JollyGut Blog

The "Fat-Free" fad that's fattening you up

Fat has become a demonized nutrient in the world of food. The word "fat" has become synonymous with "unhealthy", and this has given rise to the empire of "fat-free" and "low-fat" food products, which health-conscious consumers adore. A dessert that tastes great and is guilt-free? Yes, please! Well, you may want to think twice, as the majority of these products are nutritionally deficient, carb-heavy, and can ironically cause weight gain.

"It's low-fat, having another helping won't hurt!" 

We've all been there and thought that. If it's healthier and better for you, it's hard to not feel compelled or even obliged to go for round 2. After all, it's meant to be 'good for you'. But such labels may actually result in overconsumption of nutrient-poor and calorie-rich food items, instead of promoting a healthier diet. We take a look at why and how these labels work (or don't work). 

A method that works

Our brain naturally attempts to rationalize our thoughts to appease those annoying cravings, convincing itself that having more of something that is healthy is nowhere near as bad, and in fact better. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to the world of grocery labels. Created originally to inform consumers of a product's contents, these labels have shifted to selling an image or an ideal, rather than the product itself. And surprise surprise, it works.

"Low-fat" or "fat-free" actually result in overconsumption of those food items, compared to items with no such labelling.

Words are in bold for a reason

Food packaging is brilliant at only showing consumers what manufacturers want them to see. Careful attention is paid to what should be highlighted in bold, and what should be shrunk to font size 6, confined to a tiny space at the back of the product. Seeing the word "low-fat" or "fat-free" for instance immediately takes one's attention away from everything else on the ingredients list behind. An image of health has been created and cemented in your mind, and it would take another large label that said "read the fine print behind before buying" to convince you otherwise. Let's face it, no one has the time to scrutinize every item we pick up.

Don't be fooled, fat-free or low-fat items are not as sin-free and guilt-free as they are made out to be.

It changes the way you think about food

Studies have shown that "low-fat" or "fat-free" actually result in overconsumption of those food items, compared to items with no such labelling. Reasons behind that include subconsciously perceiving the product as less filling, to feeling less guilty about going back for seconds. So while you are consuming less fat in a single pack or tub of something, the fact that you are more likely to go back for more only increases the likelihood of weight gain. This may, unfortunately, be a weight loss strategy that has backfired on many.

Low-fat yogurts actually have higher levels of flavour enhancers and sweeteners, up to 5 times more in some instances.

Low-Fat, High in everything else

Let's zoom in on yogurt. 
Yogurt is a happy member of the 'health foods' family. It is a common breakfast food anywhere in the world that's associated with strong bones, and a healthy, happy gut. Time to think twice. 

Your average serving of such yogurts still contains at least 2 teaspoons of sugar.

If you think about it, fat gives yogurt it's a luscious creamy texture, as well as flavour. So if we take it out or reduce it, something else needs to be added. We did a comparison of regular and low-fat yogurts and found that low-fat yogurts actually have higher levels of flavour enhancers and sweeteners, up to 5 times more in some instances. 

These low-fat variants also don't mean they're 'healthy' as a whole. In fact, your average serving of such yogurts still contains at least 2 teaspoons of sugar. So don't be fooled, fat-free or low-fat items are not as sin-free and guilt-free as they are made out to be, and there is definitely still a need to take into account their contents when consuming them as part of a healthy diet. 

Managing the Mayhem

There are numerous brands out there, some better than others. The problem is that it's never that easy to spot them. When time is of the essence, and when pretty colours, bold words and varying prices distract, it's hard to tell good from bad or better from worse. Finding products with lower levels of fats, that doesn't compromise on taste, and also aren't too artificial is possible, but it would take a lot of pre-planning, scrolling through product itineraries, and analyzing nutrition labels. That's a lot of effort for one shopping trip. 

Why not let the software do that for you? With modern technological advancements, it has become possible to match products to your specific preferences with ease. The finding, comparing and analyzing is done for you, giving you peace of mind over the items you place in your shopping cart. Give JollyGut a try. Thank us later. 
Food labels