10 ‘Low-Fat’ Foods That Should Not Be Part of a Healthy Diet
By Franziska Spritzler
Many people associate the term "low-fat" with health or healthy foods. Some nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are naturally low in fat.
Low-fat muffins are high in sugar and have a high glycemic index that may lead to hunger, overeating and weight gain.
Here are 10 low-fat foods that are bad for you:
1. Low-Fat Sweetened Breakfast Cereal
In some ways, breakfast cereal appears to be a healthy way to start your day.
For example, it's low in fat and fortified with vitamins and minerals. The packaging also lists health claims such as "contains whole grains."
However, most cereals are loaded with sugar. In the ingredients section, sugar is usually the second or third item listed, meaning it's present in large amounts.
In fact, a 2014 report by the Environmental Working Group found that the average cold breakfast cereal contains nearly 25 percent sugar by weight.
Excess amounts of fructose have been linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and other health problems (1).
Additionally, the "healthiest" low-fat cereals may be some of the worst offenders.
Bottom Line: Low-fat, sweetened breakfast cereals are high in sugar, including "healthy" varieties such as granola.
2. Low-Fat Flavored Coffee Drinks
Coffee is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.
On the other hand, the high sugar content of flavored low-fat coffee drinks can negatively affect health.
For example, a 16-oz (450-gram) nonfat mocha drink has only 2 grams of fat but a whopping 33 grams of sugar. That's 57 percent of total calories (7).
Not only does this beverage provide a hefty serving of fructose, but it's in liquid form, which seems to be especially harmful to health (8).
Bottom Line: Adding sugar to coffee transforms a healthy beverage into one that may lead to weight gain and disease.
3. Low-Fat Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt has a long-standing reputation as a healthy food.
However, low-fat, sugar-sweetened yogurt contains too much sugar to qualify as a nutritious choice.
In fact, many types of low-fat and nonfat yogurt are as high in sugar as desserts.
For example, 8 ounces (240 grams) of fruit-flavored, nonfat yogurt contains 47 grams of sugar, which is nearly 12 teaspoons. In comparison, an equivalent serving of chocolate pudding has 38 grams of sugar (12, 13).
Bottom Line: Plain yogurt made from whole milk is healthy, but sweetened low-fat yogurt can be as high in sugar as desserts.
4. Low-Fat Salad Dressing
Salad dressing enhances the flavor of raw vegetables and may improve a salad's nutritional value.
Traditional salad dressings are high in fat, which helps your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
In contrast, low-fat and fat-free salad dressings don't contribute any health benefits to your meal.
Most of them also contain sugar and preservatives.
While it's no surprise that sweet dressings such as honey mustard and Thousand Island are high in sugar, many others are also loaded with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. This includes fat-free Italian dressing.
Bottom Line: Low-fat and fat-free salad dressings contain sugar and additives but lack the benefits of healthy fats like olive oil.
5. Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a delicious and popular food.
It's high in monounsaturated fat, including oleic acid, which may be responsible for many of the benefits.
However, note that natural peanut butter contains only peanuts and perhaps salt.
By contrast, reduced-fat peanut butter contains sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
What's more, although the total fat has been reduced from 16 grams to 12, some of the healthy monounsaturated fat has been replaced by processed vegetable oil.
The calorie content of natural peanut butter and reduced-fat peanut butter is the same: 190 calories in 2 tablespoons. However, natural peanut butter is far healthier.
Bottom Line: Reduced-fat peanut butter contains sugars and processed oils yet provides the same number of calories as natural peanut butter, which is much healthier.
6. Low-Fat Muffins
Low-fat muffins may seem like a healthier option than other baked goods, but they're really not any better.
However, this is a much smaller muffin than you'd find in a coffee shop or convenience store.
One group of researchers reported that the average commercial muffin is more than 300 percent larger than the U.S. Department of Agriculture standard size (26).
With the exception of bran muffins, low-fat muffins contain little fiber and often have a high glycemic index (GI). High-GI foods raise blood sugar quickly, which may increase the hunger that drives overeating and leads to weight gain (27).
Bottom Line: Low-fat muffins are high in sugar and have a high glycemic index that may lead to hunger, overeating and weight gain.
7. Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt
Low-fat or nonfat frozen yogurt is considered a healthier choice than ice cream because it's much lower in fat.
However, it contains just as much sugar as ice cream, if not more.
What's more, portion sizes for frozen yogurt are typically much larger than those for ice cream.
Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt contains as much or more sugar than ice cream and it's typically consumed in larger quantities.
8. Low-Fat Cookies
Low-fat cookies aren't any healthier than other cookies. They're also not as tasty.
When the low-fat trend was at its peak in the 1990s, many low-fat cookies filled grocery store shelves.
However, researchers found that these low-fat versions were not very satisfying compared to the originals (30).
Like most low-fat foods, the sugar content of these cookies is high. A fat-free oatmeal raisin cookie has 15 grams of sugar, which is 55 percent of its total calorie content (31).
In addition, low-fat cookies are typically made with refined flour, which is unhealthy.
Bottom Line: Low-fat and fat-free cookies aren't any healthier than regular cookies. They're very high in sugar and also taste worse.
9. Low-Fat Cereal Bars
Low-fat cereal bars are marketed as a healthy on-the-go snack for busy people.
In reality, they're loaded with sugar and contain very little protein, a nutrient that promotes fullness.
In fact, research shows that consuming high-protein snacks can help prevent overeating (32).
One popular low-fat, strawberry-flavored cereal bar contains 13 grams of sugar but only 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein (33).
Bottom Line: Low-fat cereal bars are high in sugar but low in fiber and protein. In addition, they contain far more sugar than fruit.
10. Low-Fat Sandwich Spreads
Low-fat spreads such as margarine aren't a smart choice.
Even though they have less fat than original spreads such as butter, they still contain highly processed vegetable oils that can be harmful to health.
What's more, some of the light spreads specifically marketed as being "heart-healthy" actually contain small amounts of trans fats, which have been linked to inflammation, heart disease and obesity (34, 35, 36).
It's actually much healthier to use modest amounts of butter or healthy mayo rather than processed low-fat spreads.
Bottom Line: Low-fat margarine and spreads are highly processed. They are made with unhealthy vegetable oils and often contain trans fats.
Take Home Message
Low-fat foods may seem healthy, but they're often loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. These can lead to excessive hunger, weight gain and disease.
For optimal health, it's best to consume unprocessed, whole foods. This includes foods that arenaturally low in fat, as well as foods that naturally contain healthy fats.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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