Salad Dressing: The Silent Killer

By | June 1, 2008 at 6:50 pm | 36 comments | Nutrition | Tags: , , , ,

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Yes, salad dressing. You never suspected a thing did you? But if your switch from plate lunches to salads hasn’t helped you loose weight/lower your blood sugar/lower your triglycerides, it’s because you are pouring deadly trans fat onto those crispy, vitamin-rich greens.

The other secret ingredient in many salad dressings is sugar. Why do you want to pour sugar on vegetables? Yuck.

Store bought salad dressings are almost never made of olive oil, even the ones that say “So and So’s organic Olive oil dressing.” Bologna. Turn the bottle around and look at the ingredients, there may be some olive oil, but with olive oil costing ten times as much as the other, cheaper oils, you can bet there’s not very much.

Refining Oils Makes Them Bad For You

Most salad dressings contain “one or more of the following:” canola, corn oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, cottonseed oil, or the catch-all “vegetable oil.” All of these oils are bad for us. Not because corn or sunflower seeds are bad for us (though I wouldn’t advise eating cottonseeds), but because the manufacturing steps required to extract the oil from the seed and refine it so that it looks clean and edible turn the molecules of oil fat (called polyunsaturated fat) into mutant fats that include trans fat and other compounds that are worse for us than trans fat!

Why Butter is Better (And olive oil, and peanut oil….)

PUFAs oxidize in the factory during refining, creating from 2-5% trans and other distorted, toxic fats. (See Chapter 7 of Deep Nutrition) When you cook with them, more trans fats form, thanks to a process called the Free-Radical cascade. All biochemistry professors understand this, however too few health professionals have any clue about the health hazards associated with consumption of refined vegetable oils.

Preventing Vitamin and Nutrient Loss


Even worse, if you eat store bought salad dressing, you may as well be throwing the salad right down the toilet. When your body detects high levels of polyunsaturated fat it stops the normal process of digesting fats in its tracks. This is why you may have heard polyunsaturated fats “lower cholesterol.” They actually prevent your body from absorbing all kinds of fats, including cholesterol, but also fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K, as well as other nutrients like lecithin, phospholipids, and choline – all of which your body and especially your brain require to be healthy. If you want those vitamins to enter your body, you must consume them with a very special fat: Saturated fat!! Of all things, saturated fat…the very fat the AHA, the ADA, the AMA, and most doctors on the planet tell us all to avoid. Monounsaturated fat, which olive and peanut oils contain in abundance, also helps aid nutrient digestion.

Make Your Own Dressing: It’s Super Easy!!

If you like salad, made your own salad dressing. All you need is:

a) olive oil
b) balsalmic vinegar (or your favorite vinegar)
c) hands

What could be easier than pouring two bottles of fluid over a bowl of salad? OK pouring one bottle would be easier. So if you are serious about salad, combine the two fluids in a container of some sort that you can store in the fridge. Here’s a short video to show you what it looks like.

Rouxbe Online Cooking School & Video Recipes

I like their advice about the choice to use bold flavored oil versus the less-bold flavors, and would suggest that if you want a less-bold flavor profile, use a light olive oil rather than the safflower shown since safflower is one of the PUFA rich oils that you want to avoid because it contains secret trans fat, AKA toxic MegaTrans (See Chapter 9, Deep Nutrition).

If you don’t have the fancy bottles they’ve got, use an old jelly jar.

As the video says, the typical ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1, meaning use 3 times as much olive oil as vinegar, but alot of people play with that. Of course, in addition to adding a pinch or two of salt, you could add a few drops of lemon, and if you’re really motivated, some fresh chopped garlic, will make it even tastier, and better for you. (Salt helps your body emulsify the fats with vitamins, and garlic is full of antioxidants.)

Here’s some more Dr. Cate approved recipes:

Start ‘em easy: Basic Vinagrette
1/2 C olive oil
shy 1/4 C red wine vinegar OR rice vinegar
1 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp each oregano, thyme and mustard powder
1/4 tsp each black pepper and garlic powder
dash of cayenne and Salt

Shake, chill and serve.

Easy Dijon Vinagrette-prepare one night ahead
1/2 C olive oil
2 T each plain non-fat yoghurt, lemon juice and red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp each garlic powder, sage, thyme, basil and oregano

Combine in a blender at medium-high speed. Chill overnight before serving.

Now for the more committed: Not On The First Date Olive Oil Dressing
1/2 C olive oil
shy 1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 medium shallot, minced, or 2 T red onion, minced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp McCormick’s Spicy blend, or other general purpose spice blend
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt

Combine in blender at top speed for about a minute, so that all of the onion or shallot is reduced. The result should be a creamy pink dressing. Chill overnight in refrigerator. The result is a mild, oniony dressing with a slightly sweet edge.

Southwestern Vinagrette
1/2 C olive oil
shy 1/4 C white or rice wine vinegar
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cilantro
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin

Shake, chill and serve. If you generally top your salad with cheese, pair this dressing with a mild cotija or colby. Avoid sharp or bitter cheeses such as bleu and feta.

Basil Sesame Dressing

1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 T rice wine vinegar
1 T lemon juice
2 T asiago or the cheese of your choice
1/2 tsp dried basil
2-4 leaves of fresh basil
2 T chopped Italian or regular parsley
1/2 C olive oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine in blender until thoroughly mixed. Chill and serve with a green salad. It’s a spooky color but tastes great.

Cilantro-Lime Vinagrette
1/2 C olive oil
2 T plain yoghurt
2 T lemon juice
2 T rice vinegar
1/4 C fresh, shreaded cilantro leaves, tightly packed
1/4 tsp each garlic powder, thyme and black pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
a squeeze of fresh lime juice – about a quarter lime

Combine in a blender until fully mixed. Chill and serve. I always see those cilantro leaves wilting in Sueoka store in Koloa. Please, come and get um before they wilt or the store will stop carrying them!!!

Jeanne Martin’s Perfect Buttermilk-Dill Dressing

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3/4 tsp onion powder

3/4 tsp dried onion flakes

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Whisk buttermilk and mayo until smooth. Add everything else, whisk to combine and serve.

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36 Comments

  1. Advantages of Breastfeeding: Formula Contains Aluminum! - Primal Docs (7 months ago)

    [...] Another toxin in formula are the trans fats. I discuss the hazards of trans fat from soy and/or Canola oils, both often used as the source of essential fat in infant formula, in Chapter 8 of Deep Nutrition. For information on why these harmful fats are never revealed on infant formula, read this post. And to make sure your healthy dinner salad won’t contaminate your own breastmilk wil trans fat, click here. [...]

  2. Dawn (1 year ago)

    Not sure if this was mentioned in an earlier post, but what about peanut oil?

    • Dr. Cate (1 year ago)

      Please do a word search on this post’s page and the comments for “peanut.”

  3. Is Your Salad Dressing Killing Your Weight Loss? » DrAxe.com (1 year ago)

    [...] Sources: Cate Shanahan, MD, “Salad Dressing: The Silent Killer,” Dr. Cate.com, June 1, 2008,  http://drcate.com/salad-dressing-the-silent-killer/ [...]

  4. Honey Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing - Injoymint.com (1 year ago)

    [...] Everyone has their favorite salad dressing, but you will love the Honey Vinaigrette dressing recipe. The problem with salad dressings in the supermarket is they contain refined oils such as vegetable oil and canola oil (also known as rapeseed oil), inorganic vinegar, corn (maltodextrin), and preservatives. These items can turn a healthy salad into your worst nightmare. So many people associate salads with weight loss and a healthy way of life, but if you are not careful, the dressing you use can cancel out your efforts to have a healthy meal. For more information on how salad dressings can be unhealthy click here [...]

  5. Brina Anderson (1 year ago)

    I have just read through this whole thread and I want to thank you, Doctor Cate, for bringing my attention to this. From now on I will be making my own salad dressings. I looked at the mayo and salad dressings in my pantry and fridge and there were all the oils you’ve warned us about. My only question is how do I make a nice mayonnaise? I tried a recipe once with olive oil and it was horrible – any suggestions anyone?

  6. Evelyn (1 year ago)

    Hello!

    Just saw this posting. I enjoy tofu and buy Wildwood’s organic and sprouted tofu. What is your opinion on that? That is the only way I will eat tofu, but I’m still unsure.

  7. Heide (1 year ago)

    Wow…information overload. Very informative thou about salad dressings. I am a dressing junkie, blue cheese & ranch being my biggest weakness. I also enjoy a good honey mustard too as a dressing and as a dip for chicken, raw veggies, etc. Would love a healthy recipe for any or all of those:) My question is if we enjoy a lot of Mexican food, when cooking corn tortillas what is a good oil to use?

  8. Jim Kling (1 year ago)

    Rachel, I’ll give my 2 cents. I avoid soy and minimize grains in general. Soy is bad because, like the other commodity crop grains, it contributes to carbohydrate overload, and it has anti-nutrients and irritants. I’d also add that the vast majority of soy is GMO, the long-term effects of which are still being parsed, and it’s also treated with neonicotinoids (pesticides similar to nicotine), which are now turning up in tests on humans. In fact, most of the commodity grains and industrial oils Dr. Cate (and others such as Primal/paleo folks) eschew eliminate the problems of excess carb and irritants, and also GMO/nicotinoid issues: wheat, corn, soy, rice, cottonseed oil, canola oil, and sugar beets.

    That said, I don’t think a small amount of soy sauce should be terribly problematic, if used occasionally. Dr. Cate can certainly counter that opinion, but I buy tamari (basically, soy sauce without any wheat), and look for naturally brewed (fermented) brands like Eden. For a tablespoon of tamari going into a fish marinade, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Eden also makes organic, fermented shoyu (soy sauce), but tamari is indistinguishable IMO. There are other organics (San-J), but not sure if they ferment.

  9. Rachel (1 year ago)

    In your book “Deep Nutrition” you talked about modern soy (non-fermented) being bad such as tofu… I was wondering if soy sauce is OK or not. If so would you recommend any brand? Thanks.

    • Dr. Cate (1 year ago)

      The issue with industrial tofu is not that its bad per se, just that it’s not any healthier than something like skinless boneless chicken breast and fermented tofu is preferable if you can find and afford it. Fermented soy sauces are fine! We look for Kikkoman, Yamase, and any bottle that says “fermented” or “traditionally produced” and does NOT say the word hydrolyzed anywhere.

  10. Jim Kling (1 year ago)

    Don’t forget the good old Caesar dressing with some nice Romaine leaves, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, anchovies if you like ‘em, and… well, instead of croutons I just add avocado. Egg yolk, mashed anchovies, minced garlic, lemon juice, S&P, whisk in EVOO, good aged grated Parm.

    WRT the buttermilk recipe above, why not sub a good full-fat sour cream for the mayo? Adds creaminess and tang. Daisy brand is good, no junk added.

  11. Jim Kling (1 year ago)

    The basic Dijon dressing is endlessly variable. I add whatever garden herbs I fancy, but a favorite is tarragon. (Tarragon mustard is a great thing to have if you don’t have fresh tarragon.) Sometimes I’ll also add an egg yolk (fresh farm eggs from real claws in the pasture birds!) for creaminess – doesn’t even need to be refrigerated.

  12. Margarete (2 years ago)

    Pls let me know if cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is ok for salads?

    • Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

      I like to use information on source and tradition to help answer questions of whether a given ingredient is good or bad.
      Source issues: Organic? From good soil (this one is hard to assess but sometimes they talk about having the product in the family for generations, that’s a good sign)
      Tradition: Olive oil is a traditional food. Cold pressing is a traditional process. (So far so good) The last bit is filtering. Unfiltered olive oil is a sign of gentler treatment and therefore higher quality.

  13. Francesca (2 years ago)

    Hi Dr. Cate.

    I’m wondering why peanut oil is ok. I thought it is bleached and deodorized like the other vegetable oils. I usually deep fry in peanut oil but I remember buying from an Asian store one time and I was surprised by the intense peanut smell…so surely that oil was less processed.
    This must feel strange for Americans but I come from Apulia, the biggest producer of olive oil in Italy and I tell you that my grandmother used to cook and deep fry in extra virgin olive oil.

    • Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

      The nose knows!
      Peanut oil is lower in PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) than the vegetable oils. PUFAs are the most damaged by processing so PUFA means less “cleanup” (bleaching etc.). Chapter 8 of Deep Nutrition covers good fats and bad.

      • Dimitry (1 year ago)

        Hi Dr. Cate,

        Just finished your Deep Nutrition – excellent book!

        Peanul oil is lower in PUFA, but it’s still quite high – especially given it’s often used for high temperature cooking due to its high smoke point.

        Is it that safe to use, taking into account the above and general Omega-6 disbalance in our food?

  14. Mikki Coburn (2 years ago)

    Hi Dr. Cate! I just shared this post about salad dressings with my local WAPF chapter and this question came up which you being a doctor would know. I certainly don’t! Is there any danger to getting botulism from raw garlic with the root end attached if there happens to be some soil contaminated with it? A person asked me this and was worried when he heard about a jar of garlic oil exploding when opened. He wanted to know if adding vinegar kills bacteria, which I know it does if enough is used, but I think he’s asking about making dressing with it and I do see you use only garlic powder not fresh and this might have prompted his question. Thanks if you can help me out. Mikki

    • Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

      HI Mikki
      If you and are talking about making a fresh batch of oil with garlic, there is no risk of botulism whatsoever. Bacteria that produce botulism toxin are not pathogenic to humans, it is ONLY the toxin that they produce that harms us. This toxin can be produced in appreciable amounts under anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions that are not met in either a clove of garlic or inside our intestines.

      HOWEVER, if you are talking about making dressing by doing a garlic infusion in oil where the garlic sits there for a while, then that’s an entirely different matter.

      Yes there can be growth of enough botulism bacteria to create gas (that should be visible as bubbles or detectible as a fizz with opening the bottle) and a dangerous dose of botulism toxin.

      As to the effect of acid: While the acid in the vinegar would prevent the growth of botulism bacteria in a garlic vinegar infusion, the vinegar would not be miscible with the olive oil and therefore would not lower the Ph of the oil enough to prevent the bacteria’s growth.

      Bottom line:
      Garlic vinegar infusion: low pH, not anaerobic, likely very safe
      Garlic oil infusion: higher pH, potentially anaerobic, likely very unsafe

  15. Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

    Patsy

    Jeanne was hit by a 5 day power outage right after I asked her for her recipe. She’s rebounded and has kindly supplied the secret formula for perfect buttermilk dill dressing to us, which I added to the post above. Thanks, Jeanne!

  16. Patsy (2 years ago)

    May I have that recipe? “Buttermilk Dill Dressing” by Jeanne. Sounds yummo.

  17. Jeanne Martin (2 years ago)

    I realize that people have different tastes, but I would seriously reconsider the ratio of oil to vinegar/acid in these recipes. They are way too acidic in my opinion with a ratio of approximately 2:1. I have tried even the traditional ratio of 3:1 that rouxbe and other traditional sources recommend. My family will not eat dressing with this much acid without a good deal of sugar to balance. I use a ratio of between 5:1 and 8:1. This means that for ½ cup of oil, the amount of acidic ingredients should be between 1 and 1 1/2 TB. The other thing these recipes lack is salt. Every ½ cup of oil should be seasoned with at least 1/2 tsp. salt. I would also boost the amounts of the other flavors.

    I think a very important issue to consider is balance. Most people are used to a balance of sweet/sour in dressings since most commercial dressings contain sugar of some sort. (sweet/sour balance – think lemonade). If you choose not to use sweetener, then for many people, the amount of acidic ingredients in a dressing with a 2:1 or a 3:1 oil/acid ratio will be too sour. If you find these recipes too sour, try using less vinegar/acid and boosting the amount of salt and other flavorings. Homemade dressing can be delicious! It’s just a matter of finding the ratios that work for you.

    • Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

      Very helpful points about sugar and salt, thank you, Jeanne!
      Your buttermilk dill dressing was divine, by the way.

      • Jim Kling (1 year ago)

        My only problem with that recipe is that it calls for mayo, and that’s another sneaky source of soybean oil. Unless, of course, you’re making your own aioli with egg and olive oil and using that in place of the mayo.

        • Dr. Cate (1 year ago)

          Jeanne makes her own mayo, which is quite a feat. But for those who don’t have the knack (myself included) your suggestions (below) sound very appetizing. Thank you!

  18. Dr. Cate (2 years ago)

    Hi Pam
    I totally forgot about that old thread! Our conversation ended by Eddie, who deserves credit for this, sending me a photo of a giant plastic bottle of canola where right on the label it says 1.8% trans fat. Which settled the issue for both of us. Not everyone would go out of there way to prove themselves corrected, thanks again Eddie, if you’re still out there.

    According to the textbooks, is impossible to find canola with less trans fat than that, so most canola oil probably has more. I reference a study in Deep Nutrition that said up to 5% off the shelf, and because MegaTrans can oxidize and multiply, another study that says when you cook with the stuff you can generate as much as 27% trans fat.

  19. Pam (2 years ago)

    Hi Dr. Cate –

    I see that you were relocating in 2010 and mentioned you weren’t able to respond promptly to all comments. I am curious about your thoughts to Eddie’s second post above. I am not a scientist and so my head hurts reading through it. I am trying to convince my in-laws not to use canola oil and so I am hoping to get all of my ducks in a row.

    thanks! Pam

    PS I was able to get our library system in Massachusetts to order both Deep Nutrition and Food Rules!!!!

  20. Cherry Clavette-Arnold (2 years ago)

    I made a great vinaigrette with yogurt today. Here is the recipe:
    1 cup of good olive oil
    1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
    2 TBSP dijon mustard
    2 TBSP full fat yogurt
    1 TBSP finely minced onion
    1/2 tsp sea salt
    2 tsp oregano

    Place all in a shaker bottle, shake & enjoy! I had mine on a greek salad :)

  21. Quickie Salad « Between Two Truths (3 years ago)

    [...] will you please kill the salad dressing. All you need is a little olive oil to bring out the flavor of the veggies and/or a spritz of lemon [...]

  22. zoe (4 years ago)

    Hi Cate! My dad sent me this post since he knew I would be interested in it. I’m studying nutrition right now so anything food related is of interest to me! :) Do you know anything about Annie’s Naturals salad dressings? Apparently they are all natural and organic, so I was just curious if they were better than the rest…

    Anyway, I am going to check out the rest of your website! Check out ours too if you have a chance, we have over 400 recipes and healthy living tips up there! http://ezhomecooking.wordpress.com/

    Best,
    Zoe

    • Catey (4 years ago)

      HI Zoe, I’ve been relocating and usually don’t have such a long delay before replies! Thanks for your patience. I addressed salad dressing in a post about vegetable oil here. Just because something is organic doesn’t mean the manufacturers don’t add sugar and trans-fat rich vegetable oil so you always need to check ingredients!

  23. Josephine Keliipio (5 years ago)

    Oops. I have been using Paul Newman’s salad dressing for a few years now since most of the cheaper salad dressings used to give me heart palpitations and an uncomfortable sick feeling after consuming it. Yes, you are right and my GP recently suggested the same thing, its just safer to stick to making your own salad dressing with the basic vinegar and olive oil. Too bad Hawaii has no palm oil industry. I sure hope that the olive oil that I bought from Costco is pure olive oil and not something else. Mahalo for the salad dressing recipes.

  24. Eddie Vos QC Canada (5 years ago)

    Dear Dr. Cate,

    I respectfully disagree that commercially available cooking/salad canola has any of these substances since the manufacturers avoid the abnormal conditions of ‘deodorization’ that are generated ON PURPOSE by researchers. The Canadian labeling for ‘on special’ $3/3 litre canola report no trans fat which means less than 1% but the reality is much less than that. U.S. stick margarine has 25%!!
    My point was that the danger of canola is NOT getting enough, a study shown mortality risk in those not getting a total of 2 g/d, i.e. just under 2 table spoons.
    I don’t make money from canola; it bugs me that this life-saving unique oil is not embraced as the “poor man’s defribrillator on a salad” which it is.

    No other commercial oil apart from mustard in India comes close.
    I am a member of ISSFAL [Int'l Soc for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids] and have followed the fatty acid field for over a decade as an independent researcher. I’d vouch for the correctness of what is reported here: http://www.canola-council.org/canola_oil_the_truth.aspx Its literature list is a great resource to those scientifically inclined: http://www.canola-council.org/canolabib/default.aspx

    It’s expensive and stupid to generate trans fats in processing, so the levels are low; here are some of their references:
    http://www.canola-council.org/search.aspx?keywords=trans+content

    Here are the technical standards: http://www.canola-council.org/oil_tech.aspx good stuff!
    http://www.canola-council.org/uploads/Oilprocessing.pdf a good text
    http://www.canola-council.org/uploads/Chemical7-12.pdf see its figure 9: solvent extraction raises vitamin E about 3 fold over ‘cold pressed’.
    http://www.canola-council.org/uploads/Chemical1-6.pdf see figure 6 for the fatty acids but as importantly, Table 6 gives you how to avoid making trans fats! Sorry about this over load of science but this is the point at hand. Kind regards, Eddie

  25. catey (5 years ago)

    Dear Eddie:

    I appreciate your concern over the general shortage of Omega-3 fatty acids in the American diet. However, this is due in part to the fact that Omega-3 fatty acids are heat sensitive, and can be destroyed during processing. So consuming processed, heated oils will not give us very much Omega-3. In fact, tests have shown that organic, expeller pressed canola oil contains the oxidized breakdown products of omega-3 oils, some of which are trans fatty acids including the highly toxic 4-hydroxy-trans-2-noneal (HNE). You can read more at the Weston Price Foundation’s website, and in my forthcoming book, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food

    I wish Canola Oil were good for us, it’s in EVERYTHING!

  26. Eddie Vos QC Canada (5 years ago)

    Dear Dr. Cate, with all due respect, let me propose a change to your recipes, the replacement of canola for olive. Olive is horribly deficient in antiarrhythmic anti inflammatory omega-3, so much so that we have a pre-packaged blend of 55% omega-3 with 0.5% omega-3 olive on Canadian store shelves: picture
    http://www.health-heart.org/Olive+Linseed=OLINDA.JPG

    However, it is still MUCH below the 10% omega-3 found in dirt cheap store shelf canola oil which has a safe low level of [inflammatory] omega-6 [20%] compared with virtually all ‘vegetable’ oils that are sold on the same shelf and that have typically 50% or more of that inflammatory linoleic acid.

    When I give talks about heart disease prevention, I carry my literature and props in a canola oil pail and call the stuff “defibrillator on a salad” which truly it is, based on the famous LYON study and on other data. More in the top section of the link with this posting.

    MONO unsaturated fatty acid including olive has NEVER been shown to have health benefit on its own in a clinical trial, and it is one of the ways we make and store our belly fat. Expensive olive oil is heavily promoted because the oil marketeer to the world, UNILEVER, owns much of it, eg Bertolli and other makes. I have olive in my fridge but I know it won’t prevent a heart attack; canola, flax and if you cannot find either soy WILL, based on their omega-3 content [walnut is 10% omega-3 like canola but is very high in omega-6, like soy, and it is expensive].
    Here’s fatty acid compositions of oils:
    http://www.health-heart.org/FattyAcidTable.gif

    P.S. modern processing techniques apart from hydrogenation DON’T damage the oils and NOT getting your omega-3′s [plant AND fish based] is infinitely more dangerous than what could possibly be done to those oils, infinitely.