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Are low-fat butter & low-calorie sugar safe to consume?

Q: I am 25 years old and married. I live with my wife and we are planning for a baby in near future. What do new low-fat, low-calorie sugar and butter in the market contain? How are they different from the regular sugar and butter? Are these products safe and should we eat them as regularly as we have the regular sugar and butter?

A:Butter substitute, or what you call low fat butter, can be part of a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods and is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. These products contain ingredients that copy one or more of fats roles in a food. These products are designed to lessen the amount of fat in foods in order to help lower total dietary fat intake. You need to watch the use of margarine as a butter substitute. In terms of calories and total fat; both butter and margarine are worth around 45 calories and 5g of fat per teaspoon. But Butter, which is an animal product, is high in both artery-clogging saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, increasing our risk of heart disease and stroke. There is also some concern about butter containing traces of hormones and antibiotics fed to animals. Margarine is made from vegetable oil, is low in saturated fat and has no dietary cholesterol. But because the liquid vegetable oil in margarine is hardened through a process called hydrogenation, it is high in trans-fatty acids. Trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are thought not only to raise levels of bad cholesterol, but also to lower levels of good cholesterol, the kind that offers a defence against artery-clogging fats. This makes trans fats worse than saturated fat, and in such a case it would be better to stick to plain butter. Fortunately, there are a number of light spreads and margarines on the market that are trans-fat-free. Check your product for the same. Some of these spreads also contain plant sterols and stanols, which actively block the absorption of cholesterol, making these spreads much healthier alternatives to regular margarine and butter. But you should be aware that the fat/butter substitutes are more expensive than ordinary butter. In addition, these products have been on the market for such a short time – only a couple of years – so long-term safety and benefits are still not known. No artificial sweetener should play a major role in a healthful diet. Even if all of these sweeteners were given the green light for safety tomorrow, they would still fall short when it comes to good nutrition. Like sugar, sugar substitutes, and many of the foods that contain them contribute little or nothing in the way of nutrients, and also take the place of more nutritious foods in the diet. If used as part of a healthy diet, which meets the right dietary standards for nutrients, fat or sugar substitutes used appropriately can provide flexibility with meal planning. Don’t rely on no-calorie sweeteners to make your kilos disappear. If you use sugar substitutes to help manage your weight, make them part of a sensible plan that includes healthful eating, exercise and lifestyle changes.

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