Everyone knows the negative effects of junk food on your body and mind, but why is it so popular, and why do we keep eating it? We’ll talk through what junk food is, the negative effects, and 3 main reasons why junk food is tempting.
Let’s start by defining exactly what junk food is. The dictionary says that junk food is “food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content.” To elaborate, foods with ingredients that aren’t of great benefit to your body aren’t necessary and don’t contain the macro or micronutrients to fuel your body and brain.
However, these foods typically make the taste buds excited and make you salivate in anticipation of that sweet goodness. But don’t fret. There are simple ways to control your temptations by switching your desire for something sweet and calorific to a snack that’s low calorie, high protein, and just as satisfying.
Junk food list
- Sugary drinks
- Fruit Juices
- Breakfast cereals
- French Fries
- Ice Cream
- Candy bars
- Processed cheese
- Processed meats
- Most fast food
- High-calorie coffee drinks
Disadvantages and effects of junk food
The effects of junk food on our body can be catastrophic if unchecked and even fatal. The primary concern is obesity from overeating and weight gain. Obesity is likely to cause problematic illnesses such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and joint pain. Obesity can be defined as any male with a waist circumference of 94cm or more, and women with 80cm or more.
Depression and Inflammation
There have also been alarming links to mental health issues that have been caused by junk food. Foods that are high in sugar and fats can lead to a chemical reaction occurring in the brain, which affects its proper functioning. A longitudinal study of 32,908 adults from the UK, France, Spain, Australia, and the US concluded that “a poor diet may increase the risk of depression” The reasons for this are due to the inflammation not only in the gut (from high sugar and fat foods) but the entire body – this is called “systematic inflammation.”
Chronic inflammation is a concern and can affect mental health. It transports pro-inflammatory molecules directly to the brain, affecting the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood.
Why do we eat junk food?
Despite being known as a poor choice of calorie intake, here are 3 reasons why we eat junk food.
Anywhere in the world, you visit, you can find a shop or grocery store that has countless offers on junk food – that of which is much cheaper than a healthier option. It’s immediately obvious that if you go for the junk food option, you’ll save money. Microwave meals, instant noodles, bags of chips are all inexpensive compared to fruits, vegetables, and good cuts of meat.
Take a look at fast-food restaurants, whether it’s McDonald’s, KFC, Wendy’s, or Popeyes. They all have a cheaper “dollar menu” or derivative of some sort. Even if they don’t – it’s significantly cheaper than Whole Foods or other healthy restaurant options.
You will have experienced times where you enter a grocery store hungry and end up buying junk food rather than a nutrient dense meal. How about when those annoying hunger pangs hit you and your first option is to grab a quick burger. It’s too easy and convenient to make the wrong decision. Supermarkets, restaurants, and shops don’t help us to make the right choice either – they capitalize on your bad decisions.
It Tastes Good
Nutrient poor food doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It’s not dressed up to be gourmet or Michelin star quality. Junk food is sugar, it’s fatty, it’s salty, or all three. You know exactly what you’re getting and you love it. The simplicity of the flavor is the beauty of it. Some prefer chocolate, some prefer gelatine filled Haribo’s, others are drawn into crisps and biscuits. Everyone’s unique taste buds will have a preference without a doubt. If you are struggling with information around nutrition – check out our nutrition articles that are simple and very useful.
Junk food and children
Until children are fully functioning adults, they need their parents and carers to look after them, this includes feeding them the right foods. A child would happily choose fast food over a home-cooked healthy chicken breast meal because it tastes good and they can’t comprehend why it’s bad for them. This is extremely problematic as this addiction can develop early on in a child’s life and is difficult to fix later on. Globally, in 2016 the number of obese children sat at 41 million. That is enough children to fill up the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta 585 times.
There are many other concerning issues that nutrient-poor foods can have on a child’s health such as addiction, constipation, poor academics, less, energy, and sleeping problems. None of these are desirable and no parent would wish this on their child.
Junk food should not rule our lives, we should not be addicted to it and become a slave to the temptation. It can be enjoyed in moderation and complement a healthy lifestyle alongside fitness and exercise.
Junk food alternatives
We understand, sometimes your stress levels are high, cravings become stronger and stronger, and your standard meal prep Tupperware box won’t cut the mustard. It would help if you had something to satisfy your temptations, but you don’t want that lingering guilt after giving in.
We recommend being prepared for these events by keeping healthy snacks nearby that can curb cravings and keep your satiated. Protein shakes are fantastic, but an even easier option is protein bars.
Without a doubt, Quest Nutrition has the best macronutrient protein bars on the market. With a perfect ratio of protein to carbs and a very high content of fiber. They come with a variety of flavors but the cranberry trail mix is incredible. It’s also worth noting other name brands like Optimum Nutrition and the all famous Grenade bars that have been top sellers for a long time.
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