You are hungry. Your friend or kid is also hungry. A hamburger and some pre-cooked food with fries would be the easy fix, but let’s face with its reality. A happy meal is not always a healthy meal.

Certainly, food is the fuel for our body and it also has a direct impact on how we feel as well as on our overall health. Let’s see what junk food consumption is. They are defined as being soft drinks, desserts, sweets, fast food, alcoholic beverages, salted snacks and fruit flavored beverages.Junk food is not necessarily bad but in many cases it’s highly processed and contains large amount of carbohydrates, added sugar, artificial food additives, unhealthy trans-fats and salt. On the hand, they are often high in calories.  Yet offer little or no nutritional value. When they are being frequently replaced for the nutritious foods in our diet, it leads us to poor nutrition, poor health and weight gain. This has been totally proved by the tests in labs, as even animals have shown negative effects in short duration diet. One of the major problems we are left to be faced with this fast foods is being overweight and it’s a risk factor for a variety of chronic health problems including heart diseases, diabetics, stroke and obesity.

In contrast, healthy foods are high in vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein while promoting energy for good health and longevity.

According to the international statistics, junk foods account for over 30% of the total calories that today’s kids are eating in developed and mid-developed countries. Yet, what is worse is the fact that those who eat the most of the junk foods tend to eat lower amounts of nutrient-dense foods also. About 80% of people are reported for eating fast foods at least once a month despite believing that those are not good for health, while only 4% had never eaten at fast foods restaurants. 53% of men had reported eating fast foods regularly while 42% of women admit to the same thing. The humor of these statistics shows that when people have more weight to carry, they eat more fast food. This creates a negative cycle of junk food carvings that leads to health that is even worse than before.

Reasons for choosing fast food

Data Source: © 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved Actually why people tend to adhere to junk foods day by day? There is a direct correlation to the busyness of life and the consumption of junk foods. When life becomes hectic, the idea of picking up a quick bite to eat is done without having a clear idea of what is being eaten. According to the above specific survey the “I’m too busy to cook” line had been more popular among the people with college degrees than people with less education. Young adults had been less likely than older adults to say that they have fast foods as it offered many nutritious choices.

where Americans Eat


The above graph shows how the consumption of fast food has increased in past few decades and what should be kept in mind in here is that even though it looks like people are still having of their foods “at home” it does not take into account the fact that most people are also having processed foods at home.Isn’t it enthusiastic to find out why people are not ready to leave these bad habits in diets? While examining these problems in a profound way, it sounds that the most dominant reason for this is the power of advertising via media. The main target of these food items has become the little children. Statistics show that the food and beverage industry spends approximately $ 2 billion per year for marketing to children while the fast food industry spends $ 5 million every day, to market foods. Kids watch an average of over ten food-related advertisements every day and 98% of the food products that are viewed by children are high in salt, fat and sugar.On the other hand, having a simple meal in that way is easy and cheap. Busy schedules often diminish the amount of time that people have to prepare healthy, nutritious meals and persuade them to look for faster, easier options. Whole foods such as vegetables and meat take time and kitchen equipment to cook properly, while fast food hamburgers and pizza are usually served within minutes of ordering. Over the time, that convenience becomes a habit and eventually a perceived necessity to keep up with such a fast-paced society.

It should be taken into account why these junk foods harm to our health and how it happens. Since most of the fast foods are polar opposites for healthy foods and have high amounts trans-fats, sugar and sodium, they can lead to obesity, heart diseases and diabetes and many more.

Most of the fast foods are fried in low-quality cooking oils. The frying process that makes these foods appeal to our taste buds and the pleasure centers in our brain also renders them in high. But trans-fat is one of the most dangerous and health-damaging constituents of fast foods. This can causes for both inflammation and calcification arterial cells significantly increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The excessive use of sodium in fast food makes it flavorful and addictive. Though sodium is a necessary nutrient in human diet, it is easy to have the recommended dosage without trying as it occurs in most foods; naturally.   A diet containing too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart diseases.

Similar to sodium, many fast foods are very high in sugar which carries its own health risks as high sugar directly linked to obesity. According to the recent researches, the refined sugars in fast foods provide little nutrition value, whereas sugars found in fruits and other natural resources provide vitamins and minerals while digesting slowly as they are paired with fiber, which prohibits insulin levels from spiking. Many fast foods and drinks are loaded with carbohydrates and consequently with lot of calories. As a consequence, they tend to alter the normal insulin response. Frequent spikes in blood sugar may cause to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

According to the recent studies obesity is associated with an increase in respiratory problems by shortness of breath or wheezing with little exertion. This may place a role in the development of sleep apnea too.

Most recent studies have revealed that people who eat fast foods are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to no fast food. A junk diet could also affect our brains’ synapses and molecules related to memory and learning.

According to the clinical findings, high carbohydrates should account for acne in skin and inflammation and irritated patches of skin can be obtained by fast foods; especially among children. When we consume foods in high carbohydrates and sugars, bacteria residing in our mouth produce acids. They destroy tooth enamel forming dental cavities which can’t be replaced. On other hand, excess sodium may also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis with thing fragile bones.

Not only these nutritious parts, the artificial food additives that are used in foods are also in discussion now. Though they are recommended chemicals to be used, many low standards of quality food additives are being used in some restaurants especially in developing countries. You may remember how Sri Lankan farmers have used MSG in killing weeds in their paddy fields and made MSG banned in their country recently. If it so for plants, how would it be for us?

Though we think this matter only in personal manner, there is a social issue too. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention the definition for obesity is when our body mass index (BMI) is 30.0 or higher and extreme obesity is as 40.0. But it is shown that a considerable amount of young generation has passed this classical level now. So, isn’t a generation with health problems directly causes the development loss in a country?

It is clear now that we should be careful about these food habits than ever before to get prevented from these hazards. Taking care about children is utmost important in this matter. As children imitate and follow what they see, adults should behave as an examples by avoiding fast foods as well as calorie rich snacks. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is compulsory while drinking much water. Having many meals at home before going out can decrease the temptation of eating out. When eating out, restaurants which provide healthy foods must be chosen always. Children should be always taught on how fresh and natural food can prevent illness due to vitamins and minerals while giving us energy. In contrast educate them on how those junk foods cause obesity and other diseases. To decrease exposure to fast food advertisements, limit the time spent in front of TV and computer but in riding, hiking, swimming and family walks. Developing the taste for homemade meals also reduce the needs for restaurant-style and also making children interested in cooking will help this idea very much.

If it needed to have fast foods, don’t be in a hurry. Check out the ingredients and read nutrition labels and have a quick idea of whether the food is dense in nutrients.  Aiming to keep the entire meal upto 500 calories or less and having less carbohydrates, sugars, salts and trans-fats also may contribute to maintain the associated risks.

However, whole meals instead of junk food can be never defeated. To have a long life with no health issues cause a healthy generation and consequently a developed country as well. Being close to the concepts of nature, always make us familiar with these traditional food concepts with nutritious vegetables, fruits, drinks as well as spices making our diets tasty and balanced. Cuisine is an art; eating should be a well behaved process. If someone can maintain his/her own mind as well as the mouth, to have foods not just for temptation but to enhance the power of life, he/she will spontaneously get the real aspect of the diet with pleasure, always. Then that meal won’t be for “ego” but for “life”.

March in 2016 Upeksha is the winner of NerdHunt Article Contest which is organized by the Nerdynaut for the month of March 2016.    

Upeksha’s Bio – In Brief

I am Upeksha Niwardana from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Open University of Sri Lanka. I am in my final academic year and attended Sacred Heart Convent in Galle.Since my very little age, I was fond of engaging in literary activities and I always wanted to make “learning a habit”. Since I am really interested in Science, I always try to make a bridge in between Science and our lifestyles, as we are also a part of Nature. In short,  “Nature” is “Science”. That is why I wanted to make you aware of a simple thing but we don’t care much about it because “it’s not a short term DIET but a long term LIFESTYLE”.

I came to touch your souls via “Nerdynaut” because it’s really a good opportunity for all of us who are interested in accumulating profound knowledge in all areas. I believe that all the articles are selected by a fair judge panel and Nerdynaut motivates the writers by awarding an internationally recognized certificate. Also it’s a way to focus all types of knowledge to a single point to create an evolution in the society.

I welcome all of you, to walk hand in hand with Nerdynaut team. I wish all the very best for their journey beyond the infinity!

– Upeksha Niwardana

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