Ever try eating a salad without any dressing, or not quite enough dressing? It kind of sucks—unless you’re a rabbit, maybe—and only gets more depressing after every crunchy, slow bite. And while there are plenty of fatty dressings to drown your raw veggies, we all know that adding a ton of cheese and bacon bits is a good way to morph a salad into a calorie bomb.
Fortunately, there’s a way to have your delicious salad dressing and eat it too: Add some healthy oils to your salads, according to a new study.
The research, which was done at Iowa State University and appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that when 12 young adult females ate varying levels of soybean oil with their salad ingredients, their bodies could more easily absorb eight nutrients, including alpha and beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, and vitamin A. About 32g (or about 2Tbsp) of oil allowed for the maximum absorption of the nutrients—so while you don’t need to douse your greens in olive oil, sticking with that amount or less is perfectly fine.
One possible explanation? Some vitamins—notably A, D, E, and K—are fat-soluble, which means they prefer hanging out in oil rather than in water.
“The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption,” said Wendy White, Ph.D., an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at the university. Although researchers found that it worked in varying effectiveness depending on the person, “for most people, the oil is going to benefit nutrient absorption…the average trend, which was statistically significant, was for increased absorption.”