Like squirrels hiding nuts for the long winter, humans stockpile resources in times of uncertainty. So, it’s only natural that Hidden Valley, storied producer of The Original Ranch Dressing, introduced a five-liter keg of the stuff in 2017. Who knows what fresh Hell may strike the Earth tomorrow, destroying the planet’s stockpiles of the beloved, zesty sauce?
Of course, what’s much more likely to happen is that ranch fiends who purchase the stackable, ten-inch by six inch kegs of sauce will simply consume a “year’s worth” in much less time than 365 days. According to the calculations of Sarah Krieger, a media nutrition expert and former National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who spoke to Inverse about the dangers of consuming a five-liter (1.3-gallon) keg full of ranch dressing, doing so would be pretty fucked up.
“The label on most salad dressing bottles are for a 2-tablespoon serving, which provides 140 calories, 260 mg sodium and 2.5 grams saturated fat,” she said in an e-mail, noting that most people avoid measuring salad dressing to begin with.
“In a 5 liter keg, there are 170 servings of 2 tablespoons, so the consumer is in charge of how much to enjoy, but should be aware of how quickly it adds up.”
Hidden Valley Ranch contains a slew of weird minor ingredients, like dry yeast, corn starch, lactic acid, and xanthan gum, but its basic formula is pretty much the same as it was back when it was first conceived by the owners of California’s Hidden Valley Ranch (an actual ranch!) in 1954: mayonnaise, buttermilk, and herbs. These are pretty innocuous, everyday ingredients, but — surprise! — they’re not great for you in excess.
“Consuming too much of many foods may cause side effects of unwanted weight gain, excessive sodium and excessive saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease,” explains Krieger.
For one thing, the mayonnaise and seasonings in Hidden Valley ranch are pretty salty. According to the Dietary Guidelines, Americans are supposed to have no more than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day — that’s actually only about a teaspoonful of regular salt (or rougly two McDonald’s Big Macs’ worth). An entire keg of ranch dressing, meanwhile, contains about 42,000 milligrams of sodium. “Salad dressing can easily help a person exceed [dietary guidelines] when sodium is in many foods already,” says Krieger.
Then, there’s the fact that ranch dressing is largely made of buttermilk, a dairy product that’s naturally high in saturated fats. On the atomic level, the chains of molecules that make up these fats stack up in such a way that they’re solid at room temperature, which isn’t exactly what you want floating around your blood vessels. Our bodies are equipped to handle small amounts of saturated fat, but too much can raise the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Saturated fat can also add up quickly and is linked to heart disease,” says Krieger, who says that Americans should only be getting about 10 percent of their total fat calories — about 20 to 25 grams — from saturated fats per day and sourcing the rest from unsaturated fats (liquid at room temperature), like olive oil and the fats in fish and avocados. If there are 2.5 grams of saturated fat in a regular two-tablespoon serving of Hidden Valley, that means there’s a massive 425 grams of saturated fat hiding out in a single keg.
But nobody, not even Krieger, would go so far as to say that Americans should totally cut out their favorite salad dressing of the past several years (sorry, Italian). If you really crave the tangy, creamy kick of ranch, she says, you could probably cook up a much healthier version. “Adding the powdered ranch mix to plain Greek yogurt will provide less sodium and less saturated fat and more protein,” she says. “There are also yogurt-based ranch dressing on the market that provide less calories and sodium.”
Of course, none of this is going to matter to you if you’re looking to prepare for the seemingly imminent collapse of society (or are simply an Eric André-level ranch fanatic). If you’re willing to shell out $50 for one of the stackable kegs — coated on the inside with a special FDA-approved chemical to keep it super fresh — you can stock up on rations here.