Many foods on the market today boast claims of being “reduced fat” or “lower in fat”, however, taking a closer look at some of
these foods labels reveals information that may otherwise go unnoticed by the average consumer. Let’s use peanut butter as an example:
Per serving, the Reduced Fat version may have few total fat grams, but the sugar has increased.
So we must ask ourselves which is more beneficial when it comes to our health.
Eating a diet high in added sugar can be harmful since sugar has “empty” calories with no nutritional benefit. A diet with too many “empty”
calories can lead to unnecessary weight gain and the comorbidities that come along with being overweight (e.g. heart disease and type 2 diabetes).
A diet high in sugar can also disturb blood glucose levels, leaving you feeling sluggish, hungry, and weak. Over-eating empty calories from sugar
may also result in under-eating nutrient rich calories from foods that fuel your body in a positive way.
Although the “fat-free craze” of the past has long since been
by health professionals as a viable part of a balanced diet, the
amount of products boasting “low-fat” this, and “reduced fat” that, are more abundant than ever. But, fat isn’t the enemy and, most importantly,
all fat isn’t created equal. Some [healthy] fat is actually a good thing. The key to navigating the revamped “fat craze” can be found in
understanding how reduced-fat foods are made and how to recognize healthy fats when you see them.
The Bottom Line:
Fat Free Isn’t Always a Good Thing:
Manufacturers often add sugar, salt, and/or thickeners to replace the missing fat and flavor.
Now, the food has the
same amount of calories
, a little less fat, but with more sugar and salt. If that doesn’t sound like a healthy
swap, it’s because it’s not.
Think ‘Type’ of Fat, not ‘Amount’ of Fat:
The good news is
, healthy (unsaturated) fats like olive oil, peanut butter, and avocado can and should be a part of a healthy diet.
Unsaturated fats have been shown to decrease risk for cardiovascular disease as well as increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied).
Heart healthy fats such as unsaturated, monounsaturated, and/or polyunsaturated fats might not be listed on the nutrition label.
One way to determine the amount of unsaturated fat is to subtract the amount of saturated fat,
fat, and cholesterol from the total
amount of fat. Try to select foods with more unsaturated fat than saturated and trans fat. Keep in mind that plant based foods are higher
in these healthy fats than foods that come from animal sources.