Trying to be healthy and lose weight is always hard work. We are told that certain foods and drinks are bad for us and we should switch to ‘healthier’ alternatives such as low in fat or fat free foods. But are these low fat foods really as good for us as we think?
Low fat products were introduced to supermarkets in the 1980s to improve our heart health and reduce the amount of saturated fats in our diets. Low fat products removes the animal fats found in full fat foods and replaces it with un-saturated vegetable oils. However, manufacturers use a process called hydrogenation, which alters the structure of the vegetable oil so it could be used as a solid fat. They also had to increase the amount of sugar in the products to alter the taste and texture. These new low fat products, which promised to improve our diets, actually contains levels of dangerous trans-fat which are bad for the heart and our cholesterol, and tended to contain the same calorie count as full fat products.
The worst part? There are more of them than you think…
Breakfast cereals ensure us that they are a healthy way to start the day; especially low-fat breakfast cereals which promotes a healthy lifestyle and packed full with vitamins and minerals. However, studies have shown that the average breakfast cereal contains nearly 25% sugar by weight. Sugar is usually the second or third largest ingredient in breakfast cereals, from white sugar to honey. It contains fructose, which has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
Fat free yoghurts claim to be healthier for us than normal full fat yoghurts. Instead, they are full of sugar, preservatives and lots of other little nasties. Take Activia’s range of yoghurts; they’re 2% fat but contain 17g of sugar. A much healthier alternative is actually plain yoghurt which may help with weight loss and improve body composition. It may not be tastier but it’s certainly better for us.
Margarine and other spreads are seen as a healthier low fat swap for butter. Margarine does contain less fat than butter but instead it contains highly processed vegetable oils and trans-fats which are extremely harmful to our health. These spreads have been linked to inflammation, heart disease and obesity.
The biggest problem with low fat lies within milk. From skimmed, semi to whole milk, we have many options to choose from. Skimmed milk is lower in fat and calories, and higher in calcium that whole milk. However, research shows that skimmed milk isn’t necessarily the healthiest option due to skimming process which removes the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A and E.
We need to remember ‘what makes something low fat?’ To take out the fat, manufactures have to replace it with something else to keep it tasty and…to basically look normal. Studies have shown that although these foods are lower in fat, they can actually cause more damage to our bodies and make us put on more weight. The best way to ensure you are consuming a healthy meal is to make it from fresh fruit and vegetables to get all the vitamins and minerals our bodies need.