Fat-free vs. Low-calorie: Which Way Is Best?

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The solution to the problem of too much dietary fat seems simple -- eat fat-free foods. But in practice, if you rely on "fat-free" products as a way to control your weight, you may not get the figure- trimming results you are expecting. The problem is that cutting fat out of your diet does not necessarily mean you're cutting calories.

Read the labels on products that are labeled "fat free." A lot of food manufacturers will compensate for the flavor that's lost when fat is removed from food by adding salt and sugar in various forms. Sugar calories add up almost as quickly as fat calories. And sugar calories are digested rapidly, meaning the energy you get from sugar must be used immediately or it goes straight onto your body as, you guessed it, fat.

Another thing to consider is that fat-free products don't necessarily include any more nutritional value than their fatty counterparts. So, you're still consuming empty calories. And empty calories should have only a very small place in a sensible weight-loss diet.

Still, with more than two thirds of the population struggling with excess weight, it's natural to want to shun dietary fat. But the goal of a totally fat-free diet is not only impossible to attain, it's unwise. Doctors seldom recommend cutting daily fat consumption below 20%. This is partly because certain nutrients like vitamins A, E and K come only from dietary fat sources, and also because some dietary fat is vital for essential body functions.