Light foods: what and what they are

Light foods they are traditional foods that have undergone a change in chemical composition, in order to reduce the intake of fats, calories and sugars. Let's find out better.

> 1. What are light foods

> 2. How they are produced

> 3. Pros and cons of light foods

> 4. The taste of light foods

Light foods: what and what they are



What are light foods

Light products they are not equivalent to diet foods because they are aimed at consumers without particular health problems and with the sole need of wanting to lose weight.

The European Union from 1 July last (art.174 of the Oderr) has defined a light food (light / léger) a food whose energy value (of the finished product and ready for consumption) is reduced by 1/3 compared to to the equivalent "normal" product; in other words the light product must have 30% fewer calories. Again according to Art.174 of the Oderr, a food declared "poor" in energy must instead have its energy value reduced by at least 50%.

In the US there are now more than 5000 light foods, but this has not even remotely solved the problem of obesity. It is from a recent investigation by the British newspaper Healt Which (a periodical of the British Consumers Association) that a wake-up call has come: the foods passed off as friends of the line actually often contain several health pitfalls and in some cases they can even do not reflect what is stated on the label.


How light foods are produced

Light products derive from traditional foods which have undergone a change in chemical composition, in order to reduce calorie intake.
These are complex technologies in which the reduction of calories can take place, depending on the product, by means of:

  • reduced sugar content: sugar is replaced by chemical sweeteners almost completely devoid of caloric value such as cyclamate (E952), saccharin (E954), aspartame (E951). These products are lower in calories and do not damage the teeth but are still synthetic products;
  • reduced fat content. To decrease the fat content, the following are used: mixtures with a higher water content instead of fat, for example semi-fat margarine consisting of 40-60% vegetable fat and 60-40% water or fat substitutes that have a creamy taste . In this way, the use of fat in foods such as sauces, dressings, spreads, milk-based desserts, quark, ice cream, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, chocolate cream, cheese and many others can be reduced.


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Light foods: what and what they are


Light foods, the pros and cons

“Light” sounds like a word with magical powers but most of the time it's just an illusion. Only by reading "light" does the consumer think that it corresponds to "more digestible" or even "healthier".

The consumption of light products, launched on the market in the 80s, is constantly growing. According to statistics, the sale of these products increases by 8% per year, while for other food products the increase is only 3%.
But what are the pros and cons of a food defined as light?

  • Il price of light foods it is on average 10 to 30% higher than the classic product of the same or similar brands. This is because to obtain, for example, a light cheese requires more processing than a normal one and this translates into a higher cost. Furthermore, another disadvantage, in the light version, is that the consumer often pays for ingredients that are cheap. For example, in the light mayonnaise, part of the oil is removed and replaced with water. Light chocolate has less cocoa butter, light mozzarella and low-fat yogurts are made from skimmed milk, less expensive than whole milk;
  • special attention deserve i synthetic sweeteners used in some of these products. In a good number of foods, the decrease in caloric intake is obtained by replacing sucrose (white and cane sugar) with synthetic sweeteners as mentioned above. In this way the caloric intake is lowered but, if you exceed in use, you risk taking too high daily doses of sweetener, not without contraindications. All the chemical sweeteners on the market have been approved by the Ministry of Health which has fixed, substance by substance, the daily dose not to be exceeded. If this happens, stomach ache, bloating and diarrhea are lurking;
  • we may run the risk of increasing the portions. Often considered a panacea for excess weight, the consumption of "light" products does not guarantee weight loss in the long run since the feeling of satiety does not last long (the risk of devouring a double ration of "light" products increases) . Furthermore, mistakenly considering that a light food makes you fat less, we exceed a lot in its consumption, practically nullifying any caloric advantage obtained.


Light foods and taste

To maintain the organoleptic qualities of the light product and make it taste like the "normal" equivalent, additives must be added as flavorings, emulsifiers, gelling agents, sweeteners and finally preservatives in particular when water is added, which makes food products more easily perishable.

In general, sweeteners can alter the flavors of foods and cause an increase in the perception threshold of the sweet sensation, inducing the consumer to prefer increasingly "sweetened" products, and excessive use generates proven gastrointestinal disorders.

Finally, the greater production complexity of light products often leads to the loss of some important components such as vitamins and fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy and proper diet.
The light food is therefore not "light" neither for the pockets, nor for the metabolism: it simply satisfies less and is less tasty.


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