Fat Free

With swimsuit season around the corner, May becomes the cruelest month, but it need not be. To ease your spring-slimming efforts, all you need to do is take one counterintuitive step: Purge the pantry of low-fat foods.

Yes, low-fat products make people fat. To replace the texture lost when fat is removed, food manufacturers use “fat replacers,” which are usually composed of carbohydrates — often just sugar.

We’ve been told for decades that eating fat makes us fat — and gives us heart disease — but the real culprits are carbohydrates. German scientists discovered the link in the 1920s. But U.S. researchers developed a fixation with dietary fat in the 1950s, and Americans have been obsessed with fat ever since. Today we consume more calories than we did in the early 1970s, although a smaller proportion of them come from fat. We are also eating at least 25 percent more carbohydrates — and we are fatter than ever.

A fat-free Caesar salad dressing will deliver about 12 times more carbs per serving than the regular version. “Light” Philadelphia cream cheese packs twice as many carbs and sugar as the full-fat kind. And at Starbucks, there’s no more carb-laden bakery item than the reduced-fat banana chocolate-chip coffee cake, with 50 grams of sugar, equivalent to more than two Hershey’s milk chocolate bars. The regular Starbucks chocolate-marble loaf cake, with 24 grams of sugar, is no angel, but it’s still the better option.

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