Healthy, Flavourful Salad Dressings

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Interest in salads, a dietary staple for those concerned about long-term health and weight management, can flag, unless the salads are enhanced by flavourful, low-cal dressings.

Through bold use of herbs and spices the American Institute of Cancer Research (AIRC) has developed three intensely-flavoured dressings that actually raise a salad's health quotient.

"People should concentrate on getting the maximum in flavour and health benefits through the generous use of herbs in their salad dressings," according to Melanie Polk, R.D., AICR's Director of Nutrition Education. As most commercial salad dressings contain a low proportion of herbs, if any, AICR has developed distinctive salad dressings that are intensely flavoured with health and cancer-protective herbs like basil, mint and cilantro.

A dressing is usually thought of as something that simply adds a little flavour and incentive to eat more salad but a salad dressing with a large proportion of herbs, which are virtually calorie-free, offers powerful, health-protective benefits as well as rich taste.  Used to their maximum advantage, flavour-intense herbs give a dressing "more bang for the buck," and a small amount can go a long way. Herbs also have antioxidant powers that protect our health in many ways, including the ability to help lower our risk of different kinds of cancers.

Herbs do far more than boost flavour

Herbs can be very different in the kinds of health-protective substances they contain.  Those substances, called phytochemicals (phyto means plant in Greek), number in the thousands, and they are highly specialized in the way they can protect our health.

Scientists have found that phytochemicals can protect against many chronic diseases and actively fight cancer as well. Through laboratory and animal studies, scientists across the country are just beginning to understand the complex ways phytochemicals work, both independently and with each other, to produce anti-cancer effects.

Researchers believe that one day phytochemicals will be used as powerful and precise tools in the fight against cancer but for the moment, our best health insurance is eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, including herbs and spices.

  • Cilantro, also known as coriander, is rich in coriandrol, a potent anticarcinogen. It is believed to help combat breast and liver cancers.
  • Mint contains limonene, a powerful anti-cancer agent that studies suggest can block the development of breast tumours and shrink them. Mint contains luteolin, which is also believed to fight breast cancer.
  • Basil boasts significant levels of antioxidant vitamins A and C. It is also considered an immune stimulant and cancer-protective. Mint, basil and parsley are all high in monoterpenes, which are thought to have cancer-delaying properties, especially with breast tumours.
  • Parsley is also high in coumarins, which are noted for their anti-coagulant and anti-bacterial properties. It is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with a reduced risk in liver cancer as well as age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in people over 65.

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