Low calorie Products are booming: sausage products, milk, cheese, muesli bars, soft drinks, snacks – there are light variants of all these foods and many more. We hope for a healthier diet through light products and expect help with weight loss. Terms like “light”, “low-fat”, “sugar free” or “wellness” we automatically associate with health and wellbeing. But hold Light products actually what they promise?
Designation of light products
If it says “light”, there is less inside: For example, less fat or less or even even no sugar. Light products must have at least 30% fewer calories than conventional variants. There are tons of different names for the so-called diet products, but each name has a different meaning. Here you can find an explanation for the most common names:
- Low energy: Solid foods (such as sausage, cheese, etc.) must not contain more than 40 kcal / 100 g, liquid foods (milk, yoghurt) not more than 20 kcal / 100 ml. A limit of 4 kcal per serving applies to table sweeteners, which corresponds to the sweetening effect of approx. One teaspoon of sugar.
- Energy reduced: The calorific value is reduced by at least 30%.
- Energy free: In the case of solid foods and liquids, no more than 4 kcal / 100 ml.
- Low fat: For solid foods less than 3 g fat / 100 g, for liquids less than 1.5 g fat / 100 ml, for partially skimmed milk less than 1.8 g fat / 100 ml.
- Fat-free / without fat: Not more than 0.5 g fat / 100 g or 100 ml.
- Light: Must meet the same conditions as the specification “reduced”.
- Low sugar: No more than 5 g sugar / 100 g for solid foods, no more than 2.5 g sugar / 100 ml for liquids.
- Sugar free: Not more than 0.5 g sugar / 100 g or 100 ml.
- No added sugar: No added grape, fruit, malt or lactose. If the food naturally contains sugar (e.g. fruit juice), the label should also read “naturally contains sugar”.
Pay attention to the nutritional information
When buying food, you should always keep an eye on the nutrition label (energy in kcal / 100 g). Compare the calorie content per 100 g of different products from one product group. Often a conventional product naturally contains fewer calories than light products from the same product group.
What effects does “light” have on the taste?
Fat is an important flavor carrier, because many aromas only develop in connection with it. To compensate for the lack of taste in low-fat products, glutamate, glycine, chlorides, lactates, yeast extract or flavors are usually used. Many of these substances can cause headaches, diarrhea, increased uric acid production or allergic reactions.
Are weight loss products unhealthy?
A lot of research is still needed to be able to say clearly whether and how light products are harmful to our health. A European long-term study shows, however, that two glasses of sweetened soft drinks a day can be harmful to health. However, it makes no difference whether the drinks are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners. There is also research to suggest that artificial sweeteners can have a negative impact on gut health.(1)
Even for diabetics, switching to artificially sweetened drinks is probably not the right solution, since regular consumption of diet drinks can also be an independent risk factor for diabetes.(2) It is better to switch to water or unsweetened teas for drinks.
Light products = calorie trap?
Light products don’t keep their promises! They are by no means healthier because they contain too many substitutes. And as for weight loss: Studies show that heavily processed weight loss products Contribute little to nothing to weight loss.(3,4th) We tend to eat more of something with a clear conscience when it says “light”. In the end, we often consumed more calories than with a normal portion of a conventional product. The result is weight gain.(5)It is much more sensible to eat the normal product variant, but to reduce the amount.
Conclusion: are light products healthy or unhealthy?
How unhealthy light products really are has not yet been clearly proven. The fact is, however, that they have no proven beneficial health benefits. They are also not necessarily suitable as weight loss products. Do you want lose weight healthy? Then you should make sure to eat natural, unprocessed foods and save about 300 kcal a day.