enters the body, mimics the properties of estrogen, and can possibly increase cell growth, though it was undetermined if they were cancerous.
And researchers have very specific guidelines on what you should and shouldn’t limit.
“If you currently have early-stage breast cancer, don’t eat soy in large amounts,” said Jacqueline Bromberg, M.D., Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. “If you’ve had breast cancer, you can eat soy, but in moderation.”
With so many conflicting opinions, we turned to our resident nutritionist, Emma Cronin for the final say. “Soybean oil is high in polyunsaturated fats but mostly omega 6 fats, which most people are getting enough of. It’s not very high in omega 3 fats, which is the healthiest of the healthy polyunsaturated fats, which most people are not getting enough of—these are the ones that reduce inflammation, provide healthy fats for the brain etc. So while it’s got healthy fats, it’s not that exciting.”
As for increasing mineral absorption, Cronin says that’s a characteristic of all oils and fats in general. “Any fat helps you absorb fat-soluble minerals and vitamins from vegetables and other foods because the fat helps transport them (hence them being “fat soluble”).”
And she warns to be wary of any claims about preventing or causing cancer. “I’m really careful re claims about increasing or reducing risks of cancer unless they are from proper peer-reviewed original research. The World Health Organisation lists ‘known and probable’ causes of cancer on their website (ie. tobacco is known and red meat is deemed probable) and those should be the guides.”
It’s safe to say that while these new findings are interesting, they undoubtedly need further research to be definitive.
So, should we be swapping our olive oil for soybean?
“Polyunsaturated fats are also susceptible to damage with heat, which makes them fairly unstable. For this reason, soybean oil is sometimes blended with other oils, which lowers the content of polyunsaturated fats and makes it less healthy.”
“I’m a fan of virgin olive oil—light virgin olive oil for cooking as it has a low smoke point—or avocado oil. That’s what I recommend to clients and what I personally use but other oils have their merits and all in moderation. I avoid oils with too much saturated fat— alongside sugar, it’s the current devil re weight gain, inflammation and disease!”
If you are going to use soybean oil, Cronin suggests looking for pure soybean and organic. Still not convinced? Why not read up on a two new hot contenders: algae oil and hemp oil, or the benefits of old-and-faithful olive oil?