When I log onto Instagram, not a day goes by without seeing some fitness influencer or enthusiast glorifying what they can fit into their daily macros. Oftentimes, it’s decadent-looking baked goods and other “off-limits” treats comprised of fat-free and sugar-free commercial ingredients. “Look at this entire stack of pancakes I made and ate. It’s got sugar-free syrup, reduced fat peanut butter and low-fat whipped cream!” #treatyourself
Fat free dairy products, sugar-free syrups, fat-free/sugar-free chocolate, fat free dressings…sure, you may be able to eat more of these things without going over your calorie goals, but are they really healthy? Reduced Fat peanut butter is only 60% peanuts…what the heck is the other 40%? Ingredients you can’t pronounce, that’s what!
By using these products instead of real food, you are missing out on the health benefits provided by vitamins and minerals. I’ll break down a few popular items, calling out iffy ingredients. While some studies show that these “foods” may be dangerous, there are others that will argue it. I am a fan of veering on the side of caution and fueling my body with nutrition. Whole foods are the way to go.
Let’s take sugar-free syrup. Here are the ingredients in a popular brand: Water, Sorbitol*, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Cellulose Gum, Salt, Caramel Color, Xanthan Gum, Sorbic Acid And Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives), Acesulfame Potassium (Non Nutritive Sweetener)*, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Phosphoric Acid, Sucralose (Non Nutritive Sweetener)*.
*Ingredients Not In Regular Syrup.
Now let’s talk about a few:
- Sucralose: this is what makes the syrup sweet and studies show it can harm your gut bacteria. In some people it has been shown to elevate blood sugar and insulin levels. At high temperatures it may be unsafe to consume.
- Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. While the FDA deems sugar alcohols safe, people with digestive issues may want to avoid them. They can pull water into the bowel and cause diarrhea, bloating, gas and poor fat absorption.
- Acesulfame Potassium is also known as Ace-K. There have been many studies on this substance and some have shown it to be a carcinogen in rats. It’s also been shown to damage the thyroid in lab animals.
- Artificial flavors – who knows what this is?
- Sodium Hexametaphosphate in this study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11766135) rats fed this substance had growth inhibition, increased kidney weights (with calcium deposition and desquamation), bone decalcification, parathyroid hypertrophy and hyperplasia, inorganic phosphaturia, hepatic focal necrosis, and muscle fiber size alterations.
You are better off using pure maple syrup or honey in moderation…plus, they taste better!
Now, for Fat Free Ranch Dressing.
Ingredients: Vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola), water, egg yolk, sugar, salt, cultured nonfat buttermilk, natural flavors (soy), less then 1% of: spices (mustard), dried garlic, dried onion, vinegar, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, modified food starch, monosodium glutamate, artifical flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid and calcium disodium EDTA as preservatives, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate. Contains: Egg, Milk, Soy.
Looks like a science experiment to me!
- Soybean and canola oils routinely contain GMOs.
- Artificial flavors – no-brainer there.
- Calcium disodium EDTA – the FDA has put regulations on how much can be put in products. Too much has been shown to cause digestive problems.
Bottom line: fat free dressing probably isn’t going to kill you, but you’re avoiding the health benefits from whole foods and healthy fats, like olive oil. So, stick with homemade dressing or look for those, like Tessamae’s or Primal Kitchen, made with real food.
I’m pretty sure all of you reading this want to look good. You probably work hard and want nice things. Lead a high-quality life! Don’t put low-quality garbage in your body.
If you want a treat, have it in moderation. Eat the real thing and account for it in your daily calorie/macro goals. Don’t deaden your body and your tastebuds with cheap, lab-created freak foods. You are worth more than that!