Much like their cousins, zero-calorie foods, low-calorie foods are much more complicated than we like to think. The research team at Eat This, Not That! dove into the science to find out whether they really are the simple solution to weight loss we've all been looking for. Here's what we found out:
The Myth: Low-Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight
The Truth: Not Always
Processed low-calorie foods can be weak allies in the weight-loss war. Take sugar-free foods, for example. Omitting sugar is perhaps the easiest way to cut calories. But food manufacturers generally replace those sugars with calorie-free sweeteners, such as sucralose or aspartame. And artificial sweeteners can backfire. One University of Texas study found that consuming as few as three diet sodas a week increases a person’s risk of obesity by more than 40 percent. And in a 2008 Purdue University study, rats that ate artificially sweetened yogurt took in more calories at subsequent meals, resulting in more flab. The theory is that the promise of sugar—without the caloric payoff—may actually lead to overeating. “Too many people are counting calories instead of focusing on the content of food,” says Brandon Alderman, Ph.D., director of the exercise psychophysiology lab at Rutgers University. “This just misses the boat.”
Avoid artificial sweeteners and load up your plate with the bona fide weight loss foods like fruits and vegetables that also happen to be low-calorie.