Beware! Low Fat May Mean High Sugar

Many of us are constantly searching for the “best” foods to eat. Our grocery stores are filled with hundreds of products “designed” to help us eat healthier. Foods are labeled as low fat, reduced fat, low calorie, low sugar, sugar free, etc. to presumably aid us on our weight loss or healthy eating quests.

Many Americans choose low and reduced fat items thinking these products are good dietary choices that are lower in calories and therefore, healthier than their full fat counterparts. However, research has shown that low fat foods are not necessarily better for you, because many products that are low in fat or reduced in fat are often very high in sugar. In fact, some studies show that these so-called diet foods sometimes have as much as 40% more sugar than the regular versions and can have the same amount or even a higher number of calories! This is because fat supplies the flavor in many foods, and when fat is eliminated, sugar is often substituted to make the food taste good. Salt and other additives are also usually added to enhance flavor, which makes the food even unhealthier and causes additional health risks.

When people eat lower fat foods, they often wind up overeating. Part of this is psychological – people believe they can eat more of a “healthier” food. There is also a scientific basis for overeating products high in sugar. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and is easily digested and absorbed. This can lead to blood sugar fluctuations and food cravings, which may make it difficult to control caloric intake. Overeating causes fat storage and weight gain. Additionally, sugar causes inflammation in the body and increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol.

It is extremely important to decrease the amount of sugar we consume. Last year, The World Health Organization changed its sugar intake recommendations from 10 percent of daily calorie intake to 5 percent, which is about 6 teaspoons, or 25 g, of sugar per day. Sugar is hidden in many processed foods, so it is important to read food labels so that you are aware of what you are eating. Be on the lookout for sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, and malt syrup to name a few.

Consumers should pay careful attention to the amount of calories per serving and the amount of sugar per serving before assuming that low fat or light is synonymous with healthy. The best way to ensure you eat a healthy diet that is low in fat and calories is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Eat a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and drink plenty of water. This will ensure you receive all the nutrients that you need in a healthy way.

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