Fast Food and Health

By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai

Fast food refers to food that can be prepared and served quickly. It can come from many places: sit-down restaurants, counter service, take-out, drive-thru, and delivery.

Fast food is popular because the food is inexpensive, convenient, and tastes good. However, fast food is often made with cheaper ingredients such as high fat meat, refined grains, and added sugar and fats, instead of nutritious ingredients such as lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. [1]

Fast Food is very harmful that is slowly eating away the health of the present generation. The term itself denotes how dangerous it is for our bodies. Most importantly, it tastes so good that people consume it on a daily basis. [2]

The use of fast food restaurants has risen in the past decade as parents become busier and look for a quick, convenient and inexpensive way to feed their families. Unfortunately, unless consumers read nutrition information and make healthy choices, their fast food meals come at a cost to their health and their appearance.

Effect of fast food on the body –

  • Effect on the digestive system

Most fast food, including drinks and sides, are loaded with carbohydrates with little to no fiber.  When your digestive system breaks down these foods, the carbs are released as glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar increases.

Your pancreas responds to the surge in glucose by releasing insulin. Insulin transports sugar throughout your body to cells that need it for energy. As your body uses or stores the sugar, your blood sugar returns to normal. This blood sugar process is highly regulated by your body, and as long as you’re healthy, your organs can properly handle these sugar spikes.

But frequently eating high amounts of carbs can lead to repeated spikes in your blood sugar.

Over time, these insulin spikes may cause your body’s normal insulin response to falter. This increases your risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain.

  • Effect on the cardiovascular system

Trans fat is manufactured fat created during food processing. It’s commonly found in: Fried pies, pastries, pizza dough, crackers, cookies.

Eating foods that contain trans fat can increase your LDL (bad cholesterol), lower your HDL (good cholesterol), and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The combination of fat, sugar, and lots of sodium (salt) can make fast food tastier to some people. But diets high in sodium can lead to water retention, which is why you may feel puffy, bloated, or swollen after eating fast food.

A diet high in sodium is also dangerous for people with blood pressure conditions. Sodium can elevate blood pressure and put stress on your heart and cardiovascular system.

  • Effect on the respiratory system

Excess calories from fast-food meals can cause weight gain. This may lead toward obesity. Obesity increases your risk for respiratory problems, including asthma and shortness of breath.

The extra pounds can put pressure on your heart and lungs and symptoms may show up even with little exertion. You may notice difficulty breathing when you’re walking, climbing stairs, or exercising.

  • Effect on the reproductive system

The ingredients in fast food may have an impact on your fertility.

One study found that processed food contains phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that can interrupt how hormones act in your body. Exposure to high levels of these chemicals could lead to reproductive issues, including birth defects. [3]

  • Effect on the skin, hair, nails

The foods you eat may impact your skin’s appearance, but it might not be the foods you suspect.

Children and adolescents who eat fast food at least three times a week are also more likely to develop eczema, Eczema is a skin condition that causes irritated patches of inflamed, itchy skin.

  • Effect on the bones

Carbs and sugar in fast food and processed food can increase acids in your mouth. These acids can break down tooth enamel. As tooth enamel disappears, bacteria can take hold, and cavities may develop.

Obesity can also lead to complications with bone density and muscle mass. People who are obese have a greater risk for falling and breaking bones. It’s important to keep exercising to build muscles, which support your bones, and maintain a healthy diet to minimize bone loss. [4][5]

Factors Related to Fast Food Consumption [6]

  • Nuclear families-Fast foods are taking popularity by nuclear families because working parents have less time for meal preparation by themselves.
  • Body mass index-A positive correlation of increased fast food consumption and increased body mass index was found among adolescents.
  • Socio economic status – Children from high socio-economic status prefer fast foods to traditional foods despite their better nutritional knowledge.
  • Overweight– It has been seen that children who are overweight are significantly more likely to recognize fast food than other food.

Ways to Avoid Fast Food

The more you eat fast food, the more you crave it. By following the simple steps, you can break the cycle today and lead a healthier life. [7][8]

  • Make Breakfast Easy-Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast will give you a substantial amount of energy. Breakfast doesn’t have to be a full course meal – hardboiled egg, toast, energy bar or fruit will suffice.
  • Keep snacks in your purse, car or in your desk drawer. You never know when you’ll need an extra pick me up to get you through to the next meal. Having snacks readily available will also satisfy your hunger until you can prepare a meal. If you have children keep snacks on hand for your youngsters at all times.
  • After working all day, one of the biggest obstacles to cooking a meal is finding the energy and time to prep. Take time the night before and prep the ingredients that you’ll need to pull off your meal. You’ll feel a lot more amped to cook, if you don’t have to spend an additional 20 – 30 minutes in the kitchen prepping.
  • You can cook meals with your significant other, with your children or with your friends. Anyway you do it – cook with your loved ones. It’s a great way to make cooking a bonding experience rather than a chore.
  • Gross yourself out and look up the nutritional facts behind fast food restaurants. If you knew what you’re actually eating, you’ll be less inclined to stop to eat.
  • It’s important to reward yourself for good food choices – splurge and treat yourself to a cookie or your favorite milkshake. Choosing to avoid fast food chains and eat healthy is just as much psychological as it is physical.
  • Keep easy meal builders available in your kitchen at all times. This way if you are having an off day and do not want to cook, you can reach to these back up meals and feed your hunger.
  • If you have a full schedule you’ll be less inclined to make that fast food stop. Take a jog, a fitness class or read a book. Staying busy will help keep your mind off of fast food.
  • You can avoid junk food by encouraging your children from an early age to eat green vegetables. Their taste buds must be developed as such that they find healthy food tasty. Moreover, try to mix things up.
  • Do not serve the same green vegetable daily in the same style. Incorporate different types of healthy food in their diet following different recipes. This will help them to try foods at home rather than being attracted to fast food.

The main problem with fast food is that people don’t realize its ill effects now. When the time comes, it is too late. Most importantly, the issue is that it does not impact you instantly. It works on your overtime; you will face the consequences sooner or later. Thus, it is better to stop now.



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