All Health's Breaking Loose: The skinny on ranch dressing

In the 1950s, owners of a dude ranch in Southern California came up with a new salad dressing to serve their guests. They called it ranch dressing and you know the rest of the story. Today it’s an empire, and pretty much anything that’s not nailed down has been dipped in it and consumed.

I recently saw teenagers at an eatery here on Foothill Boulevard dipping pizza into ranch dressing. Having just written that, you may be expecting an article about the fat content of the aforementioned snack, but I have bigger ranch-dipped fish to fry.

Let’s say the average Joe will put about four tablespoons of ranch dressing on a salad — the specially-designed wide mouth bottle is difficult to stop pouring, but we’ll assume it stops at 4 tablespoons and quantify that serving. That’s 280 calories, 260 of them from fat and about 520 grams of sodium — enough to drive up your bad cholesterol and blood pressure. There are other ingredients from the list of the 21 in the most popular brand that also are of great concern. Here are a few:

Soy bean oil — most often genetically modified, so it is not classified as a healthy oil.

Water — reduces costs and then needs to be “thickened” with other additives.

Egg yolk — but are they raw, cooked, pasteurized? Hmmm, doesn’t say. Pregnant women, children and elderly people should be very careful here.

Sugar — you may not want it on your salad, but it’s needed to round out the acidic tartness of the other ingredients. May raise our glycemic index while it adds calories.

Cultured nonfat buttermilk — more saturated fat.

Natural flavors — in the MSG family (though they aren’t telling us which ones.)

Xanthan gum — increase the viscosity of a liquid.

Modified food starch — a thickening agent and emulsifier that prevents oil and water from separating.

Monosodium glutamate — an addictive neurotoxin that stimulates hunger and increases appetite by acting on the hypothalamus. Exacerbates high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and many other illnesses treated with a glutamate blocker. Promotes tumor and cancer growth.

Artificial flavors — more MSG

Disodium phosphate — an emulsifier that increases shelf life.

Sorbic acid — a preservative which prevents the growth of mold, fungi and yeast.

Calcium disodium EDTA — a preservative known to cause blood in urine and kidney damage.

Sodium guanyilate and Disodium Inosinate — flavor enhancers akin to MSG that amp up the flavor so you taste it in your whole mouth, rather than just on your tongue. Not safe for babies under 12 weeks and people with gout and other illnesses.

I wonder if that nice couple from the dude ranch intended for it to get this toxic. Here’s a recipe that just might be pretty close to the one they came up with in the first place. If you are a “ranch lover,” you could avoid the potential damaging health risks of the commercial product by making this at home. There are dairy products in this recipe, so have this in small amounts.


Home-style Ranch Dressing

1 cup low-fat organic sour cream

½ cup buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoons very finely chopped, fresh parsley (or ½ tsp. dried)

1-½ teaspoons very finely chopped, fresh chives (or ½ tsp. dried)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried dill weed

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Blend together and keep refrigerated with a tight lid. The flavors need a few hours to blend together. It’s summertime. Go ahead and take a dip.

I’ll see you in two weeks.

Love & health,


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