I was at a business lunch a few days ago and noticed something I’ve seen often: a woman ordered a large salad with no meat, no cheese, and with fat-free dressing. The salad came as this monster bowl of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, radishes, and beans. The lady dribbled no-fat dressing sparingly and began to eat. I’m sure she felt very noble consuming all these fresh and colorful veggies, and all without an added smidgen of fat to threaten her cardiovascular system.
She obviously doesn’t know the secret. What secret? The secret we wrote about in the Protein Power LifePlan six years ago.
Here’s a little secret that the makers of no-fat products and the promoters of low-fat diets are not likely to tell you: many of the most potent cancer-fighting nutrients in plants can’t be absorbed well without some fat accompanying them. Specifically, carotenoids found in colorful fruits and vegetables, and lycopene, found in tomatoes, require fat for their absorption. If you make a salad loaded with various greens, slices of cucumber and tomato, and diced bits of carrots and other colorful vegetables, then top it with one of the zillions of no-fat dressings available to the low-fat conscious, you will be missing out not only on taste but on many of the nutrients in the salad that you simply won’t be able to absorb without the fat. Make sure that when you eat a salad, you dress it with virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or nut oil, all of which contain a whole host of valuable nutrients and antioxidants. If you eat steamed vegetables, drizzle them with olive oil or melted butter, so that the fat-soluble nutrients don’t go unabsorbed.
In rereading that paragraph, I wouldn’t change a thing except that I would remove canola oil from the list of acceptable oils. Since writing the above in 1999 I’ve learned that canola oil, also called rapeseed oil, virtually always contains a fair percentage of trans fats, which are created during the deodorization process.
Here are a couple of recent papers on the subject of carotenoids and fat. The first from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that
High-sensitivity HPLC with coulometric array detection enabled us to quantify the intestinal absorption of carotenoids ingested from a single vegetable salad. Essentially no absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads with fat-free salad dressing were consumed. [My italics[ A substantially greater absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full-fat than with reduced-fat salad dressing.
You should be able to get the full text of this article from this site if you’re interested after August 1 of this year.
The second paper is from the Journal of Nutrition and concludes:
In conclusion, adding avocado fruit can significantly enhance carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa, which is attributed primarily to the lipids present in avocado.