The fat-free “light” or “diet” food that looks like a great addition to your nutrition may come with a rather large dose of Olestra, depleting your body of important nutrients it needs to function.
The Lure Of “Fat Free”
So you are strolling through the supermarket in search of something healthy to snack on. All of a sudden what catches your eye is a bag of your favorite potato chips brand and right on the front of the bag, with gigantic letters it reads ” Light”. You grab the bag and look at the fat content (what most people do when they are looking for a healthy snack ).
As your eyes are scrolling the nutrition facts, you notice that these chips have a zero fat content. And then right next to it, you also notice a sign: ” Same great taste but with half the calories and zero fat “. This is perfect, you think, and then you proceed to go home and finish the whole bag of chips.
The potato chips are just an example – have you ever wondered how these chips or other zero fat content foods are made? I know I have, because the first time I saw a bag of chips or cookies and they were fat-free I automatically thought about a saying: “There is no such thing as a free lunch “.
How Do They Make This Magic Food?
This is the question I asked myself the first time I saw a fat-free food. All you have to do is to look at the ingredients, and most likely you are going to find an ingredient called “Olean” or “Olestra”. Olestra is a non-fat cooking oil that is made by chemically combining sugar with the fatty acids obtained from vegetable oils. To be honest, the only thing I truly noticed in the above sentence is ” Chemically combining sugar “. You can stop right there for me and I will say – no thank you! But some people need a lot more information to truly understand what it is they are eating, and that’s why I will be going into further detail on why you should avoid eating foods containing Olestra or at least cut down on it.
Olestra has a structure of about 8 chains of molecules, where regular fat has only 3. This makes Olestra indigestible by the body, pretty much like eating paper: your body has no way to digest it, so it just passes through your system unchanged. This may sound like a great idea, but in reality what it does is deprive your body of nutrients such as fat soluble vitamins.
Nutrients Get Depleted
When we eat regular fat, many important nutrients in order to be absorbed have to attach themselves to fat. If we are eating fat that cannot be absorbed by the body, the vitamins will still attach themselves to it, but your system is not going to get any of them.
I think in our modern way of eating, we cannot afford not to absorb any nutrients. Most people I know are not exactly health nuts, so if you are not getting enough nutrients from your food, and the little that you do eat get’s carried away by indigestible fat, then you have nothing left. If you are eating foods made with Olestra on a regular basis you may soon discover that your immune system is failing and may begin getting colds a lot faster than you normally would. When this happens and the body is not getting enough nutrients it will have a tough time healing or repairing itself.
Get Something Healthy, Not Fat-Free
Other side effects of Olestra include vomiting and loose stools, but I think these are very small in comparison of vitamin depletion and an immune system failure. Well, unless you are on a date.
Next time you are strolling through the supermarket looking for a healthy snack, I would recommend getting something low-fat with wholesome ingredients instead of something fat-free.
Picture courtesy of Erich Ferdinand.