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!
Ha! The ingredients contain no added sugar. True – except that one ingredient IS sugar. Sneaky!
Nicole Handy says
I was at costco one day and one of the elderly employees that was giving samples was saying, “No added sugar” as he passed out little cups of juice. I looked at the label and noticed that the first ingredient was evaporated cane juice. I didn’t have the heart to tell him…
I know homemade is best, but sometimes that’s just not possible. I work 10 hour days and my husband often makes dinner and I know he won’t make homemade dressing. Is their ANY store bought dressing that isn’t horrible?
It takes about 3 minutes or less to make a nice vinaigrette and it can easily be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge. My teen daughters make most of ours these days. I make ranch and blue cheese, which take a little longer but not much. It’s mostly just a head trip, once you get past the false notion that it’s too time consuming it becomes as easy and fast as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Sadly, at least in my experience, the answer to your question is no, there really isn’t any store bought dressing that isn’t questionable at the very least. I have read a LOT of labels and I have yet to find ONE dressing that touts olive oil as its selling point that doesn’t use a cheap filler oil as well, usually in greater quantity.
I make a simple vinaigrette that literally takes 3 minutes but on days when I just don’t feel like it, I drizzle good olive oil on the salad, splash on some balsamic vinegar, hit it with salt, pepper, and maybe grate a little Parmesan on top, toss and voila! It takes hardly more time than finding and opening a bottle of junky dressing, especially if you leave off the cheese.
Tara Miller says
You don’t have to “make” dressing. Here’s what I do: put salad ingredients in bowl; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil; add a tablespoon of wine or apple cider vinegar and a small splash of good balsamic if you like; grind some pepper on top. Toss just before eating! It’s a delicious, dressed salad with ingredients you control and no fuss! Even a husband can do that! (Play around with the quantities of oil vs vinegar to find what suits your family best.) Have fun.
Patrick Dugan says
I started reading labels like this 7 years ago when I was in college and having health problems from a very unhealthy diet. I started compromising, saying “no” to Maltoxdextrin but “ok” to dextrose, and of course between guar and xantham gum I had to assume guar was probably ok, xantham seemed more alien. Over the years I did a lot more research; there are many layers of obfuscation hiding in the plain text demanded by current US food regulation.
It’s legal for one ingredient to pose under an umbrella name with loose standards, but it’s illegal for someone to sell a homemade pie and ship it across state lines.
Little Sis says
What’s really sad is that THAT dressing is leagues better than most. We gave up on manufactured dressing a long time ago and usually use a balsamic vinaigrette that we make with 3 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar and 1 part mustard, with a sprinkle of salt. I’ve also been known to sprinkle a little rice vinegar on my salad and call it done. I like the decoding – thanks for sharing. Folks could save a lot of money and eat a lot better if they skip the dressing section of the store altogether.
Great decoding – thanks!
Yeah, reading labels is so disappointing isn’t it??? Things are never as they seem! Thanks for this post…so many people just don’t think to question something especially if it says “organic” or they purchase it in a “health food store”!
Even before I discovered traditional way of eating, I never liked any salad dressing you could buy at the store so I have always made my own.
Whenever we have spring mixed green salads with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, I make balsamic vinaigrette dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and raw honey. If we have romaine, red leaf and pine nut salad, dressing made with lemon, olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and raw honey goes really well together.
So glad you brought attention to this misleading labeling and decoding! It has been years since I bought store bought dressings but every once in a while I pick up something that looks particularly interesting or promising and flip it around to read the ingredients. Disappointment. Every time. With a steep price tag to boot.
This is very helpful!!,tho I have a question on Heavy cream containers where it says,”no added hormones added,absolutely not.” does that mean the cows were not injected? or that after milking and separating the milk from cream ,that the cream has NO ADDED HORMONES???? Please help here.. thanks for consumer decoding!!!
It depends. The only clear phrasing is “animals raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.”
Anything else requires the clarification of the manufacturer. So, I’d contact the company to find out.
I’m so glad I found your website!
I’m also happy to see that you rejected this salad dressing-as you said salad dressings are SO easy to make at home and they are cheaper than store bought too! I recently converted to ALL whole foods-I have always eaten “healthfully” but I recently said goodbye to ALL processed foods and ingredients I can’t pronounce! Your website is a great resource for me-thank you!
Easy Ranch (all ingredients to taste):
Haines Safflower Mayo
Whole Milk Yogurt
salt and pepper
Stir and store in fridge.
Great article exposing the linguistic trickery of megaCorp USA.
Very helpful post! I was just wondering about soybean oil two days ago! I didnt understand why it was being used in a product I purchased. So would the same heat/rancid process count for sunflower seed oil as well? My assumption based on the post above is yes, because it’s a seed oil. Is that correct? Thank you.
Made me chuckle, was wanting easy dressing for a quick dinner (I admit it. I was missing the taste of te dressings I used to buy) I picked up this exact same brand & bottle thinking “surely this will be alright!” When my hubs saw my face he said “It has soybean oil, doesn’t it?” Evidently, I have a “soy-horror face” and he knows it when he sees it!
LOL! I have a soy-horror face, too. 😉
Seriously?! Buying this or any product similar in nature is the optimity of lazy…. it’s 1 cup of olive oil to 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Add in some oregano, thyme, salt & pepper if you’re really adventurous.
Thank you so much for your very informative posts! I’ve made the change to eating wholesome food and reading labels on all food products that I purchase, beginning last November. It can be incredibly misleading and I have found that Food Renegade has been a most helpful source for me. You were my first addition on FB and I look forward to your updates! Making our own salad dressings sounds like the way to go. I also enjoy the comments from your readers. Great feedback from everyone! It is very helpful! Thanks again 🙂
Thanks for the kind words.
Kathleen Lisle says
If olive oil is so good for us, WHY does Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Heart Clinic say NO OIL!!! Check the you tube video of him saying NO OIL!!! as well as his talks on heart disease, also very good, & on you tube. Dr. Jeff Novick is also on you tube & he says olive oil isn’t health food, it’s sick food. And there are also you tube videos that tell of olive oil being adulterated, faked, counterfeited, being replaced with cheaper oils & sold as extra virgin olive oil. I prefer to follow Drs. Esselstyn & Novick & use NO OIL!!!!
I honestly don’t care what any doctor says. Nutrition science is a YOUNG science. Michael Pollan has said that it’s basically “where surgery was in 1690.” I agree.
In my own lifetime I have seen several major flip-flops in conventional nutritional advice. I’ve seen saturated fat demonized, carbs demonized, and protein demonized. I’ve also seen it all praised.
The key? BOTH the vilification AND the praise has come in the form of the latest nutritional study or scientific discovery.
How can I trust my health to a science that is so young and new, that vacillates so wildly between conflicting information? How can I trust the study that says butter causes heart attacks when, just 6 months before, they released a study showing butter prevents strokes?
Rather than trusting what these so-called authorities preach, I’ve decided to trust in the wisdom of my ancestors and the weight of tradition.
I recommend reading my The Basics page for more on this.
And also, while your comments ARE welcome, please tone them down just a little bit? They’re a bit heavy on the exclamation marks, which makes it sound like you’re yelling at us.
Please read my Comment Policy for more.
Kathleen Lisle says
OMG!!! I was looking for a product on your resources page, & found a link for the Weston A. Price Foundation. All the foods that cause & feed cancers, cause diabetes, heart disease & obesity are listed there as good for us, meaning meat, dairy, fats, & oils. The clip by Dr. Esselstyn is: “No Oil–Not Even Olive Oil!” Dr. E also has a talk on you tube: “Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof”. As for diets, Dr. John McDougall has a talk on you tube: “The Diet Wars”. Of special interest to you should be the you tube clip: “Fake Obesity Experts” & also: “Jimmy Moore- Low Carb Guru Update!” The last two clips show the difference in meat eaters & non meat & dairy eaters. If Dr. Atkins diet is so good, why did he die 60 lbs. overweight, of a heart attack??? You need to do a lot more research & become better informed. Dr. McDougall’s talk: “The Diet Wars” explains it all clearly. I hope you have an open mind & start really looking at ALL sides of nutrition.
I’m not sure what this comment is referring to. Why are you bringing up Dr. Atkins in a post about understanding the label on a bottle of organic salad dressing? What does low-carb anything have to do with this post, or the Weston A Price Foundation for that matter?
I just don’t understand your point. If I see any more off-topic responses like this, I may be forced to assume you’re leaving spam comments and remove them from the site.
Please do try to stay on topic and help foster intelligent dialog that’s relevant to the blog posts at hand. Thanks!
If the foods listed on the Weston A. Price Foundation website cause the diseases that you list, then our species wouldn’t be here today. It is you who needs to do some research – maybe try something other than YouTube for your information.
By the way, Atkins did not die from a heart attack. Cause of death was blunt impact injury to the head with epidural hematoma which happened when he slipped on ice, fell and hit his head.
Debrah Roemisch says
If refrigerated how far ahead do you think it is ok to make homemade dressing? I use olive oil and rice vinegar or lemon (I am allergic to balsamic) and use dried spices –but fresh in the summer which I am most concerned about being a problem. Also someone earlier mentioned using Hain mayonaise to make dressing–that is with safflower oil which is not good! I make a creamy dressing with sour cream and plain yogurt (free rangor organic of course) with onion powder and other spices which is good for those who like creamy!
Li Li says
I wholeheartedly agree with the rejection slip, but I did want to say that when I whip up a largish batch of dressing I tend to use dry aromatics and blends from Spice Hound or Penzeys rather than using fresh raw ones. I have one killer dressing recipe that uses Sunny Paris blend, for example, and it needs water to reconstitute the dry herbs in it. I also find straight vinegar, especially white wine or red wine to be too strong and overpowering, so I do add water. Not a lot, maybe one or two tablespoons to a half cup vinegar. My dressings are never watery tasting, either. I have several that have strawberry balsamic or champagne vinegars that are not edible with a small amount of dilution. Havent bought store bought mayo or dressing in several years, eat a raw egg mayo nearly daily and am not dead yet. I did put some xanthan gum in a really watery ranch type dressing and it made it like mucous. Gross. I used a bit of milk in it instead of sourcream since I was out of the latter. Not good. It was like, well snot. Gums are tricky things I guess.
We came across a commercial brand of salad dressings called “Tessamae’s” one day when a rep was doing a tasting demo at Whole Paycheck. They are fantastic, not only in taste, but in ingredients. Here’s their ingredient list for their Balsamic – Olive Oil, Organic Balsamic Vinegar, Organic Lemons, Organic Garlic, Mustard (filtered water, spices) and Sea Salt. (although it would be even better if that were organic EVOO – may be worth asking about). http://www.tessamaes.com
We haven’t purchased bottled salad dressings for years! It’s easy peasy to pour olive oil and vinegar into a jar and shake…add herbs, mustard, a bit of raw honey, lemon juice, etc for some flare and you’re good to go. On days when I’m super pressed for time I just drizzle the oil & vinegar directly onto the salad…zero prep. Experimenting with different flavored olive oils and vinegars is a nice way to add variety too!
I’m a nutritionist (in a naturopathic practice) and patients usually freak out when I recommend avoiding bottled dressings…but they are later thrilled with the $ savings at the grocery and of course better taste.
Thanks for the great article! I have a few folks I will be sharing this with… 🙂
The Gourmet Grocer says
What a revelation about over-the-counter salad dressing. Great decoding! Thanks!
Kristen, you are a classy lady and handled the “exclamation commentor” perfectly. I too struggle with store salad dressings. I have been partial to “Newmans” because of the taste of most of their dressings. I’ve found a dill dip, and it could be considered a dressing if thinned out. My passion for dips/dressings comes from me doing almost anything to get my kiddos to eat raw veges – broccoli especially. I have found when my depression really flares up that a few pieces of broccoli and DIP helps and works to dissipate the negativity within hours. I found this on accident with my children. It wasn’t depression for them, rather mean and negative attitudes went away after the broccoli and dip. Now, I require broccoli and dip usually every day for my children and myself. The recipe has a couple of things that could border on questionable, but I’m going for the end result which is getting broccoli more palatable for consumption. The recipe: 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonaisse, 1 TBSP dill, 1/2 TBSP onion powder, 1/8 Tsp dry mustard, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp sugar and if I have it on hand, I’ll add 1/2 TBSP parsley and 1 tsp minced green onion.