Fat Replacers Found in Food You Eat - dummies

Fat Replacers Found in Food You Eat

By Jane Kirby, The American Dietetic Association

The problem with eating high-fat foods is that fat doesn’t immediately satisfy hunger the way that sugary carbohydrates do. Therefore, eating too many fat calories before realizing that you’ve had enough is easy to do. (Think about how easy it is to eat a whole bag of French fries or chips and still feel hungry.)

Fat is complicated stuff. The kind and amount of fatty acids that make up a particular type of fat determine how the fat feels in your mouth and how it tastes, among other functions. So finding one universal fat replacer is impossible.

Three basic types of fat replacers can be found in foodstuffs:

  • Carbohydrate-based fat substitutes duplicate the taste and function of fat in foods but contain fewer calories than real fat. They work by combining with water to thicken and add bulk, which makes the food feel like fat in your mouth.

    Foods that use carbohydrate-based fat substitutes include lowfat and nonfat baked goods (such as brownies, cakes, and cookies), lowfat ice creams, and fat-free salad dressings. Pureed fruits, including prunes and applesauce, are also used as fat replacers in some baked goods.

  • Fat mimetics (fat-based replacers) copy some or all the properties of the fat they replace. Most are made from fat but have fewer calories per gram than fat because the chemical structure of the fat has been altered. The body is unable to fully absorb the fatty acids and the calories they would otherwise provide.

    Salatrim (brand name Benefat) is one example of a fat-based replacer. It’s used in baked goods, dairy products, and candies, providing 5 calories per gram compared to fat’s usual 9 calories per gram.

    Olestra (brand name Olean), known in chemistry labs as a lipid analog, is a calorie-free fat replacer made from vegetable oils and sugars, which contributes no calories. Olestra mimics the characteristics of fat when fried. It’s currently used in potato chips, tortilla chips, and other snack foods.

  • Protein-based fat replacers are made with egg whites or skim milk. They provide a creamy texture and an appealing appearance when fat is removed. Lowfat cheeses and ice creams made with protein-based substitutes mimic the taste and appearance of their full-fat counterparts.

    Simplesse is an example of a protein-based fat replacer. It’s used primarily in frozen desserts, providing 1 to 2 calories per gram. Protein-based fat replacers have great potential for use in many products, especially frozen and refrigerated items.

The following table lists the most commonly used fat replacers in foods.

Fat Replacers That You May See on Labels
Carbohydrate-Based Protein-Based Fat-Based
Cellulose (carboxy-methyl cellulose, microcrystalline
Modified whey protein concentrate (Dairy-lo) Caprenin
Dextrin Microparticulated protein (Simplesse) Olestra (Olean)
Fiber Salatrim (Benefat)
Gum (alginates, carrageenan, guar, locust bean, zanthan)
Polydextrose Emulsifiers
Oatrim (hydrolyzed oat flour)
Starch (modified food starch)

Fat replacers can reduce the amount of fat you eat only if you do not consume additional fat at other meals. Research shows that test subjects who were fed fake-fat foods did not eat additional fat when only fat-reduced and fat-free foods were available. But people don’t live in laboratories, and plenty of full-fat foods are always available.