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Diet Foods: Friend or Foe?

Diet Foods Friend or Foe Nowadays, diet foods are widely available in any store. From low fat yogurt to sugar free ice cream and diet soda, these products come in all shapes and sizes. Yet, obesity rates keep rising. Low fat and sugar free foods may seem a healthy option, but that's not always the case. Some contain artificial sweeteners, hidden sugars, and fattening ingredients that contribute to obesity and chronic diseases. These products are not a magic bullet and can do more harm than good. Diet Foods at a Glance The store shelves are packed with foods labeled "low fat," "fat free," "no sugar," or "light." Unfortunately, these terms are often misleading. Just because a product is marketed as low fat or sugar free, it doesn't mean it's healthier or lower in calories. Most times, manufacturers add preservatives and artificial flavors to make food more appealing. Some diet foods are actually worse than the regular versions. Studies conducted in the UK have found that about 10 percent of these products contain just as many calories as their standard counterparts. About 40 percent are even higher in sugar. Additionally, they are made with chemicals that trigger and cravings, which increases the risk of overeating. In general, light foods have up to 50 percent less fat or 1/3 fewer calories compared to the regular version. Reduced fat products contain about 25 percent less fat. Those labeled low fat can not exceed three grams of fat per serving. Fat free foods typically have less than 0.5 grams of fat in one serving. The problem is that these products contain flour, sugar, thickeners, sodium, and chemicals for extra flavor. After all, that’s why they taste so great. Are Diet Foods Really That Bad? Most dieters consume sugar free and low fat foods in large amounts, so the calories add up. Most products labeled fat free or low fat are just as fattening as their regular counterparts. Those marketed as sugar free or low carb may contain hidden sugars, such as fructose, high fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar, maltodextrin, or dextrose. Some are made potato starch, corn starch, and other carbohydrates that cause weight gain and affect digestion. Others boast fat-mimicking chemicals that may trigger bloating, stomach cramps, and hormonal imbalances. Additionally, diet foods are often highly processed and contain empty calories. The worst offenders include low fat breakfast cereals, low fat flavored yogurt, low fat salad dressing, reduced fat peanut butter, sugar free chocolate, sugar free cookies, and low fat cereal bars. For instance, low fat frozen yogurt has just as much sugar as ice cream. On top of that, serving sizes are larger than those for ice cream. Reduced fat peanut butter is high in sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) while lacking the healthy fats found in the regular version. Breakfast cereals, which are considered healthy, contain about 25 percent sugar by weight and have little fiber. Most brands also contain hidden sugars, such as honey, brown sugar, or fructose. Considering these facts, it's no wonder why obesity and chronic diseases are so widespread. Americans spend billions on diet food each year and yet, they have the highest obesity rates in the world. Low fat and sugar free products are neither healthier nor more nutritious than their regular counterparts. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to eat real food and commit to exercise.
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