You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times – fast food is no good for you, but really, do you know why? In fact, there’s a reason fast food is, at times, labeled “junk food”. It’s because they have such low nutritional value, and they’re really high in fat, sugar, salt and calories – they are also referred to as “empty calories” because they provide calories and not nutrition. The term “junk food” isn’t a coincidence either, it was “dubbed” by the director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and when he’s calling YOUR food, junk. You listen.
So why the bad reputation?
While eating a nice juicy fatty burger may fill you up very nicely; you may want to ask yourself what exactly is it filling you up with? In a nutshell, and not to sound redundant (junk), its FAT.
A study done on 17000 adults and children published in an issue in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” signifies just how much junk foods lack in nutritional value. Junk food consumers had lower intakes of vitamin A (helps immune system, protects your body from bacteria in the respiratory tracts to name a few) and Vitamin C ( protecting your health from cardiovascular diseases, cancer and stroke), dietary fiber, milk and fruits and vegetables. What you are getting in abundance is an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, which has been directly associated to increased fast food consumption. A more recent study I wrote about here, showed that various fast food restaurants add over 2.4g of salt per portion, which would earn them “high salt content” food label.
So not only are you depriving your body of essential vitamins, you are actually substituting them for unhealthy calories, fats, salts and sugar.
A lot of parents turn a blind eye when their child is consuming too much fast food, or junk. Many think, it’s ok, a few meals won’t do much. We often think that moderate junk food consumption has you on the slow lane, but sadly, that’s not the case.
A comparison between two groups of healthy men: one which had a healthy Mediterranean diet, and another that had junk food; showed that the latter group had their arteries dilated by 24% in just 12 hours. What does this mean? Basically, this is a precursor to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of arteries, which EVENTUALLY might lead to blocked blood flow.
I’d like to emphasize that this is not meant as an attack to any single fast food restaurant, but is more of an attack on the lifestyle itself. Indulging in a meal every once in a while, and adjusting for it in exercise, is OK – but the leniency with what we feed our kids and ourselves on a daily or weekly basis should not be underestimated. It saddens me to see parents letting their kids indulge on fried chicken nuggets as they sit on an iPad – I mean, that is just bad food and no exercise – why?
Sometimes its good to see numbers, to get an idea about how much this is affecting us.
- Diabetes is becoming an epidemic with expectations that 1 in 3 Americans will be diabetic by 2050
- More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese (not just overweight, please note the difference), that’s a nice 37% of the population.
- Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, a risk factor of it being high intake of sodium (found in fast food)
If you think these numbers don’t relate to the Middle East, please reconsider.
- According to WHO data, there are a high number of death rates due to non-communicable diseases (Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Cancer) in all regions except the least developed countries, highest rate being due to cardiovascular disease. In some countries, prevalence of these diseases is over 55%!
Again, I don’t want to bore or depress you with these numbers – just a reminder for something we all sort of hear and brush of. Honestly, there are so many more sources and details that go into how badly we are ruining our body with this literal “junk”. So maybe next time your kid is craving a toy from a happy meal, just buy them a toy with a good heart-healthy salad. Seriously, a salad does go a long way.