We are constantly being told how sugar, starch, fat and salt are bad for us so that when we buy packaged food, we seem to reach automatically for the “Free-From” category of foods – “fat free”, “gluten free”, “dairy free” and “sugar free” and so on.
These are the foods that claim to be “suitable for” those who are trying to lose weight or those who are either diabetics or have any other chronic condition. But are these “Free from” food really better for us? Are they really a healthier food choice?
“Free from” foods are often very highly processed
You may find yourself reaching for the “sugar free” cookies, thinking that you’re making a healthier choice for yourself.
However this is not really the case, say experts. If it is sugar free (less than half a gram of sugar per serving) then it is likely to have a bunch of other unhealthy ingredients that make it palatable.
Not only will that sugar free cookie contain artificial sweetener such as aspartame or sugar alcohols, they will also have other unhealthy ingredients such as processed fats, refined grain (high in calories but low in nutrition), preservatives, artificial flavoring and coloring agents, and even genetically modified ingredients.
Similarly, if it says fat free on the label, it will typically contain less than half a gram of fat per serving but it will also mean that certain starches have been used instead.
These starches are usually derived from tapioca, modified cornstarch etc., so while there may be less fat calories in that product, there are still very significant carbohydrate calories there.
“Free from” foods don’t make us lose weight
We do tend to buy foods that are free from this or that ingredient in the impression that they are healthier and better for us. This is the “healthy halo” that marketers create around a product that we’re buying into.
But these products aren’t really better for us. Research has shown that though there is a plethora of such foods available today, they do not make us lose weight; in fact obesity levels are the highest ever in spite of these foods.
In the end, it is a simple matter of eating whole foods that have been minimally processed and are good for us. Rather than having processed foods with one or even two ingredients taken out of them, it is far better to have whole foods that are minimally processed or not processed at all.