Fast food is incredibly popular. It is convenient and instant, requires no cooking whatsoever on your part, and is usually incredibly delicious.
Research shows that the modern family spends at least 45 per cent of the food budget on fast food. In fact, there is hardly any family, especially those living in urban areas, that does not consume fast food daily.
While the occasional fast food won’t hurt, getting into the habit of eating fast food every day has an adverse effect on the human body.
Here’s how your everyday fast food consumption affects your health:
Too much carbohydrate wreaks havoc on your digestive and cardiovascular systems: Most fast foods have a high concentration of carbs and contain very little or no fiber. Because carbs are broken down by the digestive system as sugar and released into the bloodstream, a high carb diet means that your blood sugar increases. The easiest way for your body to respond to the increase in blood sugar is to release insulin whose job it is to transport sugar throughout your body to the cells that require such sugar for energy. As long as you remain healthy, your organs can handle the occasional sugar spike, but consuming carbs in high amounts leads to repeated spikes in your blood sugar, increasing the risk for insulin resistance diabetes, as well as weight gain.
Too much sugar and fat but very little nutrition increases the risk for certain diseases: Many fast foods have added sugar and high amounts of trans fat, which means very little nutrition and extra calories. Many fast-food drinks alone carry about 140 calories, which is 39 grams of sugar, and nothing else. Fast foods such as fried pies, cookies, pizza, and pastries contain high amount of trans fat, which is fat that is created during food processing. No amount of trans fat is good for the body and consuming trans-fat increases the body’s bad cholesterol, lowers the good cholesterol, and amps the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
An unhealthy amount of salt is not good for the heart: Most fast foods are made with high sugar, fat and salt content to make the food tastier and more appealing. Our body however can only handle sodium (salt) in limited quantities and consuming diets high in salt leads to water retention. This is why a lot of fast food consumers feel bloated, swollen or puffy immediately afterwards. More importantly and more dangerously, people already suffering from blood pressure issues are at the risk of having salt elevate their blood pressure and put more stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. As an adult whose recommended sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams a day, consuming one serving of fast food could mean you’ve had half your day’s intake of allowed salt.
Excess calories throw the respiratory system out of whack: Because excess calories from fast-food meals can easily cause weight gain and increases the risk for becoming obese, there is the added risk of respiratory problems such as shortness of breath and asthma. The extra weight that the calories from fast food puts on the body puts more pressure on the heart and lungs. Consume fast food every day long enough and you will soon start to notice difficulty breathing when you’re walking fast, taking the stairs, or exercising. A recent study also found that children who consume fast food about least three times per week are more likely to develop asthma than their counterparts who don’t.
Adversely affected central nervous and reproductive systems: People who eat fast food are 51 per cent more likely to become clinically depressed than their counterparts who don’t eat or eat very little fast food, a study has revealed. Another study posits that the ingredients in fast food may have an adverse impact on the body’s fertility. This study discovered that processed food contains phthalates which are chemicals that can disturb how hormones act in the body. When phthalates are high in the human body, they lead to reproductive problems, including the problems of birth defects.
High carb levels wreak havoc on the skin: The culprit for your acne breakouts and never-ending skin problems may very well be the high carb levels you are ingesting from fast foods. Carb-rich foods have been shown to lead to blood sugar spikes, and sudden jumps in your blood sugar levels may trigger acne. According to one study, children and teenagers who ate fast food at least three times weekly are also more likely to develop eczema alongside acne.
But why is fast food so addictive?
Most fast food/products have a bliss point, the point at which you experience the ultimate pleasure. At this point, there is the perfect balance of salty, sweet and fatty in your mouth and your brain reacts to this bliss point in a way that it would to cocaine or heroin. This is why fast food is so addictive.
Reducing your risk of succumbing to fast food
To control your addiction to fast food, consider these tips:
Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, and go for healthier options when you do. This means prepacking a bag of almonds to snack on at work rather than running across the street with office mates to get a slice of pizza.
Try fruit instead of added sugars to wean yourself off the manufactured sugar in fast food that makes them so so delicious.
Manage your stress. Most of us turn to fast food cravings when we are stressed, as there is almost always an emotional reason behind cravings. Instead of reaching for that packet of processed food, take a walk instead, or do yoga, meditate, take deep breaths, journal or talk to someone.
Get more sleep, as lack of sleep is thought to play a big role in junk food cravings.