In an effort to eat and drink healthily, you may be tempted to reach for foods labelled with buzzwords and phrases like “fat-free,” “sugar-free,” or “only 4g net carbs.” While some foods are naturally fat- and sugar-free, many times foods labelled as such contain ingredients that allow them to be low in fat and sugars. Undoubtedly, however, the additives rendering sugar-free foods to be sugar-free are manmade, non-naturally occurring, and, as you’ll see, potentially detrimental to your health.
Fat-free isn’t guilt-free. A great place to see this is in cheese. It’s safe to say that a traditional cheese should contain fat and protein. Thus, when you see a fat-free or low-fat cheese advertised, you should be wary. Many times, cheeses are processed with chemicals in order to allow them to hold a “fat-free” designation. And, as we hope you’re aware, there’s a staunch difference between cheese and processed cheese products. One common cheese additive, sodium phosphate, has been shown to have a link to kidney damage, while another, an artificial coloring called yellow 6, is banned elsewhere in the world.
Sugar alcohols also give you a false sense of a food’s healthiness. They have allowed many foods (protein bars are a great example) to tote low levels of net carbs, but this doesn’t mean the food is inherently healthier nor should it be considered natural. These substances (you’ll see them on ingredients lists with names like sorbitol and glycerol) are said to have little impact on your blood sugar levels, making them non-impact carbs. When subtracted from the carbs that do affect your blood sugar levels, you’re left with a total net carb count. While a bar may advertise having low net carbohydrates, this doesn’t mean that sugar alcohols don’t carry calories. Thus, if someone only factors in their net carbs and not the total level of carbohydrates, they’re missing a good percentage of the calories they’re taking in. Plus, sugar alcohols can be bad for your belly.
Speaking of carbs, sugar-free foods often replace sugars with artificial sweeteners. Other than the fact that some people wouldn’t dream of consuming any food that has “artificial” anything listed in its ingredients list, there’s a large pool of people who believe artificial sweeteners to be quite unhealthy. While it may seem like everything causes cancer these days, there’s something to be said for eating whole, natural foods as opposed to artificial, chemically-modified food sources. While organic foods may be more expensive, your body and mind will surely benefit from leaving fat- and sugar-free behind and making the switch from processed foods to whole, natural foods.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by special contributor Yasmin Fahr.