Low-Fat and Low-Sugar – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Executive Summary

This week, in the Karma Sense Wellness blog, I am pleased to introduce guest blogger, Helen Sanders. Helen is the brains behind Health Ambition, and, like me, is on a mission to provide simple, actionable health and nutrition advice. Unlike me, Helen and her Health Ambition team don’t weigh their message down with the technical details that just aren’t for everyone. Also, they miraculously manage to avoid superhero, Star Wars and scatological references.

Here at Karma Sense, we recognize that there’s more than one way to skin the cat of being healthy, happy and saving the world. And while all of those ways include some commonalities such as “don’t skin cats,” there is no single correct way.

In the following post, Helen introduces some concepts that may appear to swerve from what you’ve previously heard from me. In fact, while her rationale may be different, the advice remains consistent.

I recognize that the Karma Sense style of long-form, detailed and too-often stream-of-consciousness writing is not for everyone, but still, you want some sage health and wellness advice. I invite you to explore Health Ambition as an alternative (or better yet a supplement) to what you learn here. And if ever you find our advice conflicting, let’s talk about it. Because if we don’t take responsibility for our own health, no one will

Here’s Helen…

Truth about Low-fat and Low-sugar Options

In recent years, there’s been a surge of “low-fat” and “low-sugar” food and beverage options. Upon first glance, these seem to be a healthier alternative and so many people stock up on these types of foods. But, are low-fat and low-sugar options really what they appear to be? The simple answer is no. Keep reading to find out why.

Low-fat options are packed with sugar, salt and additives

Sure, that cookie may be low in fat, but what has the fat been replaced with? After all, the cookie still tastes delicious!

Manufacturers are packing more sugar, salt and other additives into their food items and labeling it as “low fat.” This is very deceiving because it gives us the impression that it’s healthy, so we consume it with less caution. Eating these foods can lead to swings in blood sugar levels and sugar cravings.

As we know, eating too much sugar also increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. Salt is no better, either. Too much of it can raise your blood pressure, increasing your risk of stroke.

Low-fat options may still contain trans fat

What does “low fat” really mean? Well, it means there is still some fat contained in the product. Now, it’s important to realize that not all fats are bad. There are some good fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats. These have beneficial effects, as they lower cholesterol and your risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, there are bad fats, such as trans-fat and saturated fat, which do the opposite. And if you look closely at the labels on “low fat” products, you may notice that some of them contain these dangerous fats.

A low-fat diet might mean you are missing out on healthy fats

As mentioned above, not all fats are bad for you. If you stick to a diet consisting of “low-fat” options, you may not get enough healthy fats. This can be detrimental to your health because essential fatty acids help to maintain blood vessels, make hormones and allow our nervous system to function properly. Fats also help us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.

So, it is important for you to not get caught up in the “low-fat diet” fad. Eating foods such as nuts, avocados and salmon will ensure that you receive the essential fats your body requires.

Low-fat foods encourage overeating

When you see the label “low-fat” on a package, your mind is automatically tricked into thinking the contents are healthy. So, you see no problem with eating one more…or two more.

This is especially a problem for overweight individuals. Studies have shown that the words “low fat” encourage people to consume up to 84 more calories because they underestimate the amount of calories in the item and feel less guilty about eating more.

“Low sugar” doesn’t mean “no sugar”

Many products use the phrases “sugar free” or “low sugar” when in reality, they are simply using alternative sugars and sweeteners as a replacement for refined sugars. This is simply misleading and can be harmful in the long run.

Just because a company uses honey or agave instead of refined sugars, it doesn’t mean it’s any healthier. These “natural” sugars still cause a spike in blood glucose. If you make it a habit to consume foods like this, it may put you at risk for insulin resistance (which leads to diabetes).

Artificial sweeteners are harmful

If there are no sugars in a product, but it still tastes sweet, you can bet there are artificial sweeteners in it. Some common artificial sweeteners are: splenda (sucralose), aspartame and sorbitol. While they may sound like a good idea, they actually lead to an increased risk of various diseases.

For example, aspartame has been found to be carcinogenic and increase oxidative stress in the brain. It may also cause immediate side effects, such as headaches.

Low sugar doesn’t necessarily mean healthy

In some cases, maybe there really are no sugars or artificial sweeteners in particular a food product. But, this doesn’t mean that it’s healthy by default. Our brains may be tricked into thinking so, though.

If you look at the ingredient list on a “low-sugar” option, you may be unpleasantly surprised. They typically contain a bunch of additives and harmful ingredients, such as sodium or even phosphoric acid. Don’t be fooled by the packaging; do your research!

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