The vegetables in salads are chock-full of important vitamins and nutrients, but you won't get much benefit without the right type and amount of salad dressing, a Purdue University study shows.

In a human trial, researchers fed subjects salads topped with saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat-based dressings and tested their blood for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids – compounds such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. Those carotenoids are associated with reduced risk of several chronic and degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.

The study, published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, found that monounsaturated fat-rich dressings required the least amount of fat to get the most carotenoid absorption, while saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit.

"If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings," said Mario Ferruzzi, the study's lead author and a Purdue associate professor of food science. "If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there is a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables."

Read more from Purdue University.

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