Are Low-Fat Foods a Healthy Choice?

Do you remember the low-fat and fat-free food craze that swept the nation back in the ’80s and ’90s? Pretty much everything possible was turned into a “fat-free” version – cookies, doughnuts, cheese, sour cream, mayo, salad dressing, and lunch meat. Back then, many experts in the medical and nutrition profession believed that there was a link between fat and heart disease (which there is, but it’s more complicated than that).  The food manufacturers, seeing a golden opportunity,  jumped on that information and a new generation of food was born. Ironically, eating all of those low-fat foods made us get even fatter.

The Problem:

Most of the low-fat and fat-free foods may have as many calories as the higher-fat version, as food manufacturers add more sugar to replace the fat and make the food taste better. You see, one of the properties of fat is that is lends flavor to food. So when you take out the fat, you take away the flavor. But if you add more sugar and salt, you add back flavor. In addition, low-fat foods can still contain unhealthy fats, like saturated fat and trans-fat, both of which can increase your risk of heart disease.

For a food to be considered “fat-free” it has to contain less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. But don’t just assume that it has no fat in it. Investigate further by reading the ingredient list. When you read the ingredients and see that it actually contains some kind of oil or butter, then it has fat in it. Now, if you eat more than one “fat-free” cookie, you could actually be ingesting a fair amount of fat. Pretty tricky, huh?

What’s even more interesting is that people will eat more of an item if it’s labeled “low-fat” or “fat-free”. Researchers have found that low-fat labels lead to over-consumption because people often underestimate the calorie content, as well as have less guilt about eating a pint of fat-free ice cream. But if you do this, you’re taking in too many calories which will lead to weight gain.

Some Fat Is Good for You:

Now, we are not saying that low-fat and fat-free foods are bad. In fact, many products are a better choice. Conversely, not all fat is bad for you. Foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), like avocado, nuts, and almond butter, and Omega-3 fatty acids, like wild Alaskan salmon, walnuts, and flax seed, are very important for improving your health, reducing your risk of heart disease, and even assisting in weight management. Including these foods into your daily diet is a must for good health inside and out. To figure out how much healthy fat you need, as well as getting help with constructing a well-balanced eating plan, contact a Registered Dietitian, the most qualified nutrition professional who can put together an individualized program for you.

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