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Zero-fat salad dressings may be hurting, not helping

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Salads are packed with healthy nutrients. But there is a catch. You also have to eat some fat so your body can absorb certain fat-soluble compounds such as lycopene from tomatoes and carotene from carrots. Previous research has suggested you absorb more nutrients by adding additional fat.

That means zero-fat salad dressings are counterproductive. You're consuming fewer calories, but you're also getting a lot less benefit from the veggies.

However, a new study by researchers at Purdue University suggests some fats are better than others when it comes to aiding the absorption of these nutrients.

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Volunteers were fed salads topped off with saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated-based dressings, and then their blood was tested for nutrient levels.

The results revealed that a relatively small dose of canola oil (three grams) was just as effective as a higher level (20 grams).

"You can get a significant amount of absorption with a lower level of fat," said Mario Ferruzzi, the lead author of the study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Canola oil is a monounsaturate. Dr. Feruzzi said other monounsaturates, such as olive oil, may be equally effective, but studies must be done to know for sure.

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