Phytonutrient-Rich Dressings to Make Any Salad Even Healthier

While any salad dressing adds a bit of moisture and palatability to a vegetable medley, the right dressing is a game changer. In fact, these four phytonutrient-rich dressings will not only give your salad a distinct flair, they will take the nutrition quotient to 11! 

How can phytonutrient-rich dressings make a salad even healthier?

First, fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as many phytonutrients need fat for absorption. So, you’ll get more nutrition out of your carrots and sweet potatoes (vitamin A), mushrooms (vitamin D), nuts and seeds (vitamin E), greens and broccoli (vitamin K). That is why friends don’t let friends use fat-free salad dressing!

Second, adding herbs and spices will significantly increase the antioxidant power of your salad to ward off inflammation-causing free radicals. A little goes a long way. For most herbs, simply go by taste and add the amount that tastes right to you. Consistency is more important than the quantity. 

Four East To Make Phytonutrient-Rich Dressings

Following are the four salad dressings I use most. Use these for inspiration and create your own. Stick with a basic 3:1 ratio of oil (unrefined, expeller-pressed, or ideally cold-pressed) to vinegar and add about 10% flavorings, such as mustard, herbs, garlic, citrus, etc. and salt and pepper to taste. 

Turmeric Tahini Anti-Inflammatory Dressing

Bring turmeric into your daily cooking with this bright and versatile dressing. Pour it over cooked fish, grain bowls, soba noodles, and vegetables. 

  • How will it make your salad healthier? With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant super-twins, turmeric and ginger, healthy gut bacteria-rich miso and alkalizing sesame in tahini, this dressing will boost the health quotient of almost any meal!
  • Variations: 
    • Sweetness: New to turmeric? Some people find turmeric a bit bitter, especially the powdered form (rather than the fresh root). If so, add a few teaspoons of local honey.
    • No tahini? If you don’t have tahini, substitute with hummus

Crucifer-Powered Balsamic Mustard Vinaigrette

Don’t love raw crucifers? Not a problem. This is not just a tasty salad dressing recipe. Rather, it is also a clever recipe for the wonder compound, sulforaphane, giving you the health benefits of raw cruciferous vegetables, even when cooked. Now that is kitchen alchemy! Keep this dressing on hand and drizzle over steamed broccoli, cabbage or other crucifers as well as salads. If you’re a balsamic vinaigrette fan, it’s time to upgrade!

How will it make your salad healthier? This star ingredient for this dressing is mustard seed powder. Mustard seed powder is a source of myrosinase, the heat-sensitive enzyme required for many of the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables.

  • Variations: 
    • DIY: Make any dressing a sulforaphane-maker by adding some mustard seed powder. Or, simply sprinkle on any cooked cruciferous vegetables to get the same health benefits as when eaten raw.
    • Vinegar:  I have tried this recipe with apple cider vinegar, but prefer making it with balsamic vinegar. 
  • Image: Top middle

Creamy Horseradish Dressing 

Thanks to a little silken tofu, this dressing is as creamy as a ranch dressing but far healthier. It also adds a small amount of protein, giving your vegetable dish or salad a little more staying power.  

How will it make your salad healthier? The star ingredient here is freshly grated horseradish. Like mustard seed powder, raw horseradish is also a member of the crucifer family. As such, it is a source of the enzyme needed for sulforaphane, giving you the health benefits of raw cruciferous vegetables, even when cooked. You can find fresh horseradish in the produce aisle of many grocery stores.

  • Variations: 
    • Thickener: To make the dressing with a thicker consistency, squeeze out any extra water from the tofu before blending.
    • Alternate milk:  Substitute the soy milk with any other dairy or dairy alternative.
  • Image: Top right

Lemon-Cilantro Vinaigrette 

With ample lemon juice and just the right amount of salt, this dressing is light enough to work well on delicate greens or can be used to tenderize sturdier greens, such as kale. No need to massage it in. Just toss the dressing with chopped kale and let it rest for about 10 minutes, then add other salad ingredients.

How will it make your salad healthier? The star ingredient here is cilantro. Cilantro is known for its antimicrobial, cholesterol-lowering, and anti-inflammatory effects as well as an effective heavy metal detoxifier. And with plenty of fresh lemon juice, this flavonoid-rich dressing will not only provide alkalizing benefits but will also help stimulate digestive juices. 

  • Variations: 
    • Don’t love cilantro? Substitute with parsley, mint or a combination.
    • Citrus: Substitute with lime juice, if preferred.


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