These days, we have access to a wide rage of products designed for health conscious or calorie conscious people.
Every store is overflowing with a variety of products labeled as fat free, low calorie etc. Name a product and you can find its low fat version, right from chocolates, butter, cheese to soft drinks, ice creams, mayonnaise, and cookies. But are all these fat free foods actually healthy? With expert inputs from Shachi Sohal, H.O.D. Dietetics Deptt at BLK Super Specialty Hospital, we take a look at the top 5 facts about fat free foods.
Common myths related to fat free/diet foods. Some of the common myths related to fat-free foods are:
- Fat free means calorie free.
- One can lose weight while eating what one wants.
- Low-fat or low calorie foods can be consumed as much as one wants.
- One can lose weight by consuming 100% fat free products.
- Carbohydrate intake can cause weight gain; low fat versions of such carbohydrates can be taken in any quantity.
- Low calorie, low fat versions can be replaced and can be taken to avoid additional calories. This will not have any side effects.
Many food products advertise themselves as low-fat or fat-free in a bid to attract more buyers. In fact, there have been many cases of fake claims, where a company advertises its food products by promising a quick weight loss solution. Make it a point to be a smart consumer by looking out for added sugar, flour or starch thickeners mentioned in the nutritional label info at the back of the cover. Check for the serving size too. As the food product may have 0% fat printed in bold, but can be full of monstrous unwanted calories.
Why deciphering food labels is important. Food labels provide us with information to make smart choices. Reading these helps one choose food appropriately. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls for labels on almost all packaged foods that include nutritional information. This information appears usually on the back of the packaged food under the title Nutritional Facts.
The biggest loopholes in fat free/ low calorie products: Margarine used in place of butter is a mixture of PUFA (Poly Unsaturated fatty acids). When margarine is manufactured there is a production of trans fats, which are harmful for the heart. Therefore, the quantity of the products that contain margarine should be controlled.
Some of the spreads contain plant stenols and sterols, which if taken in excess can increase cholesterol levels. Consumption of fats should be best kept to minimum and care should be taken to make a wise approach while selecting the product. The ingredients should be carefully noted as it should not contain saturated fat and trans fats. And obviously, total calories should be lower than the normal fats available.
The truth about artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive sweeteners, which are used as sugar substitutes. Made up of chemical or natural substances, these are much sweeter than table sugar and provide a negligible amount of calories, and do not affect the blood glucose levels. Artificial Sweeteners do not help you reduce weight. They help you to reduce or eliminate the amount of calories obtained from sugar. Some of these have harmful side effects for all and some are harmful for a specific age group (as children), physiological condition (as pregnant and nursing mothers), or disease condition (phenylketonurics). If suitable modifications are not made in the amount of fat and flour (starch) used in the recipe, the dish may still be high in calories. Types used in artificial sweeteners are:
Saccharine is 300 times sweeter than sugar. It causes many side effects and therefore, its production was banned.
Aspartame is very harmful for the body if used in excess. This is 180 – 200 times sweeter than sugar. It loses its sweetness when cooked at high temperatures.
Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sugar. It maintains its sweetness after being cooked. It can be used in small quantities and less frequently, as there aren’t many side effects associated with it.