Are you craving a mouth-watering mayo-filled delicious chicken burger? It may satisfy your cravings, but the dangers of fast food can put your health at risk. Scared? You don’t need to be. Read on to know everything about fast food and how to enjoy it without compromising your health.
As per statistics, 50 million Americans are served fast food on any given day. And on average, Americans spend collectively $200 billion annually on fast food. Are not these statistics alarming? Most chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, are lifestyle induced.
Before getting deeper into the threats imposed by an unhealthy diet, I would like you to know what fast food is.
What is Fast Food?
Many people confuse fast food with junk food, but both terms are different. Junk food is any food that is low in nutrients, contains added sugar, fats, and salt. It can be addictive and sometimes called food rich in empty calories.
While fast food is any food you get from a restaurant and is served to you in the quickest possible way. Fast food is not healthy most of the time, considering how food restaurants prepare it.
How Does Fast Food Affect Your Body?
Some ingredients in fast food can impart negative health effects on your body. A study revealed the harmful chemicals in fast food. This study confirmed that fast foods are loaded with refined carbs, fats, saturated and trans-fatty acids, sodium, and cholesterol. It’s also poor in rich nutrients.
Consumption of these harmful components can take a toll on your health. Here are some of the fast food unhealthy facts you need to know:
1. Increase risk of cardiovascular diseases
The growing evidence suggests the overconsumption of fast food is linked with the development of heart diseases. Here are some of the cardiovascular threats inflicted by excessive intake of fast food.
‣ Increases risk of coronary heart disease
An article published in Journal Archives of Iranian Medicine reveals the western-style fast food intake increases the risk factor of coronary heart disease. CHD can worsen the situation and cause chest pain, heart attack and heart failure.
‣ High sodium content may raise blood pressure
Sodium acts as a preservative and enhances the taste of processed fast food. But its high amount in circulation can raise your blood pressure. Consistent blood pressure can narrow down and harden your arteries, which ultimately leads to stroke.
The American Heart Association declares safe consumption of sodium upto 2300 mg per day. But your single fast food meal in a day alone can take you to recommended levels.
‣ Increased cholesterol levels result in the buildup of plaque
People consuming fast food more frequently have higher levels of LDL cholesterol. Higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) put your heart at risk. An article published confirms the association of LDL with atherosclerotic plaque formation.
2. Increases risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes
The American Heart Association recommends not consuming more than 100-150 calories of sugar per day. The pancreas releases insulin when the sugar level rises in blood.
But frequent eating of fast food (high sugar) results in repeated surges in blood sugar levels. It alters your body’s normal response to insulin, which leads to type 2 disease. Obesity further decreases insulin sensitivity and worsens the situation.
Most fast foods are abundant in sugar and fats with no minerals and vitamins. It means you are taking large amounts of unhealthy calories, which ultimately leads to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is not only itself bad but also leads to many chronic diseases.
A study published in the Journal of preventive medicine and Hygiene concluded the prevalence of abdominal obesity with the intake of fast food in Iranian students. It’s frightening to see the ratio of obese people in society. We should encourage the student to burn down extra calories by either running on the treadmill or rowing machine. Check the difference between treadmill versus rowing machine.
3. Increases risk for respiratory system
Obesity elevates the risk for common respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath and asthma. You may have noticed someone obese finding difficulty in breathing when climbing up.
A study published in Thorax concluded the kids who eat fast food at least three times per week are at higher risk of developing asthma.
4. Weakens bone
The increased acid production due to high amounts of carbs and sugar can damage your tooth enamel. Further, processed fast foods can block the absorption of calcium into bones, which results in osteoporosis. It leaves the bones with thousands of tiny pores.
Obesity can further complicate your muscle mass and bone density. An obese person is more likely to fall and break his bone.
5. Promotes digestive problems
Fast foods are very low in dietary fibers. Fibers are essential for digesting food. It helps good bacteria flourish and prevent the risk of hemorrhoids, constipation, and diverticular disease. A study published in Gut concluded excessive consumption of dietary fiber is linked with a lower risk of diverticular disease.
6. May cause depression
Fast food may satisfy your cravings for time. But in the long run, it can negatively impact your mental health. Fast food is rich in substances like trans fats and six omega fatty acids. These substances in higher concentrations can trigger inflammation, which is associated with anxiety and depression.
A study published in Public Health Nutrition suggests that fast food and processed pastries impose a high risk of depression.
7. Increases risk of cancer
According to the world cancer research fund, obesity is a reason for at least 12 types of cancer.
A 2019 study found the association between ultra-processed food and cancer. The study concluded 10% increase of fast food in the diet is linked with a 12% risk of overall cancer and an 11% risk of breast cancer.
Another article published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer prevention suggests the intake of fast foods is linked with colorectal cancer risk.
8. May increase risk of skin diseases
The food we eat affects our skin. You have already heard chocolates and greasy foods cause acne. But according to the Mayo Clinic, carbs cause repeated blood sugar spikes that result in an acne breakout.
A study published in Journal thorax found that people who take fast food three times per week are likely to develop eczema.
How Often Can You Eat Fast Food Without Affecting Your Health?
We can’t avoid delicious food from our favorite fast food restaurant at all times. Here are some of the tips you can follow to minimize the harmful effects of fast food:
‣ Follow 80:20 rule
According to Christy Brissette, you can follow the 80:20 rule. It means you should take healthy meals most of the time but enjoy occasional cheat meals (fast food).
Your body undergoes oxidative stress and inflammation after eating fast food that is low in nutrients. But one regular healthy meal per day can decrease most of the stress and inflammation in your body.
‣ Know your fast food
Try ordering something rich in nutritional value. Make informed choices. Knowing the number of fats, salts, and calories would help you. Check nutrition facts or nutrition labels before buying any food.
Avoid cheese, mayo, fried meat, and french fries. Instead, ask for fresh vegetables and soup. Take a healthy diet.
‣ Burn extra calories
Try to maintain your weight under control. You have come to read this article so far. You already know obesity is the reason for chronic disease. So, the goal is to burn off the calories you take in popular junk foods.
Try running on freemotion 860 interactive treadmill to burn down the calories. If you drink a sugary soft drink that contains 138 calories, you need to walk for 26 minutes or run for 13 minutes to burn it off. If you are confused about how much you should work out, you can try installing ifit small cardio equipment app.
1. How fast food affects children's health?
Consumption of fast food is common among children. It negatively affects the early development of kids. Many studies are suggesting the development of asthma and eczema in children eating fast food frequently. It also leads to memory impairment, loss of appetite, depression, and obesity in children.
2. What are the effects of carbonated drinks?
These beverages contain dissolved carbon dioxide that causes gas symptoms, such as burping and bloating. Soda drinks are also blamed for tooth decay, heart diseases, metabolic disorders, and type 2 diabetes.
3. What is the healthiest fast food?
Any food that is healthy is high in nutrients and low in calories. When it is not possible to eat homemade food, try ordering food with more vegetables and low calories, like salads and bowls.
4. Why do people eat junk food despite the fast food health risks?
The answer is simple: it’s addictive like any drug. Fast food is packed with fat, sugars and salts. It triggers pleasure centers in our brain, leaving us to want more.
The statistics related to the consumption of fast food are shocking. Today, we are aware of the dangers of fast food. We should not eat it casually. But it’s a fact you can’t avoid it all, especially on the days when you are too busy to cook for yourself.
So, it’s better to make healthy choices when going out for food. You can occasionally eat fast food (less than once per week) if you are eating nutritious food most of the time. And don’t forget to workout to burn off the extra calories you got after eating fast food.