Check Your Oil

Water, Soybean Oil, Canola Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Sugar, Vinegar, Salt, Contains less than 2% of Dried Onions, Onion Juice, Natural Flavor, Xanthan Gum With Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium Edta As Preservatives, Red 40, Apocarotenal (Color), Alpha Tocpherol (Vitamin E), Acetylated Monoglycerides.

This is a typical list of ingredients from a name-brand bottled vinaigrette salad dressing.  Yes, you can buy a six-pack of this bottled dressing on Amazon for $20.28.  But I would recommend you spend your twenty bucks on a good bottle of organic extra virgin olive oil and one of balsamic vinegar.olive oil

First of all, you are paying for the water – which you’ll notice is the first ingredient.  Because water is used to keep the price down, artificially produced flavors and chemicals are needed to give the stuff some taste.  A bigger concern is the solvent-extracted refined oils that are used in salad dressings and most packaged foods.  To get the oil out of the soybean or rapeseed (canola) manufacturers heat the source and put a solvent on it (hexane).  The solvent helps the food source disintegrate so that the manufacturer can get all of the oil out. Then the oil is bleached, steam deodorized at 460 degrees, filtered and bottled resulting in a pale yellow, tasteless lubricant.  Anyone that knows something about food science will remember that exposure to heat, light and oxygen cause fats to go rancid.  The more unstable the fat (less saturated) the more fragile it is.  Food manufactures save money by using soybean oil and rapeseed oil because the raw materials come from subsidized crops.

Extra virgin olive oil must be mechanically produced with no heat according to standards set by International Olive Oil Council of Madrid.  Extra virgin oil comes from the first pressing of the olives and contains monounsaturated fats which help with its stability (less likely to go rancid).

My advice: make your own salad dressings and marinades using high-quality oils.  Less expensive in the long run, more flavor on tonight’s salad.
What’s your favorite homemade salad dressing?

12 thoughts on “Check Your Oil

  1. Well, mine is Ranch which I could make from scratch. Hubby’s is Thousand Island. Since he’s the one with Migraines due to chemical sensitivities, I’d like to learn to make that first. Any ideas where I can find a recipe? Thx.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’ve only ever read good things about oils like Canola. I’d forgotten about the process of refining it, and also that it’s a GMO. In my attempts to steer our family toward more straigh-from-the-earth foods, I’m glad for the reminder to look at the oils in the cupboard.

  3. Ok first of all your show is great. Second of all I love love your cookbook and am making the lemon chicken now. We have started using the dressings in your book for salads our favorite is the one with the succulent supper salad so good. Thanks so much and keep the shows coming.

  4. Reesie,
    The problem with Ranch and 1000 Island is that they are both mayonnaise based and almost all mayonnaise is made with cheap refined oils. That being said here are two recipes that you could use. These (at least) don’t have all of the additives and fillers. Should taste pretty good too!
    Ranch Dressing:
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup buttermilk
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon dried dill weed
    1 tablespoon dried chives
    1 tablespoon dried parsley
    2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
    1 dash hot pepper sauce
    1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 teaspoon ground white pepper

    1000 Island Dressing:
    1 cup plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    2 tablespoons tomato sauce
    2 teaspoons lemon juice
    2 teaspoons mustard powder
    2 teaspoons sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/2 cup finely chopped onion
    1 tablespoon sweet relish
    1 tablespoon finely chopped green olives
    1 jalapeno, finely chopped

  5. right up our alley. the maple syrup is a great touch and we’d recommend dried plums as a fruit. this is a great source of common sense and simple info to make for good tastes. thanks

  6. My favorite dressing is the following Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe, which my friend found in Renee Underkoffler’s Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods. It’s SO delicious!

    6 T extra virgin olive oil
    3 T balsamic vinegar
    1 T apple cider vinegar
    1 1/2 T maple syrup or raw honey
    1 T nama shoyu (or tamari)
    1 T white miso
    1-2 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup chopped parsley
    2 t oregano
    Sun-dried sea salt to taste

    In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. Store in a glass jar in refrigerator. Keeps for 3-4 days. To re-use, add a little water and shake.

  7. What about grapeseed oil? I only ever use it for frying, but apparently it’s not chemically extracted like Canola or Soybean oil.

    Other things your readers might be interested in: the smoking points of various oils, and their relative health benefits.

    Even if canola is made via some scary industrial process, isn’t it true that it’s healthier than soybean and palm oils?

  8. Good point Christopher.
    Any fat ibegins degrading once it reaches its smoke point. Grapeseed oil holds a higher temperature (420 degree smoke point) than some other fats making it appropriate for frying. But read labels, grapeseed can be a solven’t-extracted oil or it may be expeller pressed.
    For frying that requires high heat (like deep-fat frying) I use expeller-pressed safflower or peanut oil. In general I don’t tend to fry a lot of food so my needs for these oils are limited.
    I haven’t read any convincing literature that praises solvent-extracted canola over soybean, corn or palm oils. Seems to me that it is less about the source and more about how the oil is extracted and refined.

  9. Hi Cynthia,

    I love your recipes and I am all about the Whole Foods! I typically use canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, and unrefined coconut oil. The canola oil I buy is expeller-pressed from Whole Foods. It is the 365 brand and it has a comment on the back of the label saying that it is 100% expeller pressed, not chemical or solvent extracted. I avoid butter because it is high in saturated fat, which I’ve read causes inflammation in the body. I’m sure a little won’t hurt, but I choose not to use butter when I cook. Occasionally I experiment with flax seed oil, grape seed oil, and avocado oil. These I buy organic and I like the Spectrum brand. Spectrum offers both refined (cold pressed) and unrefined (expeller pressed). I have two questions. One, is there anything wrong with expeller-pressed canola oil? I’ve heard so many good things about canola oil. Two, Spectrum sells refined oils that are cold pressed and I was wondering if you could explain what this means and if chemicals are involve. Thank you for all of the great recipes and of course your help with my questions. Si

  10. Thank you Si.
    Expeller-pressed does mean that there have been no solvents used. Beyond that it is likely that the oil has been refined meaning – the oil is filtered; refined with alkaline chemicals, steam deodorized at 460 degrees and filtered again. The gums are removed by steaming. This destroys natural antioxidants, flavor, and vitamins. Synthetic anti-oxidants are sometimes added back to extend the shelf life. Bleaching with charcoal or clay is done for aesthetic reasons. This creates oil with no color, no aroma and very little taste that has a long shelf life but can be heated to high temperatures.
    In my opinion all expeller-pressed refined oils are about the same nutritionally. Which is to say – they are just lubrication.
    No legal standard for “cold pressed.” For some oil manufacturers it means that the source wasn’t heated first, however the screw press creates some heat due to mechanical friction. Spectrum’s cold pressed oils are expeller pressed in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 120˚F. Flavor, aroma and nutrients are present in good cold-pressed oil, although unless it is a monounsaturated oil (like olive oil) it will be very vulnerable to heat, light and oxygen.
    For these reasons I almost exclusively use butter, olive oil and coconut oil. All organic.

  11. I guess that’s why the nutritionist (educated at Bastyr) said olive & coconut oil for we cancer survivors…. I just don’t understand the coconut oil – isn’t it really high in saturated fat? (ie, not so great for people with higher cholesterol? I guess use, like butter, in moderation??

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