Nutrition Fact of the Week
When reading food labels, they can sometimes be misleading and confusing. Many times, people see the words free or zero and automatically think this means it is a healthier option but this is not usually the case. It is good to be aware of what these labels actually mean. This is especially true when it comes to sugar-free, fat-free, and zero trans-fat.
When a product says sugar-free people automatically assume that it is a better option and that it will have less calories than another version of the same type of food. However, when a product uses the word “free” it actually means less than 0.5 grams per serving. So, there can still be sugar in the product, and if you eat more than one serving, that 0.5 grams of sugar can start to add up. Furthermore, these sugar-free products typically still have plenty of other ingredients that are full of calories and carbohydrates (which break down into sugar in the body). Sugar-free usually means they will add in more fat to give it flavor.
Sugar-free products also will often contain sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol) to replace the real sugar. While they are lower in calories they are still not the healthiest option. Consuming to much sugar alcohol can also cause diarrhea, so be careful not to consume too much of them.
When people see fat-free among the many food choices they immediately think that fat-free will be the healthier option. When in fact fat-free is not any healthier than the full fat versions. They are typically still loaded with calories and often times they are loaded with even more added sugar to replace the fat they took out. In addition, a fat-free product can still contain less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. That means there can still be fat in the product and that fat can add up if you eat more than one serving of that food.
It is common knowledge now that consuming trans-fat is bad for you. This is because it increases your LDL (bad cholesterol) which can lead to fatty plaque buildup in your arteries. While you may be trying to avoid it, you may actually be consuming trans-fat when you buy products that say zero trans-fat. This is because the products can still contain less than 0.5 grams per serving. This is why it is important to check the labels (especially when it says zero trans-fat) and look for the words shortening and hydrogenated oils in the ingredients. If you see these words avoid buying or consuming that food product.
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By: Amanda Shrake
Dietetics and Nutrition Student