October 22, 2012

Uncovering the Truth about Fat Free

While attempting to remain healthy, most people will make the mistake of assuming that Fat Free is the better choice when faced with a decision. In fact, many diets steer you in that direction. I hope that after reading this you'll understand that Fat Free may not always be the best option.

Case 1: Cream Cheese

So you're at the store and you need to pick up some cream cheese. Maybe you work out pretty regularly to maintain your health, maybe you're on a diet, or maybe you just feel guilty after downing those buffalo wings and beers last night.  Regardless of your reason you are clearly trying to make the smarter decision and lined up on the shelf are the following:

Which would you pick??


Yeah? You sure? Now what if we look at the labels, still want that one?

Here's quick break down of the nutrition label, or at least the items that should be jumping out at you:

Serving Sz
Questionable Ingredients:
28 g
9 g

105 mg
Stabilizers (Common in Dairy products)

Light (low fat)
31 g
5 g
140 mg
Stabilizers, Sorbic Acid, & Vitamin A Palmitate

Fat Free
28 g
0 g
200 mg
Stabilizer, Sorbic Acid, Tripolyphosphate, Sugar, Artifical Color, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium Propionate, Carrageean, Sodium Phosphate, Artificial Flavor!!!

True, Fat Free has the least amount of Calories and Fat. Most would stop right there and drop it in the cart. But let's continue to look closer... Look at all the Sodium, that's almost double than regular, and look at the number of Questionable Ingredients! Do you really want all of that in your body? Let's find out...

Stabilizers = Are substances or chemicals that allow food ingredients, which do not mix well, to remain in a homogenous state after blending.
*Keep in mind that these products  need at least some chemicals (stabilizers) to maintain a shelf life.

Sorbic Acid/ Potassium Sorbate = An organic compound used as a preservative and humectant in foods and cosmetics. The salts of sorbic acid (calcium, sodium and potassium) are used due to their ability to dissolve in water.

Vitamin A Palmitate = An essential vitamin required for fetal/child growth and development, normal vision, skin health, and immune function.Found in fortified foods: dairy products, blue cheese, margarine, cereal, and juice.

Tripolyphosphate = Improved water holding capacity, denaturation of proteins prevention, stabilizing of the color, and improved texture.

Calcium Propionate =  Occurs naturally in butter and some types of cheese. It  prevents mold and bacterial growth.  

Carrageean = Derived from red seaweed. On a molecular level it’s actually very similar to plastic and is popular for that reason. It bends easily but snaps back into place, which makes it a useful additive to foods, gels, and foams.

Sodium phosphates = are added to many foods as an emulsifier to prevent oil separation.

  • Lowest  number of ingredients 
  • Lowest sodium 
  • Most fat and calories
When dieting it might not be the best choice, but it's the least processed of the choices. 
  • Lower Fat and Calories than Regular
  • Minimal chemical additives, one of which is a vitamin.
  • Sodium is higher than regular but not as terrible as Fat Free.
This one hits in the middle with just about everything. Lighter in fat and calories with few added ingredients.
 Fat Free:
  • Zero Fat and Calories  
  • Most additives 
  • Most sodium
While this one might be the lightest in choices, it comes at a cost. It has almost double the soduim than regular and a ton of added ingredients, one of which is "similar to PLASTIC"!!!

I'm not going to tell  you which is the correct choice because honestly, there isn't just one. It depends on what's more important to you. Do you try to limit processed foods added to your body? Are you watching your sodium intake?  Or maybe you are just don't care what's in it as long as it's free of fat. But, I will suggest that you avoid Fat Free. I'm no doctor, but ingesting extra sodium, sugars, and chemicals similar to plastic are not something I consider healthy eating. Cream Cheese is not the only Fat Free product to beware of. Many times it might be more beneficial to get the full fat item and just limit your quantity.  Please be sure to always take the time and read your labels. I guarantee that you'll reconsider adding certain products to your shopping cart.

Also, check out Be Food Smart. It's an excellent site to help understand the ingredients found in common foods and much more.


  1. You always need to read the ingredients on every packaged or canned food item. Some Parmesan Cheese has aluminum in it which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Some brands of table salt have dextrose (sugar) in it! Buyer beware!!

    1. I agree. Label reading should be done on ALL foods. Going a step futher and looking up those strange ingredients will help anyone become an even better food shopper. Good rule of thumb: if it doesn't grow out of the ground check what it's made from.

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