Low-fat ice cream, lowering blood cholesterol with omega-3 fat in fish, Are cooking sprays fat-free?

Low-fat ice cream, lowering blood cholesterol with omega-3 fat in fish, Are cooking sprays fat-free?

Q: Is low-carb ice cream a good choice for people trying to lose weight?
Q: Does the omega-3 fat in fish lower blood cholesterol?
Q: Are cooking sprays really fat-free?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is low-carb ice cream a good choice for people trying to lose weight?
A: Not necessarily. Ice cream labeled “for use with low carb diets” adds sugar substitutes for sweetness. However, these products vary substantially in calories and fat. Low-carb ice creams range from 90 to 150 calories in a half-cup serving, which means they are not necessarily lower in calories than regular ice cream. When it comes to weight control, the bottom line is how many calories you eat compared to how many you burn. “Light” ice cream cuts the total fat (and cholesterol raising saturated fat) in half and reduces calories by about 10 to 20 percent. “No sugar added light” ice cream cuts fat about in half and uses sugar substitutes, reducing calories 30 percent. Ice cream that's 98 percent fat-free reduces calories about 36 percent. But while these options may sound very different from one another, essentially they all end up saving about 35 to 50 calories per half-cup serving compared to traditional ice cream. No matter what kind of ice cream you choose, calories add up quickly as portions grow. Simply halving the portion of a traditional ice cream is almost sure to reduce more calories than you would save by switching to any of these specialty versions. You could try choosing one of the many pre-portioned ice cream products. Reducing the amount of times you eat ice cream will also help with weight loss, such as switching from ice cream as a nightly necessity to a weekly treat.

Q: Does the omega-3 fat in fish lower blood cholesterol?
A: Omega-3 fat, whether from fish or supplements, does not directly reduce blood cholesterol. However, fish does provide many heart health benefits. Substituting healthfully-prepared fish – not fish that is battered or deep fried – for meat or cheese may help drop your blood cholesterol. The cholesterol lowering would be due to the drop in saturated fat, not to the fish itself. You would also lower saturated fat consumption and thus blood cholesterol, by substituting a low-fat bean dish for fatty meat. Fish especially high in omega-3 fat, such as salmon and rainbow trout, seems to lower risk of heart disease through a variety of mechanisms. Omega-3 fat may help keep heart rhythm normal; decrease inflammation; reduce plaque and clot formation in blood vessels; lower blood triglycerides; and slightly reduce blood pressure.

Q: Are cooking sprays really fat-free?
A: Spray oils are made of vegetable oils so they contain fat. The spray technology produces a portion so small that the fat content in a standard serving is insignificant. According to nutrition labeling laws, when one serving of a food contains less than 0.5 grams of fat, that number can be rounded down to zero and the product can be labeled “fat-free.” Based on the “fat-free” claim, some people use large amounts of oil sprays and believe they are still getting zero fat, but not so. Spray oils usually contain 0.2 or 0.3 grams of fat in a standard serving, which is a spray that lasts 0.3 second. If you spray for one second or about one to two pumps in pump-style products, the amount of oil is so little that it adds negligible fat and calories. Spray oils can be useful, but remember that we need to consume some fat each day for good health.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org