When we consume a light , skim, diet or 0% product , we always do so looking to eat healthy or lose a few extra pounds, motivated by aesthetics or health. We know that, when making the purchase, we will pay more but we do so convinced that they are foods with fewer calories or healthier. We buy them thinking we are doing our best to maintain a healthy diet and weight . However, this is not always a reality. That some food is sold as a light product is not synonymous with healthy food , that loses weight or that is absolutely free of fats or sugars.
Light foods, diet, 0%… don’t get carried away by marketing!
Advertisements, radio, TV, supermarket and diet shelves, social networks…there are innumerable media that try to convince us to buy light, diet or diet foods. Yogurts, desserts, soft drinks, soft drinks, cookies, toast, chocolates, butter and a long list of foods can be included in this category.
The increase in these light foods made or designed for regimens aimed primarily at weight loss can lead to confusion between advertising and consumer health. Many times, they cover up a very good marketing campaign . Although there are certain rules and laws when it comes to packaging and labeling food , for production and distribution companies, it is a priority that the packaging is attractive enough for the consumer to notice and purchase it.
What is a light food?
The condition to be able to use the word “light” (low, mild, reduced, light) on its label and in its advertising is that one of the declared components of the food has been reduced by at least 30% . This reduction can be applied to the energy value, carbohydrates, sugars, total fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium . With the reduction of a single component it is enough for a food to be light. And this is precisely the reason why many people can conclude that light or diet foods will help them lose weight quickly .
How do I know if a light food is a healthy food?
When you find products labeled light on the market, read the label carefully . The standard requires that the nutrient or energy value to which it refers be specified, be it fats, sugars or the energy value of food, among others. In addition, if applicable, the percentage of the reduction must be clarified . The fact that a food is “light” does not necessarily mean that it is low in calories. In fact, your total calories may be the same or even higher.
Learn to read the label of light foods
For example, you can find reduced-fat light cookies that meet the requirements to declare it “light” compared to the traditional cookie. However, the caloric value is in certain cases equal to or greater than , due to the fact that they have a higher percentage of carbohydrates. This means that they can be considered less harmful from the point of view of the control of this nutrient but they do not have to have any control at the level of the composition in other of its unhealthy components such as trans fats, saturated fats, sodium , etc. That is, they reduce a certain type of fat but can add other ingredients and a number of unhealthy additives.
That a food is light does not mean that you can eat the amount you want
Many times buying them serves as an excuse to consume more, without assessing the different nutrients it provides, the total number of ingredients or energy intake. Who has not repeated more than one light product a day, due to the mistaken belief that they do not gain weight because they are light ? An abusive consumption of these light foods can also hinder the goal of reaching an ideal or healthy weight. At the same time, it’s common for these light-calorie foods to crowd out other healthy , nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruit.
What we cannot deny is that light products help us to have a more varied diet, at least for people who have limited certain foods or those who follow an established diet. We can also convert certain products into Light , trying to reduce the total content of fats or refined sugars . Learning to cook food properly to reduce fats or sugars can bring us health and save us money.
If they do not contain sugar… What sweetener do light foods contain?
It is also important to know the sweeteners used in light products , since some have caloric intake and others do not.
The substitution of sugars is carried out by other sweetening sources of which we find caloric ones, they provide us with energy, and caloric or non-caloric.
- Fructose : It is a fast-absorbing carbohydrate with a sweeter taste than glucose, but its caloric intake is similar: 4 kcal per gram.
- Sorbitol : Each gram of sorbitol provides 2.4 calories. It is used above all in chewing gum, jellies, ice cream and nougat. A high consumption can cause intestinal discomfort and diarrhea.
- Xylitol : Provides 2.4 kcal per gram. Like sorbitol (polyalcohols), it is usually part of foods for diabetics. It is present in a habitual way in the elaboration of chewing gum and candies with a refreshing effect.
- Mannitol and mannitol syrup : It is used to sweeten pharmaceutical products, nutritional tablets, candy making and mainly chocolate covers. Provides 1.6 calories per gram.
Non – caloric sweeteners are those that do not add calories to our diet. Below are the most used in light foods :
- Saccharin : It is a synthetic sweetener and is the most popular. It is approximately 300 to 500 times sweeter than sucrose (sugar). When used in high concentrations it has a bitter aftertaste. It is used in the production of soft drinks, sweetened yogurts and dietary products for diabetics.
- Sodium cyclamate : It is about fifty times sweeter than sucrose. It is currently endorsed by the health authorities as long as the maximum intake of 11 milligrams per kilo of weight is not exceeded, which would be equivalent to 770 mg/day in an adult weighing 70 kilos. To improve its flavor and sweetness, it is usually combined with Acesulfame K. It is used in chewing gum, carbonated drinks, fruit juices, dairy products, desserts, toothpastes, with the terms “Sugar-free”, “Zero”, “Low calorie”.
- Aspartame : It has a sweetening power of 150 to 200 times that of table sugar or sucrose. It is not usually used in confectionery since when it is subjected to high temperatures its flavor becomes bitter. It is often used as a tabletop sweetener, frozen desserts, jellies, beverages, chewing gum fillings, dairy shakes. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee has established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) level of 40 mg/kg body weight , while the FDA sets it at 50 mg/kg. There is, however, controversy between certain sectors, among which numerous controversies and hoaxes have arisen around it. two
- Acesulfame potassium or Acesulfame K : (K is the chemical symbol for potassium) It is about two hundred times sweeter than sucrose. It is commonly used to sweeten chewing gum, soft drinks, non-alcoholic beverages, dairy products, confectionery, desserts, breads, etc. Its use is very popular in products labeled as “light”, “0% sugar” and in products for diabetics . Its use is also common as an excipient in pharmaceutical products, especially in syrups, soluble or chewable medicines, in which it is used to make its flavor more pleasant. The accepted dose for human consumption based on body weight is 15 mg/kg per day.
- Stevia : It is a plant of the species from which several benefits are obtained as a sweetener. It can be used in crude extracts (leaves of Creole plants), as well as in liquid or solid presentation of a dark color, since when the extracts are processed in the laboratory we can obtain a powerful sweetener. It is one of the most popular sweeteners in food industries.3
Are all sweeteners safe for our health?
It is necessary that we know how to distinguish the type of sweetener it contains on the nutritional label of any product in order to know in what quantity and how often we should consume it. All authorized sweeteners , that is, those that contain the letter “E” on the label , are safe in the amounts of normal consumption. For this reason, to opt for one or the other we will base ourselves on taste preferences, consistency, culinary usefulness, and price.
Many times it is better to consume less of the reference product than not to consume a light one depending on the type of sweetener it contains.
Can I substitute the water for diet sodas?
The consumption of light drinks or soft drinks such as juices or soft drinks should be done in moderation and monitoring the amount of carbohydrates and calories per serving. In no case should they replace water as the basis of hydration.
5 tips when it comes to including light foods in a healthy diet
- Learn to make a careful reading of nutritional labels , so that you can choose appropriately based on personal requirements and tastes.
- Correctly read all the properties of the nutrients , carbohydrate content, lipid profile, sodium content, total amount of fat, sweeteners and other additives.
- It is important to understand that it is not correct to associate the expression “light” with “weight reduction” or “low calorie diet” . “ Light ” products do not always help in a weight loss plan, and may even contain sugars or fats in not insignificant quantities.
- They can help you get a better fit to the diet , but always in a moderate amount. They should not be the base that supports it.
- incorporate these products within the framework of a comprehensive eating plan , with changes in habits and physical exercise included