How healthy is your salad dressing?

Susan M Fluegel, PhD

As a nutritional biochemist, I get asked about salad dressings all the time. Most people know that green salads are healthy and they want me to recommend a good salad dressing. Sadly, most commercial salad dressings are highly processed and contain added sugars, fillers, starches, preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. In addition, many all-natural dressings contain common allergens like soy, wheat, dairy and eggs which aren’t suitable for some people. After looking at the available options, I came to the conclusion that the only way to get a healthy salad dressing was to develop it myself.

I worked with Simply Free to create a delicious and nutritious salad dressing. We wanted to develop a plant-based natural great tasting salad dressing that was free of added sugars, artificial ingredients and unnecessary allergens. Our main goal was to develop a salad dressing as nourishing and delicious as the salad it was poured on.

Our Simply Free Plant Powered Wellness Dressings contain real plant-based whole food ingredients:

  • Gluten free oat milk
  • Lots of real herbs and spices
  • Cold pressed virgin chia seed oil
  • 1000 mg Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

What we leave out is just as important as what we put in our salad dressings:

  • No added sugars
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No cheap refined soy, canola and corn vegetable oils
  • No added fillers or starches
  • No common allergens like soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts
  • No artificial preservatives, flavors or colors
  • No MSG
  • No GMOs

Our salad dressings are all vegetarian, vegan and kosher. We list all the ingredients including spices so you don’t have to wonder if something you are allergic to is hidden under the term spices.

Why did I develop Simply Free salad dressings?

Like many people, I like to eat nutritious salads but was unhappy with my dressing choices. Most grocery store salad dressings are full of added sugars, cheap oils, starches, artificial flavors and processed ingredients. I didn’t want to dump that junk on my salad.

So, when Simply Free asked me to work with them to develop a healthy salad dressing I told them it was a great idea. We decided to include both traditional American salad dressing flavors as well as some tasty Middle Eastern flavors so that people could choose from a wide variety of tastes. With this input, we created a flavorful line of plant-based nutritious salad dressings.

I wanted an all-natural healthy salad dressing that coated the salad without being too thick for pouring. It needed to have great tasting high quality whole food ingredients. The dressing had to have good fat so that people could absorb all the healthy nutrients from their greens. Most importantly, it had to taste good without relying on added sugars, chemical flavor enhancers or artificial flavors.

We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy our salad dressings so we made them plant-based without common allergens like soy, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts or dairy. That way all the people at your table; vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike; can enjoy a great salad dressing together.

Using these guidelines, I created a natural salad dressing base with healthy wholesome ingredients. Once I had created a line of flavors I sent samples to Simply Free for their input. Simply Free is headquartered in New York and I live in Idaho, so we shipped salad dressings back and forth across the country to get just the right combination of American bold flavor and middle Eastern authenticity.

As a nutritional biochemist, I know that what you eat effects your health and energy. It makes sense to select a salad dressing that enhances your health. I didn’t just create Simply Free salad dressings for your family, I also make these salad dressings for my family.

Salad dressing questions

What are common unhealthy salad dressing ingredients?

Many commercial salad dressings contain added sugars, fillers, thickeners, starches, omega-6 vegetable oils (corn, soy and canola), preservatives like potassium sorbate, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. Do you want that on your salad?

Why are added sugars bad in salad dressings?

Added sugars add calories without adding nutrients. In addition, added sugars have been strongly linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders (Hu 2013, Yang et al. 2014, Rodríguez et al. 2016).

Would you pour table sugar on your salad greens? 73% of salad dressings contain added sugars such as table sugar and corn syrup (Ng et al. 2012). Some salad dressings have more sugar than chocolate syrup!

Why did Simply Free avoid common food allergens in their salad dressings?

It can be hard to keep track of everyone’s dietary needs. We wanted to make salad dressings that could be shared by everyone at the table without worrying about common allergens.

Why is it important to choose no added sugars salad dressings and other products for children?

It is best for kids’ health. Reducing added sugars from 28% to 10% of the diet improves children’s metabolic health in just ten days (Lustig et al. 2016).

Why should you use a full fat salad dressing?

Salad dressings should contain fat so you can use the nutrients from your vegetables and leafy greens. Vitamin A, vitamin D, lycopene, carotenoids and other beneficial plant phytochemicals need to be eaten with fat to be absorbed by the body.

You will not absorb these nutrients with a zero-fat or low-fat dressing. Research has shown that you need a full fat dressing to absorb the maximum nutrition from your vegetables and greens (Brown et al. 2004, Unlu et al. 2005, White et al. 2017). Don’t waste the nutrients from your healthy salad by using low-fat dressings.

Why do we use healthy omega-3 ALA?

We use healthy cold pressed virgin chia oil which contains beneficial omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA helps support cardiovascular and skin health.


  • Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, Cooper DA, Eldridge AL, Schwartz SJ, White WS. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr 2004; 80:396-403.
  • Hu FB. Resolved: There is sufficient scientific evidence that decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption will reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 2013;14(8):606-619. doi:10.1111/obr.12040.
  • Lustig RH, Mulligan K, Noworolski SM, Tai VW, Wen MJ, Erkin-Cakmak A, Gugliucci A, Schwarz J-M. Isocaloric fructose restriction and metabolic improvement in children with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Obesity. 2016; 24: 453–460. doi:10.1002/oby.21371
  • Rodríguez L, Madsen K, Cotterman C, Lustig R. Added sugar intake and metabolic syndrome in US adolescents: Cross-sectional analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2012. Public Health Nutrition. 2016;19(13):2424-2434. doi:10.1017/S1368980016000057
  • Ng, SW, Slining MM, Popkin BM. (2012). Use of caloric and noncaloric sweeteners in US consumer packaged foods, 2005-2009. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2012;112(11):1828-1834. e1821-1826.
  • White WS, Zhou Y, Crane A, Dixon P, Quadt F, Flendrig LM. Modeling the dose effects of soybean oil in salad dressing on carotenoid and fat-soluble vitamin bioavailability in salad vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Oct;106(4):1041-1051. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.153635.
  • Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005;135(3):431-6.
  • Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516–524. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563