At my local grocery store, salad dressings take up an entire side of one aisle. There are literally hundreds of possible choices on the shelf — all promising tasty convenience.
Which ones do you gravitate towards? The “heart-healthy” blends? The certified organic dressings?
In any case, many people love and enjoy Organicville Olive Oil & Balsamic Organic Vinaigrette. This week, I’m flipping that beautiful label over and looking at the back of the bottle. How do the ingredients in this salad dressing measure up?
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
The classic flavor you crave enhanced by the highest quality ingredients; flavorful expelled pressed extra virgin olive oil and the finest aged balsamic vinegar come together to compliment a fresh salad with a taste that is undeniably homemade. As always, our all organic dressing will satisfy your taste buds as well as your lifestyle.
All flavors are USDA certified organic, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and contain no added sugar.
Extra-virgin olive oil as the base? That’s one healthy, ancient oil! SCORE for Organicville! Aged balsamic vinegar? LOVE IT. Add in that it’s certified organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and has no added sugar and suddenly it seems like a great, convenient food.
Organicville Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette: Ingredients
- FILTERED WATER,
- ORGANIC EXPELLER PRESSED SOYBEAN OIL,
- ORGANIC BALSAMIC VINEGAR,
- ORGANIC RED WINE VINEGAR,
- ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL,
- ORGANIC AGAVE NECTAR,
- ORGANIC MINCED GARLIC,
- ORGANIC BLACK PEPPER,
- ORGANIC OREGANO,
- ORGANIC BASIL,
- ORGANIC MARJORAM,
- ORGANIC ROSEMARY EXTRACT,
- AND XANTHAN GUM (A NATURAL THICKENER).
Organicville Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette: DECODED
Filtered water needs little explanation. It is the first — and therefore, the most predominant — ingredient in this dressing. While there’s nothing wrong with this per sé, I do think it’s a bit sad. It means that this dressing is pandering to the low-fat dietary dogma our culture embraces. A homemade vinaigrette, for example, would never use water as an ingredient.
Next up: Organic Expeller-Pressed Soybean Oil. WAIT. WHAT?
Soybean oil? I thought this was an olive oil dressing! Why is the number two — and therefore, the second most predominant — ingredient soybean oil? Soybean oil, even the organic kind, is a no-go for lovers of real food. That’s because these industrially-produced oils are completely unnatural and new to the human diet:
You see, prior to the industrial revolution, making seed-based cooking oils was far too labor intensive and (in many cases) downright impossible. All the ancient cooking oils (like coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, etc.) are easily pressed out of the plant without needing extremely high-pressure or high-temperature extraction.
After the industrial revolution, we had the technology necessary to create modern seed-based cooking oils. So, we did.
But the process of making and refining these oils translates into one thing: rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs don’t hold up well to heat or pressure. The same is true for both organic canola and organic soy oil. Soybean oil is roughly 58% polyunsaturated fatty acids — nearly twice that of canola! So, in the process of being extracted from the seed, these oils oxidize and many of them plasticize (turn into trans fats). The end result is stinky and unappetizing, so the oil is further “cleaned” using bleach or alternative chemicals to deodorize it.
So, where exactly is the olive oil? It’s number five on the list — the least used ingredient other than a sweetener and spices.
And what is that sweetener doing there? I thought the manufacturer claimed there was “no added sugar.” Guess they don’t count organic agave nectar as sugar.
Organic Agave Nectar is a mixed bag, health wise. If it’s made according to traditional methods, it can be a good sweetener in moderation. But almost all agave nectar sold in the U.S. is not traditionally-made. Instead, it’s a refined sweetener that’s equally as processed as high-fructose corn syrup. In fact, it often contains far more concentrated fructose than high-fructose corn syrup! For more on that, read Agave Nectar, Good or Bad?.
Xanthan gum is the only other moderately questionable ingredient. It is used as a thickening agent in foods, and it is probably added to this dressing because they use so much water instead of oil. Of the gums (like guar gum), xanthan gum is by far one of the least problematic. It is popular in gluten-free flours as a binder, and seems to be safe in moderation. It is NOT recommended for young infants, as it may cause necrotizing entercolitis.
All the remaining ingredients seem straightforward enough, and need little explanation.
Organicville Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinaigrette: THE VERDICT
So, what should you use instead?
Of course, the best option is to make your own salad dressings. They’re surprisingly fast and easy to whip together immediately before serving a meal — particularly vinaigrettes. One of my favorites is this Hot Bacon Dressing. YUM!
What are your favorite homemade dressings?
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!