Low Calorie Foods: Beneficial Or Harmful?

J.M. Towers

Some food products claim to help you lose weight and stay slim. Depending on how you use them, they can become your allies or your enemies.

Lite foods are products manipulated to reduce their sugar or fat content in order to lower the number of calories to be consumed. For a product to be considered light or low-calorie, it must have 30 percent fewer calories than its regular counterpart, whether natural or manufactured. The label should show the percentage of calorie reduction, energy value, the amount of saturated fat, and sodium content.

Consumers must be watchful and should not be confused with terms that can sometimes sound analogous, for example, “dietary“, which refers to a healthier or more balanced product (without gluten, preservatives, etc.) but, that doesn’t mean it is less fattening. The same applies to the term “integral”, which is included in many foods beneficial to our health because of their high content of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. We should note that these products might have the same calorie content than their non-integral analogs.

Low Calorie Foods
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“The commercial proliferation of a large number of foods that show light, no sugar, low fat, integral, dietary, etc., has caused such a state of confusion among consumers that many have fallen to misconceptions, believing these products are not fattening and also help us lose weight. And nothing can be further from the truth, “explains Dr. Francisca Pérez, Professor of Human Physiology at the University of Murcia, Spain. In addition, Dr. Perez claims that the abuse of these products “not only does nothing to reduce weight but can contribute to increasing it.”

Learning how to read the information on food labels is another problem. According to the label, a “light” chocolate bar might not contain sugar among its ingredients, but it has almost the same fat and calories than a regular bar. Likewise, jelly can be labeled low-calorie if it contains noncaloric sweeteners, but the fructose used in them is also a type of natural sugar.

According to psychologist Luis Huertas, an expert on eating disorders, many consumers use dietary products (light or low calorie) to ease their conscience. “This is the case of the person that after a hearty meal, topped with a generous helping of cake and an alcoholic beverage, finally asks for an artificial sweetener for his coffee instead of sugar. One thing does not offset the other”, says Dr. Huertas.

Low Calorie Foods
Photo: Satina / 123RF Stock Photo.

With all this information, it is safe to assume that low-calorie products are beneficial when consumed in the right proportions. Skim or nonfat milk retains all the nutritional properties (proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins) of whole milk but with a much lower fat content and can be very useful for those suffering from obesity or cardiovascular diseases.

Nutritionists agree that to eat healthier, it is neither necessary nor desirable to use light products, and if these are consumed, we must be wise, doing it under the supervision of a medical professional and always in conjunction with a regular physical activity.

The following tips can help you lose weight, prevent obesity and maintain the ideal weight.

Follow a balanced diet; eat everything but not in large quantities. Have three main meals and two snacks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Increase your fiber intake. It will give you the feeling of satiety and improve bowel function.
Avoid unhealthy foods like candy, packaged snacks, and sugary sodas.
Prepare light meals and avoid heavy dishes and stews.
Drink at least three liters of water daily and consume alcohol moderately (it has been shown that a daily glass of red wine is good for the heart).
Restrict the use of salt and spices; they stimulate the production of gastric juices, which increases the appetite.
Keep active; spend at least 45 minutes walking, swimming, running or any other dynamic exercise every day or four times a week.


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