Oil and vinegar are the healthiest options to use for salad dressing because the fat and calories in creamy and commercially made dressings can negate the health benefits you derive from eating a big bowl of greens and vegetables. Eating salads is a vital component of most weight-loss diets. Fresh vegetables found in salads contain soluble and insoluble fiber that are healthy for the digestive tract, reduce your risk for developing heart disease and help you remain full without adding calories, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
The body needs fat nutrients to ensure proper organ function and to build fatty tissue to keep you warm. At the same time, too much fat can result in obesity and clogged arteries leading to a host of diseases. Vegetable, canola, sunflower, peanut and olive oils provide healthy unsaturated fats that can help to lower cholesterol levels. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, about 30 percent of your daily calories should come from the healthy fats found in oils that can be drizzled on salads with vinegar.
Of the nearly 120 calories in a tablespoon of olive oil, about 13.5 grams are from fat. Less than 2 grams of those calories are from saturated fat, however, with the remainder from monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats. One tablespoon of canola oil has close to 14 grams of fat, but has fewer than 1 gram of unhealthy saturated fat.
Most vinegar has about 3 calories per tablespoon and virtually no fat, according to the Vinegar Institute. Seasoned vinegar may have slightly higher counts depending on the ingredients. Olive, peanut and canola oil commonly used with vinegar on salads average about 120 calories per tablespoon.
Oil and vinegar have no cholesterol and are carbohydrate-free. There is no protein in oil or vinegar and very few other nutrients. The combination typically is used for its healthy fat source and for flavoring. Flavored vinegars, balsamic vinegar and red-wine vinegar can provide enough flavor to your salads and other menus to replace added salt, which can elevate your blood pressure.
As the health benefits of oil and vinegar far outweigh the unhealthy options provided by other forms of salad dressings, a vast market has opened up with new and inviting flavors added to vinegar and oils. According to the Vinegar Institute, vinegar comes in raspberry, as well as herb-infused flavors ranging from garlic and basil to cinnamon and cloves. Olive oils also fill the grocery aisles with new flavors, such as porcini mushroom and lemon.