Posted - March 8, 2010

Fat-Free Isn’t Trouble-Free

If you’re trying to lose weight or watch your cholesterol, picking up fat-free products from the grocery store may not be as helpful as you think.

While many foods are labeled as “fat-free,” “low-fat,” “reduced-fat,” or “light,” they may not necessarily be good for your health. In order to carry these labels, they must adhere to certain regulations about fat content, but that doesn’t mean that all the other ingredients are good for you. In fact, in order to make up for the taste that can be lost by removing fat, many food manufacturers replace the missing fat with high-calorie ingredients like sugar, flour, thickeners, and salt. All of these ingredients add extra calories that may sabotage any weight loss goals.

Another reason fat-free products might not be enough to protect your heart and health: studies show that removing all fat from your diet may not actually reduce your risk for heart attacks or strokes. According to recent studies, your body needs a certain amount of “good” fat for good heart health. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol.

Should you give up on your low-fat diet completely? Experts agree that you should still limit your total fat intake to less than 20 to 35% of your total calories, even if the majority of your fats are coming from “good” sources. Read the entire label on fat-free and low-fat products and pay attention to total calorie counts as well as fat grams. Check your label for sugars and other additives, and concentrate on avoiding “bad” fats like saturated fats and trans fats.